It’s pretty easy to get caught up in the materialistic trappings of life and forget about what’s really important. We’ve all heard those sayings “Money can’t buy happiness” and “The best things in life are free,” but how many of us work to pass that sentiment along to our children? Giving back to the community through volunteering, fundraising and donating is a valuable life skill for kids and an important habit to teach them. Whether your kids have gotten a little out of touch with reality (see: bratty) or you just want a fun, meaningful activity for the weekend, these ideas are sure to make an impact on both your family and your community.
Has your life been taken over by stuff? Are your kids drowning in clothes and toys? Most of us are familiar with the concept of rounding up our unwanted household items and donating them to Goodwill. But why not take it a step further? Look for a women and children’s homeless shelter in your area, or a non-profit organization that does outreach for homeless kids and teens. Make it a fun tradition: every time you’re planning to buy new school clothes or a new ski jacket, first you bring all the old, unwanted stuff to kids in need at the shelter. Talk to your children about homelessness and the importance of helping those less fortunate, especially children. Bring your kids to the shelter to tour the facility and hear about some of the work they do, and have them personally present the donations to the shelter staff. They’ll feel awesome and important because they had an integral part in getting their unwanted stuff to kids who really need it. Seeing exactly who their old toys and clothes will help makes a much bigger impact. Kids ski clothes are an excellent thing to donate, as winter can be a tough time of year for those who have to get by with very little.
Kids love writing letters and making creative cards, and there’s a large group of people out there who really appreciate receiving mail: service men and women. There are a lot of military personnel deployed overseas these days, and sadly not all of these men and women have families back home to write to them. You can “adopt” a soldier in need through TellThemThanks.com! It’s a free service that will match you with a deployed serviceman or woman who wants to receive mail and/or care packages. Sometimes they will be able to write back, other times they can’t, but let your child know that his/her cards and letters are deeply appreciated. Soldiers often carry these items with them in the field as reminders of home.
Have your child pick a cause that is important to them. It could be animal rescue, environment and/or wildlife preservation, child poverty, etc. Just make sure it’s a cause your child is passionate about. Set a fundraising goal. It’s probably best to start out small at first…$25-$50 is perfect. Then brainstorm with your child to determine their strengths. Do they love to cook or bake? How about a bake sale? Maybe making arts and crafts is more up their alley. One of the children I babysit for has her own small business called “Crafts To Help.” She and one of her friends make jewelry, knit items, paint pottery and do other craft projects. They donate the proceeds to a variety of charities. It’s fun to get your child’s friends involved in the fundraising, or even organize a group at school. The possibilities are endless!
Get in there and get your hands dirty. Volunteering is a great way for your kids to learn by doing, as well as a wonderful tool for teaching them the importance of giving of their time to help their communities. Check out local non-profits and ask about their policies on minor volunteers. Some organizations only take volunteers over 18, but many do take kids under 18, so ask around! If the organization doesn’t take volunteers under 18, they may still have special volunteer days for kids. Women and children’s shelters are a great place to look. Non-profit environmental groups often have programs for picking up trash and beautifying outdoor spaces in your community. Animal shelters and rescue organizations are my personal favorite charities. While many don’t allow volunteers under 18 for safety reasons, your family can foster an animal in need. Spring and summer means kitten and puppy season. Fostering a litter of kittens or puppies until they’re old enough to be adopted is such a fun and rewarding experience. Plus, you’ll be saving their lives! Contact your local shelter or rescue group today. Whatever type of organization you choose, you and your kids will love knowing you made an impact!
There are so many unique ways you and your children can help out in your community. Think about your interests, strengths and passions as a family and choose the project that’s right for you. Not only is it a great way to teach your kids about giving back, it makes for some wonderful family bonding moments. Get out there and make a difference!