Community service is a great way to empower kids with responsibility and engage their compassion. Not to mention that it helps children learn to recognize their own personal good fortune and blessings. I can’t promise that your kids won’t still ask for every toy they see, but having them involved in giving back seems to restore order during a time when materialism is so often the focus.
Volunteering together as a family helps kids learn that they can make a positive difference in the lives of others – which feels both inspiring and good. Volunteering fosters positive communication and strengthens bonds in ways no other activity can. Family memories and traditions made while volunteering together will last long after the novelty of their shiny new toys have passed. If you are looking to get your kids involved but are not sure where to start, read on for a list of some of the most creative (and enjoyable) service projects for kids:
- Collect toys, books, and movies and donate them to a children’s hospital such as the Ronald McDonald House or St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. Many times children suffering from serious illnesses are bored, scared, and cooped up for long periods of time. Having a few new toys to play with will not only give them a little comfort but will also brighten their day!
- Fall and Winter are the perfect time of year to organize a food drive in your neighborhood, church, or school. Many low income families struggle to try to put food on the table every day – especially during the Holidays. To locate a food pantry or soup kitchen in your area, check out http://www.foodpantries.org.
- Have a garage sale and donate the proceeds to your favorite cause. Get the kids involved by giving them age appropriate tasks such as sorting sale items or making signs.
- Whenever school supplies go on sale, pack up a backpack and supplies for a local child in need. Many organizations, including the YMCA, frequently collect these types of donations to distribute throughout the community. In addition, you can also check with the Guidance Counselor or teacher at your child’s school to see if there is a need for donations.
- Have a local park or recreation center that could use a good clean up? Put on gloves and pitch in! Arrange a “Community Clean Up” day in your neighborhood.
- Volunteer at an animal shelter such as the Baltimore Humane Society or ASPCA. Encourage a love of animals by nurturing and caring for their needs. Participate in tasks such as walking, feeding, and exercising in order to help out a few furry friends.
- How wonderful would it be to come out to a raked yard or even a shoveled driveway when it snows? Do it for an elderly or disabled neighbor and spread a little good cheer.
- Donate used baby and toddler toys, clothes, and gear to a nearby church, synagogue, or temple for their youngest members. Most places of worship have a place for little ones to be cared for during services but don’t necessarily have a budget to purchase these items.
- Do you have a cool talent or hobby? Ask your local Girl Scout or Boy Scout group if they would like you to come in to be a guest speaker. You can share your collection, hobby, or talent with them, and allow them to ask questions and learn more about it.
- Have your children work with their friends to make a “New Student” or a “Fun Things to Do” guide for your town that includes your favorite parks, a map of the neighborhood, and fun things to do. This also works well as a class project.
- Have your kids pick out a couple of outgrown outfits and then take them to their school’s resource center or daycare center. Often, they use extra outfits when kids have an emergency or can send them home with kids in crisis.
- Take a handful of quarters and a roll of tape and stick the quarters on gumball machines all over town. Or put the quarters inside the coin return on a video game machine. You will absolutely make a child’s day!
- Find a need and meet it. We are all on social media and see need daily. Did a friend’s house burn down? Take supplies. Someone sick? Take a meal. Parents these days have a unique opportunity to enable their children to become more socially aware.
- Deliver cookies and hot chocolate to local fire or police stations. After all, they do take care of us 365 days a year!
- Put together a care package for a missionary or member of the military. Be sure to include toiletries and other convenience items (such as phone cards) that they may not have available to them. Have your children make cards or write letters to include in the packages.