During the school year kids are often busy from morning until bedtime, with little time to spend by themselves or for someone else. Summer is full of lazy days and extra time, leaving children open to long days of screen time or boredom. If you want to add more meaning to your child’s life and help him become more empathetic, consider volunteering for a couple hours each week.
It may seem like kids cannot make much of an impact through volunteering until they are older, but even young children can make a positive impact on people’s lives. There are many activities your children can do to serve your community and the people in it.
If you bring a bag with you on nature walks, your children can help fill it up with trash. You may want to throw gloves on the whole family, it can be pretty gross. Most kids take to this task with alacrity, and will start noticing trash in many places you go and want to pick it up. Even if your kids only pick up a few pieces every time you go for a walk, it makes an impact that will help them feel good about themselves.
If you have a garden, you can register it as a Certified Wildlife Habitat through the National Wildlife Federation. If you have space with food, water, cover, places to raise young, and sustainable practices for wildlife you can become certified. There is a $20 fee that is used in the National Wildlife Federation’s efforts to support wildlife.
There are hundreds of volunteer opportunities in most communities. If you cannot find one that suits your family, you can always make your own. Visit nursing homes with your children. Visit with some of the residents and maybe give some of them your children’s drawings. Many elderly people have limited access with children and it can give them a lot of joy to interact with young people.
You can also fill some plastic bags with basics and hand them out to homeless people you meet. Some good ideas to put in the bags are:
- Bus tokens
- Travel toothpaste, toothbrush
- Granola bars, beef jerky, or fruit leathers
- Lip balm
- Wet wipes
- Small treats or candies
- Stamped envelopes or a pre-paid phone card
- Feminine hygiene products
Obviously, it doesn’t have to be expensive or extravagant, just a small token to help someone. If you are uncomfortable with this, you could always donate to a shelter or volunteer at a soup kitchen or food pantry.
Cards and letters
A simple letter, card, or drawing from your child could make someone’s day. There are many organizations that can relay your child’s letter to someone who really needs it. One website, www.cardsforhospitalizedkids.com, was founded by a girl who received a card in the hospital when she was sick and in the ICU. She received a homemade card and it made her feel better. After she recovered, she started Cards for Hospitalized Kids to help other sick kids. After your child makes a card or letter, you can send it to CFHK and they will pass it on to a sick child. A similar organization is Send Kids the World.
There are also many, many organizations that let you send letters, cards, and care packages to soldiers. Your child can send one letter, or choose to send more frequently. A simple google search will give you many organizations to choose from.
Another idea is to let your child make a few bookmarks or paint stones. As you are out and about, if somebody is especially kind or seems to be having a bad day, let your child give them a small gift.
Cool things to do
As the days grow hotter, so do the people around you. It would be kind to let your kids give the garbage men, mail people, and other people they see in the neighborhood a Popsicle or cold water. Your kids could even make a lemonade stand that takes donations for a local charity or gives the lemonade away free.
As elderly people are at higher risk during hot weather, it would be nice to visit some elderly neighbors during especially hot weather. Your kids could offer to water their flowers and bring cold water for them.
Your Kids can Volunteer
There are many options for your kids to help others in your neighborhood, city, or in the world.
“The smallest act of kindness is worth more than the grandest intention.” ~Oscar Wilde