Volunteering may seem like an activity for older children and adults. Many volunteer projects involve large scale clean ups, or manual labor that are next to impossible for the younger crowd. But while it is easier to get your middle school and high school kids into volunteering, it is not impossible to get your elementary and even preschool kids into the practice of helping their community.
Knowing where to start can be one of the hardest parts. If you are members of a church or any other religious organization, you are already ahead of the game. Even if there aren’t programs specifically for younger kids to be a part of, plenty of people within your community can do with some help. Helping an individual can be just as rewarding as helping a large group. Your neighbors are also a great source of volunteer opportunities. Reaching out to elderly neighbors or people who need a helping hand are great ways kids can help people around them. Below are some other ideas that even your toddlers can do! It can be a struggle to teach toddlers independence let alone helping out other people. But simple things can imprint those lessons early.
You know that thought you have every year? The thought that your kids have way too many things they never play with? Here is your solution. Before every Christmas or birthday give your child a box and ask them to fill it with toys they don’t play with anymore. Even little kids have items they don’t really like. It can get kids in the habit of giving away things they don’t need, as well as clear out space for new toys! Send your gently used toys to your local daycare, hospital, or children’s center. It is a great opportunity to talk to your kids about children who are less fortunate. It also teaches children to treat their toys with better care and respect.
Helping the Homeless
Here is Austin we have a large homeless population that is very visible. It naturally brings up questions from kids. There are great ways kids can help the homeless community. One of those ways is making small kits to pass out to homeless neighbors. Head to your local store and get several large Ziploc bags. Then go pick up some travel sized items for the homeless. Some of the best items for the homeless are chap stick, deodorant, sunscreen, socks, tooth paste, tooth brush or any other small toiletries. Have your children fill up the bags and then pass them out!
Cleaning up Your Local Park
When taking kids to the park, I’ve gotten in the habit of picking up random trash I see on the playground. It has always been a pet peeve of mine when people throw trash on the ground when there are trash cans close by. After doing this for a while, my little one came up behind me with an empty juice box she’d found on the playground. People think of park clean-ups as a big weekend project. And while those projects are great things to do, park clean ups can be made way simpler for little kids. Simply acknowledging that we should pick up trash will encourage kids to keep an eye out for litter in the park.
We live in a great city for runners. There are so many great races to enter with your kids. Look for races that specifically host fun runs. Also look for races that allow strollers. Your little ones can dress up and relax in the stroller while enjoying the spectacle of a race! If there are charity runs that are too long for kids in a stroller, make your own water or snack station. Kids get a big kick out of passing out water and treats to runners zooming by.
These are just a few ideas for getting your littlest family members in the habit of volunteering. It is such a rewarding thing to do as a family. There is no shortage of volunteer opportunities especially around the Austin area. Our kids are a part of our community and it’s important to teach them to make it better too!