Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Kids Can Volunteer (They Just Can't Clean Their Rooms)

A couple of weeks ago, we asked you for your thoughts on ways that kids can help in their communities. Why? Because we want to raise littles who grow up to be awesome big people. But getting started can be tricky. Also, sticky. 

For years, I wanted to do things with my kids but I had no idea how to get started. When I had time, I had no money. When I had money, I had no time. When I had a little bit of time and money, I was either pregnant or breastfeeding and the idea of dragging along all my kids felt too overwhelming.

BOOM. Problem solved, guys. Here are some easy ideas for how kids of all ages can give back and help their community. They're in convenient list form, so you can pin 'em, share 'em or print 'em out and stick 'em somewhere (with scotch tape if you can find any).

The next time one of your kids complains that they're bored because there's nothing to do or how they're the only 4th grader in the world without an iTouch, you can point them to the list and tell them to get crackin' on something that helps someone else.

Some nuggets to consider: 

  • Giving back doesn't have to take a lot of money or time. Sometimes it only takes ten minutes and a stamp to spread some love.
  • Little people learn by our example, so make it look like it's fun. My kids are always like: "Mommy, why are you crying about the hungry children? We're getting them food RIGHT NOW. Geeesh."
  • Acts of kindness can be very small, especially for small people. Be sure to give them a high five for their effort, even if it seems like it's not that big a deal.
  • Helping out a charity or service organization is awesome but doing things close to home - for family, friends and neighbors - can be really great, too.
  • Sometimes showing gratitude and appreciation is the best kind of giving. And it's free, you guys. 
  • Giving back can teach kids both the importance of thinking of other people and how to plan a project out.
  • Try and get your kiddos to do as much of the projects as they can by themselves.

"My 2 and 5 year olds help me bake bread/cookies/muffins and deliver them to the fire and police stations. My daughter (5yo) will also make a card to give to say thanks."

"My community center has holiday meal delivery to shut ins and that's an easy one for even little kids. They get to walk a hot turkey dinner up to the door and the people are so grateful, but they also get to see not everyone lives as well as they do."

"Surprise cards. Make cards and drawings with happy messages and put them on windshields of places that often have people in need of a little cheer. Little ones love to make the cards and older kids really like the stealth/secrecy of the anonymous well wishing! Stick around and see the reactions of people receiving a card! It's fun!"

"Packaging shoe boxes for Operation Christmas Child or an angel tree... It's not volunteering, per say, but the realization that something  SO simple and everyday like soap, toothbrushes and socks are gifts to children is powerful... Lots of beautiful discussions and a heart of giving can grow from such a shopping adventure."

"We just had my daughter's 7th birthday party at our regional food bank. They were elated, gave the girls a tour to explain what they do and why, then we spent an hour bagging pretzels (even the littles loved the hairnets, gloves, and helping). All the kids loved it and are asking when we can go back."

"A neat one I heard was helping them give out cocoa or drinks (like a lemonade stand) and if asked what the cost is, the kids get to tell them a good deed or act of kindness."

"I myself volunteer for local fundraisers for families fighting cancer & for the American Cancer Society, because our family is fighting cancer right now... So I bring my ten year old daughter along to help wherever needed. Last weekend she filled baggies with crackers for chili dinner...just being around all these wonderful giving people is huge."

"Project Linus is FANTASTIC! You can make simple no-sew blankets that even the little's can help out with. My daughter has had two surgeries w/in the last year and each time she received a blanket from Project Linus in post-op. It made such a difference."

"My son is bagging up 100 Legos in 12 sandwich bags to take to our local Ronald McDonald house, which holds 12 families. Siblings are frequently "along for the ride" when a child is hospitalized, and while the kids in the hospital get small holiday gifts, it's nice to be able to offer the sibling a little something, too. (I will sterilize the Legos before we gift them)."

"I'm not sure if they have this everywhere, but a few local towns where I live (south of Boston) have CarePacks facilities where they put together packages to send to the troop overseas. You can bring donations if you have them or just donate time to assemble the boxes. A friend of mine goes with her kids frequently."

Remember, it's all about fun and giving back and being thankful and teaching your kids that even the tiniest act of kindness isn't small to the receiver. And sometimes, if they're lucky, it might even be a little bit sticky. 

(c)Herding Turtles, Inc. 2009 - 2012

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