In these days of the never-ending news cycle, where we see and hear all of the good and all of the bad going on all the time, it can be a challenge for adults and kids alike to make sense of what is going on. We may wonder where we fit in a world of political change and climate change and evolving technology. As a parent, it can be difficult when your children ask you to explain these events. You can take a page from Mr. Rogers’ book, with his mother’s advice:
When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’”– Fred Rogers
But beyond just looking for the helpers, we can also encourage our children to become helpers themselves. Kids are never too young to start learn the value of volunteering. From toddlers to teens, there is always something they can do to help make the world a better place. Here are a few ideas to help your family get started:
Explore Your Child’s Interests
Look for volunteer opportunities that align with your child’s interests or passions. By building on these interests, you can introduce your child to volunteering in a way that might spark a lifelong love of service.
Does your child love animals? Contact local animal shelters or rescues. While many shelters have a minimum age requirement to work with animals, there may be opportunities for younger kids to help out fundraising drives or advocacy efforts. If it’s right for your family, you might also consider becoming a foster family to provide a safe, temporary home to pets in need.
Is your child interested in scouting? Local scouting organizations are often a source for fun activities combined with community service. These organizations help children make new friends, expand their worldview, and become more involved in their community.
Does your child love to read? Bookworms can give back too! Teens often enjoy volunteering at local libraries, where they might assist with shelving books or reading to younger children. If your child is too young to volunteer, you can help them get in the habit of donating their gently used books to community organizations and charitable thrift shops.
Involve the Whole Family
Children are more likely to learn the value of volunteering when the whole family gets involved. Think of projects or activities that are suitable for a range of ages, and make volunteering a priority in your family’s busy schedule. You’ll get to spend quality time together while making a difference in your community.
Does your family like to be outdoors? You might enjoy a charity walk or “fun run” that benefits a cause or organization that’s meaningful to your family. You can also get everyone outside by volunteering at natural areas or picking up litter.
Does your family enjoy cooking or planning meals? Many families volunteer as a group at local soup kitchens or food pantries. You can also get the family involved in a community garden, or grow your own backyard vegetables and donate the extra produce to people in need.
Is your family already an active part of your community? Use your connections to organize neighborhood activities, raise funds for charity, or set up an informal community clean-up for your town or its parks.
Do Your Research
There are many opportunities to involve children in volunteering – you just have to know where to look. Here are a few websites and organizations that might be helpful in linking up kids with volunteer opportunities:
DoSomething.org: This organization mobilizes young people around the world by offering a digital platform for kids to become volunteers, activists, and creators of social good.
Volunteermatch.org: A volunteer recruiting network that connects people, causes, and organizations. You can filter search results by age group to pinpoint opportunities suitable for children or teens.
GenerationOn.org: Provides school programs, training courses, kids & teens clubs, and campaigns to help kids and teens get engaged in service and volunteering.
Habitat for Humanity Youth: Habitat for Humanity has volunteer opportunities for ages five to 40, and also offers games and activities to help children learn about housing needs and community service.