For many of us, the start of a new year comes with a renewed effort to help others in need. Now that my kids are getting a little bit older, I am interested in finding places I can volunteer with them, to start exposing them to the value of helping others in need. Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to find places that want toddlers and school-aged kids puttering about (shocker, I know, they are such good helpers…) But I was able to dig up a few fun ways to serve that encourage family participation. Check out the list below, and feel free to share others that you have found rewarding as well!
- Meals On Wheels: You be the driver, and kids can help deliver food to families in need. Look here to find locations near you: http://www.mealsonwheelsamerica.org/take-action/volunteer/america-lets-do-lunch
- Host a Donation Party: In an area where most of us don’t have much space or need for more toys, this is a fun way to add a little twist to your child’s next birthday party. Instead of receiving gifts, ask your guests to donate to one of your favorite local charities. Need a little help? Check out Kids Can Give Too, a site that will create the invitation for you, automatically set up a secure donation account for your guests, and at the end, send your child a visa gift card with a percentage of the money donated so they can buy something for themselves, too!
- Hair Donation: Locks of Love is always a fun activity to do together; you both get the experience of a new, fresh style while knowing someone else will be getting a new look, too!
- Care for Animals in Need: The SPCA has many fun ways for kids of all ages to get involved. Check out their Humane Heroes program, for kids aged 4-18, which helps children learn how to find community service opportunities for animal advocates in their area. For kids in 6-12th grades, you can check out the Community Service Days Program, where you get to spend time entertaining the animals while they await their forever home, plus earn some volunteer hours.
- Volunteer at your local Food Bank , where families are always need to help sort food and deliver it out into the community. Your kids would really love the look on people’s faces when they receive a personally packaged food delivery!
- Create a Little Free Library: I often spot these little book tree houses around our neighborhoods, but had never investigated further into them. Well, apparently, it’s a pretty official business. You can register your own little free library, or donate money to help support ones near you and provide new books. Your kids will really enjoy setting up their own book mailbox.
- Throw a Happy Doll Party: This was a fun idea I’d never heard of before. Through this website, you can order Happy Doll kits, invite friends over, and make dolls together. These dolls are then sent around the world to kids in need. The best part is you can track your doll to find out where in the world it was sent! My daughter will love this when she’s a little bit older.
- Project Night Night: This is a wonderful organization that makes it easy to deliver books and other supplies to homeless children in your own community. One way to volunteer is to order your tote bags (a mere $3.50 each), fill them with the necessary supplies that you provide (a new blanket, book and stuffed animal), and deliver the assembled totes to a local participating shelter. I know my kids would have fun picking out the toys, putting the totes together, and delivering it to somewhere nearby.
- Donate supplies to Edgewood, a program providing services to families and young children with mental health and behavioral challenges. They will accept pretty much anything you have to offer, as long it’s new or gently used.
- Have your child pick out a new toy and donate it to a local church or charity. We tried this recently with pretty good success. I took my children to Target, asked them each to pick out a toy they thought a kid their age would want, and then we went together to a church nearby that was accepting items. My 2-year-old didn’t quite understand, and had a hard time initially giving up her doll, but after watching my son eagerly volunteer his truck for a child in need, she followed along.
What volunteer opportunities has your family enjoyed?