Volunteering with children is truly one of the best choices you can make as a parent.
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.
Volunteer Ideas to Do With Young Children
While these are great for Days of Service, such as volunteering on MLK Day, it’s important to instill the importance of volunteering in kids all year long.
Make birthday or holiday cards to deliver to senior citizens at your local nursing home. Be sure to 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.
Spend, Save, Donate
When teaching your children about money, be sure to talk to them about how important it is to donate when possible. Depending on the age of your child, it might be easiest to use something like a Moonjar to help them designate what money goes where. Encourage them to set a goal for donation and then let the child choose which organization gets the money.
Clean Up Your Community
If you’re lucky enough to live in a relatively litter-free neighborhood, then consider visiting a local park or other area prone to trash. Use a pick up tool or grabber and make sure you wear gloves!
Donate to a Local Food Pantry
While it’s typically better to donate cash than food, everything helps in the long run. Take your child to the grocery store and let them help 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
There are many DIY dog toy ideas that are easy for children to help with. Pinterest is definitely your friend here! Give your local animal shelter a call and see if they could use some new homemade dog or cat toys for their furry friends.
Talk to Your Local Library
Check in with your local library as many offer volunteer opportunities for all ages. Just make sure your little one knows how to use his “inside voice.” This is also a great opportunity to start to craft your child’s love for learning and reading.
Set Up a Home Recycling Center
Teach them about the importance of reducing waste and reusing when we can. Our recycling company doesn’t require sorting, but we still talk about how different kinds of products are recycled (i.e. glass vs plastic vs paper).
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 fund-raise and educate them on the mission behind the organization you’re running for.
Donate That Which You Do Not Need
Have them sort and box up toys or clothes to donate. Giving away their own items might be a bit much to handle at first, so try reading a related book (like Too Many Toys by David Shannon) the night before or have them help you sort through your own stuff first. It’s a wonderful time for the whole family to benefit from decluttering!
Create a garden on a budget and save even more time by having your children help out. Not only will this help you save money on groceries, but you can donate any excess produce to your local food pantry.
Create Blessing Bags
Teach your child not to look the other way when there’s someone in need. Work with them to create blessing bags for the homeless (something that can cost you as little as $5 per kit!) If you’re uncomfortable handing them out with your children around, you can always call your homeless shelter and see about dropping them there.
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, s/he can still be of great service! This is also a fun way to introduce them to the basics of cooking.
Draw Thank You Cards
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. I guarantee this one is sure to brighten your day, too!
Donations Instead of Presents
If your little one is old enough to understand, you can suggest s/he request donations for a not-for-profit instead of birthday presents. Around that same idea, you could encourage the child to donate any money received 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.