Do you worry that your children aren’t aware of others? Or are unaware of their impact on the world or environment? Do you wish there were a way to help them feel confident and important? Volunteering just may be the answer!
Volunteer work can be an amazing tool to help with these issues. Spending time helping your community is an invaluable experience for kids. Volunteering your time and efforts can make your neighbors feel appreciated, your community areas cleaner, and even impact people on a higher level. Getting kids involved early and often can show them firsthand just how much volunteering matters.
Finding volunteer opportunities where kids can be involved can be a little tedious, but definitely worth the time. Today, I’m going to walk you through tips on how to get started volunteering with kids, ideas of ways your kids can give back, and why volunteering is so important.
Volunteering is good for your health
Helping others feels good. Think about a time when someone helped you and how much you appreciated it. Or a time when you helped someone else and how great you felt afterward. Many studies show that small acts of kindness boost happiness. According to the Mayo Clinic, volunteering decreases the risk of depression, gives a sense of purpose, teaches valuable skills, decreases stress levels, and may even help you live longer!
Children can also experience these benefits. In fact, spending time volunteering in their communities just by planting trees or helping neighbors can increase their happiness and mental health. Volunteering is a great way to get your children outdoors and helping the earth. It is not necessarily about spending days and days volunteering; which we all know is close to impossible with children. In fact, it is the small acts done repeatedly that really make a big difference.
Volunteering opportunities based on your interests
When you’re just getting started on your volunteering journey, a good place to start is to think about what your children like to do. Do they like walking, hiking, cooking, gardening, playing with animals, visiting with people? There is a good chance an opportunity to volunteer exists that appeals to them and their interests.
Volunteering and community service doesn’t have to feel like a chore. Tailoring your volunteer activities to your kids’ interests will help keep them involved and invested. Look for volunteer opportunities near you that involve your kids’ or family’s interests.
Picking up trash
An easy way to help your community and get your children outdoors is to take a trash bag and a pair of gloves on a walk or hike with you. If you want to make it extra fun for the kids, get a reaching tool (to pick up yucky things or hard-to-reach items). As you walk or hike, put the pieces of plastic, snack wrappers, fishing line, or whatever into the bag and dispose of it all at the end of your hike. If you want to tackle a larger area, organize a group clean-up hike or a park or beach clean-up project. Get your friends, family, and neighbors involved.
Clean-up projects are such a great way to instill an appreciation of nature and respect for the planet into children. To leave a place better than you found it. The concept is simple and the results and benefits are amazing. Plus, it’s like a treasure hunt for the kids! Sometimes you can even find fun items to recycle or repurpose.
If gardening appeals to your kids, many towns have community gardens or organizations that teach gardening. Pulling weeds, organizing the plants, watering the gardens are all ways your children can give their time to others.
Here are a few more fun ways that your children can volunteer and give back to their community:
- Participating in an organized walk or run that gives the proceeds to a charity (as a runner or a water station volunteer)
- Make and give popsicles to delivery drivers or garbage truck workers
- Volunteer to walk dogs at an animal shelter
- Plant flowers or trees at their school or library (with permission)
- Sit outdoors to write thank-you notes to people who have done something nice for them
- Adopt a local monument or block and keep it clean
- Volunteer at a local nature center, farm, or zoo
- Organize a neighborhood yard sale, bake sale, lemonade stand or car wash and donate the proceeds to charity
- Gardening with kids
Volunteering indoors with kids
If your children like cooking, there are lots of fun ways to volunteer their cooking services. Perhaps reach out to an organization in your community that helps provide meals to children. This can give them an idea of the needs in your community that affect children their age. While helping to prepare healthy meals for others, they can learn about what types of foods are healthy to eat and why. They could also organize a local bake sale or set up a lemonade stand to sell baked goods and/or lemonade and donate the proceeds to a charity.
Local animal shelters are always looking for people to walk dogs, socialize kittens, and provide foster care for animals. Another way to help could be for them to earn money to buy pet supplies to give to your local SPCA or organize a fundraiser to help.
Assisting the elderly
Are your children social butterflies? Do they love chatting with anyone and everyone? Likely there is an elderly neighbor that they can visit with and help with tasks. Examples can be bringing in the trash can for a neighbor, running an errand for them, or making a small treat. Shoveling a sidewalk in winter, or bringing in the mail are small acts of kindness that will make both parties feel good.
Our society does not value older people as it should. The wisdom and experience of the elderly is incredible and teaching our children to appreciate people of all ages can make our communities better.
There are even virtual volunteering options! Check out Volunteer Match to find opportunities while Covid is still affecting our lives while waiting for an in-person local opportunity, or indefinitely if virtual volunteering is the best match for your children and family.
Perhaps you know someone who works at a non-profit? If you do, they can be a great resource to direct you to organizations that can use your help!
Why volunteering with kids is so important
We’ve all heard the saying “It is better to give than to receive.” Doing something kind for others is the best feeling. Think of the smiles they will receive from others, the empathy that can be built, as well seeing their effect on others is incredible. Volunteering is never a waste of your time.
In addition, hands-on learning is so much more fun than just seeing or hearing about a topic. If your children can get out in your community and talk to others, make social connections, and clean up the earth, they will remember the experience and see firsthand that their choices and actions do make a difference.
Be a volunteering role model
Children usually love many of the things that they see that their parents love. Passion is contagious and if you really want your kids to love helping others, they need to see how much you enjoy it. Let your kids follow your lead and be a volunteering role model for them. Kids that volunteer become adults who volunteer. And when a parent is actively involved and part of the process, kids look forward to the action more and the family gets to spend quality time together. Kids are never too young to see their parents helping others. And parents that love volunteering will get so much joy out of watching their child make a real difference and impact.
Get others involved
Once your kids are invested in making a difference and feel great about their service, it’s time to spread the word and get friends and family to join in! Kids’ enthusiasm for their service work will be contagious and will inspire others to help out as well. Look for opportunities to volunteer together as a group, so it’s extra valuable and fun for the kids. When everyone is involved, kids can see what a difference they can make together and will be encouraged to keep recruiting others to make a difference, too!
Think globally, act locally
While it’s noble to want to save the planet and a very worthy cause, sometimes it can seem overwhelming. Start with small movements at a local scale. The decisions and actions we take each day in our communities have a global effect. If we can leave an area or community better than we found it; to consider the health of the planet and others by helping others, we can truly help on a global scale. Imagine if a group of people in 20 towns were committed to trail cleanups once per month. Over the course of a year, that would mean 240 cleanups! So by acting locally, the world as a whole can benefit.
A few hours a month, or a couple of days per year can make a big difference in your area and how your children feel connected to the community as a whole. If you love something, you’ll take care of it. So, getting children outside for simple trail cleanups, walking shelter dogs, or helping the neighbors with chores is a win-win for all involved.
What volunteer opportunity will you try first?