The spirit of giving and gift box play in preschool

I read this sweet little book that I have had for years called, “Claude the Dog : A Christmas Story” by Dick Gackenbach. It is about a little dog that gets three gifts from his family and then meets a dog that has nothing. It is a very short and super sweet book but Claude the Dog ends up giving his three gifts away  – one page/gift at a time – a blanket, a pillow, and a toy mouse – to the other dog in an act of kindness…

After each gift was given away, one of my three year old girls would say in a very sincere and concerned voice, “But Mrs. Stewart, why did he give his pillow away?” And I responded, “I don’t know – lets see what else the story tells us.” We continued on and concern continued to be expressed , “But Mrs. Stewart, why did he give his blanket away?.” In the end, after giving all his gifts away, Claude goes home to his family where he is loved and happy…

I have to tell you that my three year olds were very concerned by the end of this story. One little girl said, “Will he get his blanket back?” and “Why did he give it away?”  Even though we talked about how Claude was still happy because he loved his family, the threes just couldn’t understand why Claude would give his gifts away. One little boy said, “I would never give my blankie away” and the other threes fully agreed.

It was SUCH a sweet conversation and an eye opening experience for me. As we talked about what happened in the story and the children expressed their concerns and feelings, I was reminded about where these children are in their social and emotional development.  These are all very kind, loving, giving children and yet this story just did not make sense to them.  They just couldn’t imagine why Claude felt he should give away his gifts.  They couldn’t understand that Claude was happy because he gave his gifts away.  All they came away with is that Claude gave away his blanket!!!!   Our conversation really touched my heart….

Our conversation reminded me how often times, it can be easy to get frustrated when young children are unwilling to share or when they seem selfish and unkind.  But this experience reminded me that it isn’t necessarily an indicator of poor behavior or unkindness – it instead a matter of social and emotional development still in progress, still growing, and still developing.  Learning to share isn’t a simple matter of “just let him take a turn too.” It is a gradual development of a higher level kind of thinking that takes painful practice and patience to teach and to learn. I just wanted to share this with you because it was so meaningful to me. Now let me lighten this up with at least one fun activity we did after we read the story!!

The children had already had a chance to explore a set of Christmas boxes I had bought from the Dollar Store so I brought them to circle time for a little large group play.  We talked about how gifts often come in boxes and then for fun we decided to see how high we could stack the boxes…

We stacked them as tall as we could reach and in the process we used words like balance, small, large, medium, tip, lean, placement, tall, taller, and “don’t knock them all down yet!”

The children were learning how to work together, how to take a turn, how to achieve their goal through their play even though we did not talk about these concepts – instead, we put them into action…

And as we all know! What comes up – must go down….

But no worries – we just started all over again. What an interesting and fun day!

By |2017-03-28T22:28:22+00:00December 7th, 2011|

About the Author:

Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. has been working and teaching in the field of early childhood education for over 30 years. Deborah currently owns and teaches in her own part-time, private preschool called The Children’s Studio. Deborah’s deep passion for teaching and working with young children is documented and then graciously shared with millions of readers around the world through her blog and other social networking communities. Deborah believes that young children learn best through play and exploration and embraces this belief in all that she does in her own classroom so that she can effectively and passionately share rewarding, real- life, tried-and-true practices with other teachers, parents, and leaders across the field of early childhood education.


  1. Diane Quigley-Clune December 7, 2011 at 9:18 am - Reply

    I love your thoughts on sharing and how it takes lots of practice and patience and maturity. I plan to read “Claude The Dog-A Christmas Story” to my class of mostly 5’s and 4’s. It will be interesting to see if they accept the idea of Claude giving away his belongings, since they are a bit older.
    Thanks for all you do Deborah, I enjoy reading your posts. Wishing you a happy and healthy holiday season!

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. December 7, 2011 at 1:26 pm - Reply

      It will be interesting to see how the maturity of a 4 and 5 year old differs from the 3 year olds when reading this book. It truly is a lovely book:)

  2. Esther December 7, 2011 at 1:33 pm - Reply

    That sounds like a interesting book! I had faced a similar situation when we read “The giving tree”. I’m going to put a hold if our local library has a copy of it, I have to see how my daughter responds! As far as I know my daughter may be feel okay if Claude had 2 blankets and shared one. Great building activity!

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. December 7, 2011 at 5:08 pm - Reply

      I think that was the bottom line! It looked as if Claude gave away his only blanket and had nothing left:)

  3. Michael Ann December 7, 2011 at 6:33 pm - Reply

    I loved this post and your explanation of what transpired in your discussion with the 3 year olds. I am positive we would get the same reaction in our group of 3-4 year olds. It’s a good remind that is IS about level of growth and maturity, not selfishness. But now the seeds have been sewn with the telling of the story. Great activity with the gift boxes!

    Love your blog!

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. December 7, 2011 at 7:17 pm - Reply

      Thank you Michael Ann:)

  4. brenda December 7, 2011 at 8:45 pm - Reply

    I just voted for you.

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. December 7, 2011 at 11:32 pm - Reply

      Thank you Brenda:)

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