Parenting comes with a wide array of responsibilities, not least of which is teaching children the importance of social awareness and giving back to the community. Volunteering and actively working to help others not only helps to make a difference in your community and the world beyond it, but also helps to instill a sense of compassion and responsibility in your children. Finding appropriate ways for kids to help out beyond the scope of their homes requires a bit of creative thinking and plenty of encouragement, but is an investment that’s well worth the rewards that it brings. These are ten of the activities that you can do with your children that will help them contribute to their communities, teaching them the importance of caring for others and making a positive change in the world around them.
Making and Delivering Greeting Cards – From sick kids in your local children’s hospital to the patients at a nursing home, a handmade card with a heartfelt message can make a real difference in the lives of those confined to the sterile conditions of a medical facility. Working with your kids to create and personally deliver greeting cards not only encourages their creativity, but also fosters a sense of compassion.
Becoming a Senior Angel – The Senior Angels program connects home-bound seniors with Angels who send letters, cards and encouraging notes to help them combat loneliness and isolation. Working with the Senior Angels program alongside your children helps them to learn respect for seniors and an understanding of the importance of caring for others while brightening the day of a senior citizen who eagerly looks forward to hearing from you and your child.
Adopting a Park – There are municipal programs for the adoption of stretches of highway or parks, but you don’t have to get involved on an official level. Unofficially “adopt” a corner of your child’s favorite playground and make a commitment to cleaning up litter once a week. You’ll be making the park a better, cleaner place while helping your child take pride in a place he loves.
Actively Participating in Donation Programs – Toy drives, clothing drives and other donation programs rely upon the goods, effort and time of their volunteers to make a difference in the community. Work with a donation charity in your area, whether it be a food bank or a clothing drive, and get your child involved with collections or distribution.
Working With the Special Olympics – Kids need to learn compassion for others, especially their peers who have special needs. Bullying and teasing are very real problems that special needs kids face, but your child can become an ally by working with the local chapter of the Special Olympics and forming friendships with peers that have developmental differences.
Volunteering With the Red Cross – From disaster relief to first aid training, there’s little that the American Red Cross doesn’t offer in terms of community relief and support. Getting your child involved with the Red Cross teaches him civic responsibility on a real and personal level, helping him to see the difference his efforts make.
Providing Household Help to Neighbors with Mobility Issues – While organizations and local programs offer a plethora of volunteer and activism opportunities, there are ways for your kids to make a difference in their community without working in the confines of a volunteer program. Encourage him to help a neighbor who has mobility issues with outdoor chores like shoveling a snowy sidewalk, raking leaves or watering flowers while you supervise.
Raising Funds for a Local Charity – Charities and local aid programs need more than just volunteers. They also need cold, hard cash to cover expenses. When a favorite charity in your area hosts a funding drive, look for ways your child can get involved in the fundraising process.
Planting Trees – Trees are an important part of the ecosystem, and planting one makes a difference in your community for years to come. Make a point of planting trees with your kids and explaining the integral role those trees play in the ecosystem.
Collecting Supplies for Local Shelters – Volunteering in person at a soup kitchen or homeless shelter is usually a bit too heavy for kids, and can expose them to things that you’re not ready to explain. Still, those shelters need assistance. Find out what supplies you can donate, and make a point of getting your child involved in the collection process.
Before getting your kids excited about a particular project, be sure that you check with the appropriate organizations in your area to ensure that kids are welcome to get involved. Some charities and organizations, especially animal shelters, don’t accept young volunteers and have volunteer eligibility requirement policies. Be sure that you do your homework in advance and are aware of any obstacles that might prevent your child’s participation and, by extension, squelch some of their natural eagerness to help.