We all want to raise children who want to make the world a better place. There’s no simpler way to instill a lifelong love of community service than by making volunteering a family tradition. Finding age-appropriate volunteer activities might seem intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be! We’ve compiled a few ideas here to get you started.
Parents, the best tip we have is to involve your child in each step of the process. Allow them to take ownership of tasks, and bring them along when dropping items off. Involving children in volunteering builds their empathy, understanding, and a sense of community. Starting these activities when they’re young builds a foundation of service that will stick with your child their whole life!
Collect Grocery Sacks
This is a great way to practice counting and giving back at the same time! Many food pantries need grocery sacks for their clients. Each time you unload the groceries, ask your child to count the number of clean bags. Put them in a safe place to store until you have a big pile. Once you have a good amont, go as a family to the food pantry and drop the sacks off.
Parents, you simply need to confirm with a local food pantry that they have a need for bags, and the best time of day to bring them by. An older child could also make the phone call - it’s a great chance to practice telephone skills. Find a local food pantry by dialing 2-1-1.
Donate Toys or Books
After a birthday, many parents go through and donate toys their child has outgrown. Involve your child in the process! Use your child’s age as a starting point to introduce the concept of donation. If your child turned five, help them find five toys or books they’re willing to part with. If you’re not sure where to take the items, call 2-1-1 for a list of local organizations that accept gently used toy or book donations. And of course, bring your child with when you go to drop off the donation. It’s a great chance to teach your child about helping others.
Birthday Food Drive
What’s your child’s favorite food?
Instead of presents, request that birthday guests bring a can or box of the birthday boy’s favorite nonperishable food item – think macaroni & cheese, pasta, or peanut butter. Display the food on a table at the party and have your child thank their guests for donating. Then, visit a local food pantry or food bank and donate the food! Your child will feel great knowing they shared their favorite food with someone who needs it.
Make cards for senior citizens.
Did you know there are nearly two dozen senior living centers in our county? Many seniors have family that lives far away. For these community members, receiving a handmade card on a holiday or birthday would be a special treat. Plus, making cards is a great way for your child to practice writing and fine motor skills. While making the cards, you could talk with your child about kindness and caring for others.
Parents, call your nearest senior living center and speak with their volunteer coordinator to get more information. Depending on the center, your child might even be able to meet with some of the residents and present them the cards in person!
Help neighbors with their yard
Neighbors who are older, just had a new baby or are going through a health challenge might appreciate some additional help with their yard. Tasks like leaf raking, snow shoveling, and spring clean up could be great for a middle or high school child. Your child could even ask their friends to join in and make it a fun social activity.
If you don’t have a neighbor who needs your help, speak with a leader at your house of worship. They may know if any members of the congregation would appreciate assistance.