Building Assets: Emily’s Giving Jar

Every year around November, Emily’s family begins a conversation about the spirit of giving. They talk about doing something for someone else without expecting anything in return. By New Year’s Day, four-year-old Emily knew what she would do as her act of giving in the new year. She would save all her money to buy Thanksgiving turkeys for those in need. Emily did chores around her house to earn an allowance. She helped her grandparents in their garden and earned a little more. Her neighbors learned of her plan and saved aluminum cans and plastic bottles that Emily then recycled. She saved all the money in a jar. Over the months, the jar filled with pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters and dollars. Emily and her older sister put a piece of masking tape on the jar at the end of each month. This way they could measure the increase of coins and dollars in inches. In November, Emily’s family helped her roll the coins and count the dollars. She was able to buy fourteen turkeys that were given to families to enjoy. With her giving jar, Emily learned that she was a valuable resource and could make a difference in her community.

Emily’s family recognized that young children can be a valuable resource to others, as early as age four. Doing something meaningful to make a difference for others is an empowering experience for children and adults alike. It not only feels good, it helps build a powerful asset in children as they are given opportunities to help.

“Children Seen as Resources” is one of the Search Institute’s 40 Developmental Assets that are essential to children growing up to be healthy, caring and responsible. When children are given age-appropriate and meaningful activities in their homes, schools and communities, they know they are valued. It is never too early to introduce the notion that each child and every human being is a unique resource necessary to a well-functioning, healthy community.

The 40 Developmental Assets are a framework that families and the community can use to help children build skills, attitudes and beliefs that will last a lifetime. There are 40 assets arranged in seven categories: Support, Empowerment, Boundaries & Expectations, Constructive Use of Time, Commitment to Learning, Positive Values, and Positive Identity. Each asset is a building block acquired over time, with encouragement and support from parents and other caring adults. The more Developmental Assets a child acquires, the more likely that child is to do well in school and in life.

Young children acquire Developmental Assets by having them demonstrated to them by the asset builders in their lives. The first asset builders in a child’s life are his or her parents, or, for some children, a foster parent, grandparent, or other primary caregiver. To build the “Children Seen as a Resource” asset, children can be given meaningful roles in the family. This may start simply with helping to gather toys to put away at the end of the day, or picking out a book for bedtime reading. As children grow and learn, the ways they can contribute also grow. It is most important that families continue to support children in being a resource, nurturing their accomplishments and their sense of pride in what they can do.

As children are exposed to other community members, caring adults add to the deposits in a child’s personal “asset account,” helping to fill it like Emily’s giving jar. Parents must choose carefully the people who become part of their child’s life. Neighbors, child care providers, and preschool teachers may be the first adults outside the family that see children as a resource. Children benefit from respectful interactions with these caring adults. A “good job” observation from a teacher or “thanks for helping” from a day care provider acknowledges the child as a resource.

Parents can use some of the following activities to help young children feel appreciated as a resource. Naturally, children will first be seen as a resource at home, but soon they will be seen as a resource in the community.


  1. Eat dinner together and talk with your child about the day.
  2. Ask your child to place empty cans in the recycling bin – and exchange them together for the redemption value.
  3. Sing a round like Row, Row, Row Your Boat – every voice builds on the other.


  1. Go for walks and greet your neighbors by name.
  2. Check on a neighbor who may be ill or a “shut in” – a neighborly demonstration of care and concern.
  3. Offer to help when you see a neighbor struggling with groceries.


  1. Check North State Parent’s Going Places Calendar for community activities in your area.
  2. Help the environment – pick up paper, bottles and cans around the neighborhood as a family activity.
  3. Volunteer with your child at appropriate community events.

Children benefit when parents and caregivers provide predictable love, physical and emotional care, and positive attention that builds assets such as the “Resource” asset. Caring adults, whether parents, neighbors, community leaders or the clerk at the grocery store, can help children build their Developmental Assets. Each smile and every word of encouragement is an investment in the giving jar.

For more information about the 40 Developmental Assets:

Deborah Peel
About Deborah Peel

Deborah Peel is the Marketing and Communications Coordinator at First 5 Shasta, supporting the vision that all children are safe, healthy and live in nurturing environments where they play, learn and grow to reach their potential. She has a teenage daughter and two grown sons.

Linda McBride
About Linda McBride

Linda McBride is the wife of 40 years to Art McBride. She’s a mother of three and grandmother of six girls. A long-time educator in the North State, Linda embraces the 40 Developmental Assets and is one of the instructors of the Shasta College course, Essentials of 40 Developmental Assets.


  1. Hi, Deborah and Linda,

    Thanks for the timely article. It’s great to know that asset building is alive and well in Shasta County. Keep up the great work. Gene

    • Thanks, Gene. It is our privilege to continue encouraging parents and all caring adults to build developmental assets in children. We appreciate the support we’ve received in Shasta County’s assets journey from everyone at the Search Institute. Debbie Peel

  2. Hi, Search Institute webmaster here. Thank you for the mention. What a great article about seeing children as “resources”. For everyday tips for raising successful kids, check out our parenting website (based on the 40 Developmental Assets) at

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