In light of Thanksgiving coming up, a lot of talk at our dinner table has centered around helping others and being grateful or thankful for what we have. My husband and I frequently talk to the kids about giving back but we always feel like we need to do more and want to find ways to get the kids more involved in activities that help others.
Writing a check to support a charity is definitely one way to help. We always tell the children when we donate money and why we liked that organization. Now that our kids are a little older, we choose a charity to support by voting as a family. Every year we also buy a Christmas gift for a needy child from the YMCA or our Township’s Giving Trees. The kids help us shop to buy the donated items so they see what other families are lacking. We also donate money to the World Wildlife Fund every Christmas to support an endangered animal. I let each child pick an the animal they want to support. Every year before Christmas, we donate our used toys and clothes to charity. By making giving a family tradition, doing them consistently, the kids anticipate the activity and actually ask about what they can do to help.
Our kids also love one of our Church fundraisers for a local Women’s Shelter. They hand out plastic baby bottles and ask people to fill them with all loose change around the house. Our kids love searching the house for coins to put in the bottle.
But as a family, my husband and I would like to do more hands-on work where we can show the kids how our efforts and donating time makes a positive impact. Some of the activities that we are involved in offer some great opportunities to give back to the community. With our son’s Cub Scouts troop we have hand packed specially prepared meals for children around the world with Feed My Starving Children and we’ve sorted food at our local Food Pantry. When our kids were taking piano lessons, every year their teacher had the kids perform a Halloween concert at a local nursing home. The residents love to see the kids in their costumes playing music. We helped clean up the local forest preserve with my daughter’s Adventure Guides group.
For ideas on how to give more, I love MomItForward.com, a site that is all about changing the world one Mom at a time. The site has a wealth of great suggestions on how to raise giving children. What we love about the Mom It Forward suggestions is that they remind us that we should all be practicing more random acts of kindness AT HOME. It’s important to help strangers, but it is also important and really easy to help those we love.
For ideas on how you can volunteer with your children, ask at your Church. Call your local Senior Center and see if you can come and play games with the seniors. Call the animal adoption center and see if they need help cleaning or exercising the animals. Try a local Woman’s Shelter and see if they need help sorting clothing donations. Organize a neighborhood can drive. These are all age-appropriate activities for kids.
Some other resources include volunteermatch.org, where you can type in your zip code and interests and find a list of opportunities to volunteer in your community. If you are looking for information on how the family can be more Green, check out the Dr. Seuss Lorax Project, which teaches kids to save the environment and endangered animals. Finally, GenerationOn.com has some great information on how kids can help make a difference. There are some great ideas on how to help those affected by Hurricane Sandy.
What do you and your family do to give back? If you know of any great opportunities for families to volunteer together, please list them here. Any advice on volunteer projects for kids by age?