As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, volunteering is totally thrifty. It’s a great use of your time and should be an integral part of your child’s upbringing. While it can be hard to fit volunteering into an already busy day, there are ways to do it without it feeling forced or inconvenient. There are also many volunteer opportunities for children, even those who might not yet be old enough to realize importance of philanthropy.
Here are 14 ways you can do community service with children:
- Make birthday or holiday cards to deliver to senior citizens at your local nursing home. Call ahead to see if there’s an age requirement for non-familial visitors.
- During the holiday season, let your little one pick a couple tags off an Angel Tree. If “Santa” is brought up, you can explain that these children go without so much during the year, that Santa has requested some extra help to make sure they get all that they need.
- Teach your child to set aside money to donate (we use Moonjars). Once he hits a certain amount, let him choose which organization gets the money.
- Clean up the neighborhood. Use a pick up tool or grabber and make sure you wear gloves!
- Shop for food to donate to a local food pantry. If your child is old enough, you can also use this as an opportunity to learn about budgeting. Let your child know how much money is available and help him make healthy, economical decisions.
- Make no-sew dog and cat toys to donate to your local animal shelter.
- Check in with your local library. Many offer volunteer opportunities for all ages. Just make sure your little one knows how to use his “inside voice.”
- Set up a home recycling center and teach them about the importance of reducing waste and reusing when we can.Sign up for a 5K. Most encourage families to participate, which is great if you’ve got a little one in a stroller! Allow your children to help fundraise and educate them on the mission behind the organization you’re running for.
- Have them sort and box up toys and clothes to donate. Giving away their own items might be a bit much to handle at first, so try reading Too Many Toys the night before or have them help you sort through your own stuff first.
- Garden together and donate any excess produce to your local food pantry.
- Create homeless care kits. Teach your child not to look the other way when there’s someone in need.
- Cook a meal together. There are many not-for-profit organizations that are always in need of food to provide to volunteers at their site. While your little one might still be too young to help at the organization, he can still be of great service!
- Have your children color pocket-size “thank you” cards to give to those who help better your day – whether it be a nice cashier at the grocery store or someone who held the door open for you at the daycare. Teach them to see the good in everyone and to be thankful for those around us.
- If your little one is old enough to understand, you can suggest he request donations for a not-for-profit instead of birthday presents. Around that same idea, you could encourage him to donate any money he receives while keeping the other presents. Remember, this is about instilling a desire to volunteer, don’t push it so that it becomes a “have to” instead of a “want to.”
The most important part in all of this is to make sure you lead by example, not just during the service but in everyday life. Volunteering means putting values into action. You can volunteer at the soup kitchen every weekend, but if you then throw out leftovers each night, will your child actually see the value in your work? Sure you worked together to pick out old toys to donate to the children’s hospital, but if you then reward him with a new present each time he behaves at the store, will he learn what it means to truly give of oneself?
Doing volunteer work with children is a great bonding opportunity and an even better teaching tool. Empower them to make a difference. Teach them no limits in changing their worlds.
Do you do any sort of volunteer work? What are your thoughts on involving young ones?
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