One of the best things you can do as a parent is inspire your children to volunteer at an early age. Doing so will help your children develop a sense of empathy, and they will grow to understand their own power to effect change. Plus, research shows that exposing kids to volunteering early will increase their chances of becoming a lifelong volunteer.
Still, figuring out how to initiate kids into volunteering can be challenging. And if that’s the way you feel, don’t worry; you’re not alone.
We’ve compiled a list of six great ways to introduce your kids to volunteering. Each volunteer opportunity involves easy, manageable tasks, which even your five-year-olds can enjoy.
Needy Neighbors Brainstorm
What better way to initiate your kids into volunteering than to serve the needy right in their own neighborhood? Sit down with your kids and brainstorm people in your neighborhood who they think need some assistance. Then, have your kids come up with a list of ways they can help. Maybe an elderly woman down the street needs her weeds pulled or leaves raked every couple of weeks. Or, maybe a disabled, housebound friend would like to be visited every Monday with a book and a game. When your kids put their own ideas into action, they’ll feel an even greater sense of reward.
Nursing Home Play Date
Contact a nearby nursing home and ask if they have activities already running, which allow senior residents and volunteer children to interact. Commonly, these activities involve some sort of craft, music, read-aloud or game. Older children might write letters, which residents dictate to them. If such activities aren’t already organized, ask if you can coordinate one. Intergenerational activities benefit both the seniors as well as the children, and you are sure to enjoy the experience as well.
Teach your kids the importance of protecting the environment by volunteering with one of Keep America Beautiful’s projects. You and your kids can engage in one of their many activities by volunteering to pick up litter, improve recycling, or plant gardens in your community. These activities not only provide great “teachable moments” for your kids, but they also allow for quality time to interact with other community members.
Your local food bank is a great place to introduce your children to volunteering. They have a constant need for volunteers, and the required tasks are very simple. Bring even your littlest kids to the food bank for a 30 or 45-minute shift to sort food into boxes, which will be sent to needy people. Your kids can handle the work, and it’s a great opportunity to talk to them about serving the hungry.
How many kids wouldn’t want to come to the rescue of cute, cuddly animals in need? You might not be able to take new animals into your home, but if your child has a soft spot for animals, you can certainly call up a local animal shelter and find out how you can help. Many animal shelters allow kids to engage in play time, help with clean-up and feeding, and assist with other duties. Age restrictions may apply at some shelters, but don’t let that discourage you. Consider looking into several different shelters – even those that are home-based – until you find the right fit.
Some kids are excellent when it comes to crafting, sewing, or even woodworking and graphic design. If your kids excel in these particular skills, encourage them to think about how they can leverage their skills for good! Check out VolunteerMatch’s virtual volunteer page, and search for organizations that need handmade products for their beneficiaries. Right now, organizations need people to knit hats, sew blankets and pillows, and prepare parts for woodworking events. If your kids – small or not-so-small – possess these skills, urge them to volunteer!
Volunteering with your kids is a wonderful way to bond with them, and it will also equip them with the tools and strength of character to face the challenges of adulthood someday. If you want to explore this idea in more detail, PBSparents offers great insight into the benefits of volunteering with kids. You can also visit VolunteerMatch.org to find a suitable volunteer opportunity near you.
Now, go make a difference!
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