One of the most important things we can do as parents is to teach our children how to be charitable. Teaching kids to volunteer not only helps shape them into good people, but it also teaches them important lessons such as how to appreciate the things they have (family, a home, food, and shelter, and other basics that those who are less fortunate may lack), and encourages them to have more empathy toward others.
How to Choose the Right Volunteer Activity for Your Child
One tip to keep in mind is to tailor the volunteer activity to your child’s personality, abilities, and interests. For example, if your child is very young, volunteer activities that require hours of physical work may not be a good fit. If she loves to be active and would prefer to be outdoors, participating in a park clean-up or riding a tricycle or bicycle in a bike-a-thon might be a fun way for her to help others.
You may also want to consider activities that allow you to volunteer together as a family. Working together as a family to help others is not only a great way to set an example for your child, but it’s also a wonderful way to spend time together and have fun doing something that benefits others.
Great Volunteer Activity Ideas for Kids
Here are some ideas for great volunteer activities for kids:
- Collecting packaged food
Many local churches and community centers either donate directly or have a line in to groups that coordinate relief efforts for local shelters and other agencies that are providing aid to the families and individuals in need. Your kids can pitch in by going shopping with you to pick out items for donation, such as canned food, crackers, diapers, and more, and then helping you deliver those goods for distribution.
- Donating used toys and books
Kids can also take a look around the house for items that are in good shape but that they no longer use, like toys and clothes that they’ve outgrown.
- Walking or riding for charity
Here’s a great idea for how kids can make a difference and get fit at the same time: walk-a-thons or bike-a-thons. Many national organizations like Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) and American Cancer society hold family and kids walk-a-thons, and hospitals like Memorial Sloan Kettering, which donates 100 percent of the proceeds from their walk-a-thon to pediatric cancer research, organize walking events in several cities.
The benefits of participating in a walk- or bike-a-thon go beyond the race itself. Aside from giving kids a sense of pride and accomplishment when they take part in an event like this, training for the walk with mom and dad can be an excellent way for families to spend time together while getting fit.
- Cleaning up parks
As children get older, they can participate in clean-up events at the park. Even younger kids can help out by picking up litter. Contact your local park to see what events families can participate in.
- Working at a community garden
Helping plant flowers, vegetables, and other growing things is a wonderful activity for children. They’ll gain a tremendous sense of accomplishment as they watch the results of their work grow, and they’ll be able to spend time outdoors among nature while doing something valuable for the community.
- Helping neighbors
Kids can volunteer to help elderly neighbors by shoveling their sidewalk or by helping mom and dad bake some treats with mom or dad to take to them. Older kids can help babysit young neighborhood kids or help them learn to read. (Your child’s help may be especially appreciated by a working single mother or a family that’s busy taking care of a new baby or an elderly parent.)
Whatever activity you and your child decide to do to pitch in, helping neighbors is a terrific way for your child to not only gain a sense of pride and self-worth, but is a great way to make friends with people in your community.