Time spent volunteering and doing community service projects can be incredibly rewarding ways to build bonds as a family. Although very young children may not fully understand the concept of volunteerism, beginning service when they’re young help establish a lifelong routine of giving back. And, they’re never too young to experience the good feelings that you get from helping others! Before we get to fun volunteer ideas for kids, let’s explore why volunteering is important in the first place.
There’s a lot of data on the positive impact volunteerism has both on communities and on volunteers. For example, people who volunteer regularly are happier than those who don’t. Volunteering is more than just giving back to the community or making change in the world. It provides real-life, hands-on experience for kids to learn and use new skills outside the classroom as well as structured family time spent reflecting on the importance of caring for others. It’s a great chance for kids to see life from another perspective and to gain empathy and understanding of different people and circumstances.
There are plenty of volunteer opportunities that families with toddlers and pre-school age children can participate in and in so many different areas. Choosing a cause that’s close to your family’s heart is important. It could be helping seniors, the homeless, animals, the environment or a health cause; choose something that speaks to you and your children.
With older children, researching causes and service projects can be a fun internet project to work on together. Let your child’s natural interests play a part in what you select. If your kid is an energetic outdoors type, park clean ups and environmental projects might be perfect for your family. For quieter kids who are a little shy, maybe visiting with seniors would be more suitable. If you’re a family of pet lovers, why not volunteer to exercise and play with dogs at the local shelter? The important thing is to select an experience that will be rewarding and fun for kids as well.
Researching nearby opportunities is also a good time to learn more about the cause you select and to share that information your kids. How much information you give them depends on their age. Older kids may be ready to handle real facts about world recycling or homelessness, but you don’t want to overwhelm or inadvertently frighten younger children.
For example, if volunteering at a soup kitchen you might say, “we’re cooking and serving food for people who can’t cook for themselves.” When your child asks why they can’t cook, help them think of reasons why a person or family might not be able to cook a meal. This helps your child see that there are many reasons why someone might visit a soup kitchen besides just “being homeless,” and we can’t make assumptions about why someone may need help!
Parenting Tip: Volunteering is more fun with friends! Arrange for a fun and meaningful playdate by inviting friends to participate too. The kids will learn and grow together as well as sharing the wonderful feeling of accomplishment and performing good works.
So, what kind of fun activities can you and your family participate in with young kids?
5 Fun Volunteer Ideas for Kids
- Visit a retirement or assisted living facility. Time spent with elders can be amazingly rewarding for young children and it’s great for seniors too. Many residents in these places have few visitors or none. Speak with the activities director to find out which seniors would benefit most from your family visits. Bring some treats to share and make a new friend!
- Play with and exercise shelter dogs or cats. Volunteers can have an enormous impact on the well-being of shelter dogs and cats by providing 1:1 playtime, affection and attention. Animals and children are a natural fit and caring for animals teaches empathy, kindness, patience, and responsibility.
- Participate in clean-up events. Great for the local environment, these events are highly kid-friendly! They start early in the morning and you can leave when you’re ready. The outdoor setting is perfect for energetic kids. Invite some friends, clean up a park, river or beach for a few hours and then head out for a big group breakfast!
- Sign-up for public charity events. There are walks and runs for all types of special causes, cancer being the most well-known. No need to be competitive, just walk or stroll as a family to support a cause important to you!
- Help someone in your neighborhood. Maybe it’s a senior who could use help with yard work or someone recovering from surgery who’s in need of a home-cooked meal, but opportunities to make a difference in the lives of others are just around the corner. It doesn’t need to be fancy or formal, just an offer of help to someone who may be in need. New moms, the elderly, ill/recovering people, or maybe just a new or lonely child in the neighborhood; they could all benefit from a gesture of kindness.
Does your family volunteer? Let us know what you think of our volunteer ideas for kids or share some of your own in the comments below!