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Have you ever thought about finding ways to get your kids involved in community service?  Many families think it’s a great idea, but it can be hard to figure out exactly what to do.  Especially when it comes to our kids – we want to make sure we find an activity that is age-appropriate, safe, and helps them feel a deeper connection to others.

If you have found a way to make this work, great!  We hope you can share you experience in a way that encourages others to do the same.  If you wish you could but want some practical ideas, read on. Even our youngest children can pitch in to make the world a better place.

Hunger

Communities across the country work hard to provide food to those who simply don’t have enough.  Food banks and soup kitchens are always looking for donations. This is one simple way families can make a difference.  Some tips to make it even easier (and more helpful):

  • Call your local food bank or visit their website to see what donations they are most in need of.
  • When you go grocery shopping, grab an extra box of pasta, can of vegetables, or bag of dried beans.
  • Organize a food drive in your school or business.  All it takes is an empty cardboard box and a sign. Once the box is full, take a drive to your local donation center to drop it off.
  • Give your kids some guidelines and let them help choose items to buy.  For example, let them pick which can of vegetables or what shape of pasta they think a family in need might enjoy.

Homelessness

While it’s not always so obvious in rural or suburban areas, those living in urban communities likely notice homeless people in and around their cities.  One simple way you can help the homeless is to create small care packages, and it’s an activity that appeals to children as young as 3 or 4. Simply purchase quart or gallon sized zip bags and fill them with any number of useful items.  Some ideas:

  • Granola or energy bars
  • Dried fruit
  • Nuts
  • Travel-sized first aid kits
  • Travel-sized toiletries
  • Small package of tissues
  • Bottles of water
  • Crackers
  • Chapstick
  • Wet wipes
  • multivitamins

Have your kids help assemble care packages assembly-line style.  Keep a stash of them in your car for whenever you see someone in need.  There’s a good chance your kids will be in the backseat when you do, and the act of reaching out to help others will make a lasting impression on them.

Elders

Elder care facilities are a great place for children of all ages to make a difference.  Call your local nursing home and find out what works best for them. Just being there to say hi to residents can make a huge difference to elders and children alike.  One simple idea is to bring some basic coloring supplies along. Children who love to sing may also want to share that talent. You don’t need to bring anything at all, but flowers or children’s artwork will always be welcome.

Remember to talk to you children ahead of time to give them an idea of what to expect.  It’s also a good idea to talk to them after the visit to find out how they felt about the experience.  Who knows – you may make some new friends!

Animals

Your local animal shelter is full of hard-working men and women who do a lot, often without enough resources.  Much like collecting food for hungry people, it’s easy to collect and donate supplies for animals, too. Be sure to contact the shelter and find out what supplies will be useful.  Children of all ages can help choose what to donate and visit the shelter for drop-off.

Animal shelters are often in search of volunteers.  While this wouldn’t be appropriate for young children, find out what ages are welcome – it’s typically 16 and up.

The Earth

Why wait for Earth Day to help our planet?  This is perhaps one of the easiest ways to be of service, because it starts in your home with simple lessons every day.  Talk to you kids and get them involved in a wide range of topics:

  • Reducing, reusing, and recycling
  • Mindful food choices
  • Water conservation
  • Finding ways to reduce energy consumption
  • Read about endangered animals and how we can help

* One final idea:

Many older children across the country are skipping gifts at their birthday parties in favor of something more altruistic.  While this shouldn’t be forced upon a child, it’s certainly a nice trend to see!

Finding ways to give back to your community with your kids should be a fun, rewarding, and memorable experience.  When we teach our children to help, we are nurturing values that will serve them and others for a lifetime.