April Carnival of Natural Parenting: Parenting Advice

April 13th, 2010 by Dionna | 23 Comments
Posted in Carnival and Special Series, Carnival of Natural Parenting, Community Service, Compassionate Advocacy, Just for Fun/Miscellaneous, My Family, natural parenting, Strive for Balance

Welcome to the April Carnival of Natural Parenting: Parenting advice!

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month we’re writing letters to ask our readers for help with a current parenting issue. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.


toddler holding baby dollDear Mamas,

Volunteering has always been very important to me. My first volunteer experience was accompanying my own mom to a nursing home for regular visits with the residents. I was four years old. Volunteering was a major presence in my life, and it eventually became a career path: soon after college I served a year as an AmeriCorps Promise Fellow and then worked as a volunteer center director. Volunteering is one of my passions.

Now that Kieran is older, I would love to volunteer with him. I want to empower him to change lives, to make a difference. I’ve called several places (including the city and a group home for teenage mothers), but none of them are willing or able to accommodate a mother and toddler.

So, wise women, what are your suggestions? I will consider ongoing opportunities or special events, I just want to get involved!

Have you ever volunteered with a toddler?

What activities and organizations would you suggest?


Voluntarily Challenged


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23 Responses to:
"April Carnival of Natural Parenting: Parenting Advice"

  1. mamapoekie   mamapoekie

    How wonderful of you to be so involved. The volunteering spirit is definately something that is next to non-existant in Belgium.
    Have you tried organisations that are directed at children? Or volunteering in schools, doing art projects?

  2. Lauren @ Hobo Mama   Hobo_Mama

    Could you do volunteer work for an organization that serves children? I wonder if a place like that (community center, family shelter, etc.) might be more open to toddlers coming along. I’ve also heard good things about bringing children into senior homes, but you’d have to check if that’s encouraged by any in your area. I would imagine some seniors would love it and some wouldn’t! :)

    Another thing I’ve had some luck with is short-term manual labor activities. For instance, we volunteered with a little church group that helped revamp a house for a newly wheelchair-bound woman and put in a nice perennial garden for her to enjoy. Mikko got to eat lots of dirt! :) Obviously, you know whether Kieran will be compatible with such projects, but I find that outdoor and active projects like that are usually welcoming to children. In that case, too, the work project was only a couple weekends long and was informally organized by friends and family of the woman; maybe an official organization has stricter rules, but there were plenty of (older) children helping out at this one.

    Check your neighborhood blog for upcoming projects; that’s where we find them, at least! Playground set-ups, street cleaning days, tree plantings, pancake breakfasts, etc. Steer clear of any that take place at bars — ha ha! We actually did become involved in one that did, and Sam & I had to take shifts since Mikko couldn’t come. ;)

  3. Thank God for people like you. I work in the not for profit sector and it wouldn’t last if it wasn’t for volunteers.

    What about schools, libraries, hospitals or like your mother with the elderly. Kids with disabilities would be good. A lot of the problems probably come from insurance issues I spose.

    Good luck with finding somewhere

  4. Sarah @ OneStarryNight   onestarrynight

    I am interested to see your replies! I don’t know much about volunteering. I would think retirement homes would be more open to having a mom/toddler combo? Like KeepingMumSane said, a library could be another good option?

  5. Ruth Ann

    Why not contact one of the local nursing homes there in the area, volunteer to bring Kieran, and maybe a couple of other children and their Mama’s from one of your Momma groups? Go and have them sing songs…have them draw pictures before hand to share with the residents, just let them sit and visit with the residents. Do you remember how the residents ADORED you at that first nursing home experience that you had with me in Hiawatha? Maybe have the children make some appropriate little “tray favors” to put on the residents lunch trays. Just the interaction between the generations should be priceless!!!

  6. Melodie   bfmom

    Seniors home love children. Just sitting in the den with them watching TV alongside with a toddler in the room would be all you’d have to do to spread some love. Try places that have plenty of space and little restrictions on loudness.

  7. Marilyn @ A Lot of Loves   ALotofLoves

    I think it’s fantastic that you have enough energy to volunteer with your toddler. I wonder if volunteering to help run a kids program at the local library would work? I took my son to free toddlers programs at the library all the time. I don’t see why you couldn’t do that and bring your son along. Maybe an old folks home would be willing to have you come around and visit with the residents. I used to do that when I was in elementary school so I don’t see why a toddler couldn’t come along there.

  8. I volunteer as a breastfeeding peer supporter at a Children’s Centre, and my daughter comes along as well. We sometimes have a creche, but I never put her in it :)

    For any readers in the UK who are interested in doing this, it is well worth contacting your local Children’s Centre (formerly Surestart Centre) and asking if they have a breastfeeding support group. It’s really rewarding, and one of the few volunteerig roles you can do with your baby in tow.

  9. Brooke   brookeje

    What about the two of you collecting things (like cans for a food pantry or blankets/towels/newspapers for an animal shelter) together and then making a big deal about the delivery? The activity would be on your time, you could explore different areas of your city (which could be a lesson in diversity) on foot (good exercise), and nobody could tell you your son was too young. And who wouldn’t give a used towel to a cute toddler?

  10. Brooke   brookeje

    Oh, and where did you get that doll for your son? I’ve been looking for one for my daughter and I’m having some trouble.

  11. Dionna   CodeNameMama

    Thank you all for the responses and ideas!

    Mamapoekie – Hmmm . . . I don’t want to underestimate him, but I am not sure whether he would let me help other kids in any directed fashion at this age. If it was a group activity, I think that’s a possibility. I’ll have to think about what children’s organizations are available!

    Lauren – I’ve thought of clean-up projects. Heck, I’ve thought about just taking him to a park with a bag and some gloves and doing our own clean-up. It loses a little bit without the fanfare, but he doesn’t need that yet!

    KeepingMumSane – insurance issues is exactly the problem. They had actually agreed to let me bring him to the teen mother’s shelter until they talked to the board and they vetoed it due to insurance. (sigh)

    Sarah & Mom & Melodie – we have actually volunteered at a nursing home. I, however, get really upset in nursing homes. I just hate them. So I’m always hesitant to go back. (A for example: when I was the volunteer center director, one of my ongoing youth group projects was volunteering in a nursing home. Every week I would inevitably go lock myself in the bathroom and cry after one of the residents said something particularly heart wrenching to me. I don’t know why I’m so affected!)

    Marilyn – I’ve actually talked to our children’s librarian about doing a music/book class. He said I’d just need to get other people interested in attending and they’d set something up. Maybe it’s time to explore that option further (I simply don’t know a lot of people in this neighborhood to ask!).

    Cave Mother – I would LOVE to be a breastfeeding support worker of some kind, but I’m not quite sure how Kieran would fit in in that situation. I’d be afraid he’d detract from my “help.”

    Brooke – that’s a good idea! I like it!! And (brag brag brag) I made the doll. Ok, I bought the design/materials online from Joys Waldorf Dolls, but I really did make it ;)

    • Brooke   brookeje

      Dang. I really like the Joy’s Dolls, but they’re not taking any orders, and I sure as heck don’t sew. There are a few heavy dolls on Etsy, but Joy’s are my favorite as far as looks go.

  12. Jessica - This is Worthwhile   tisworthwhile

    I have had this exact same question! I’m so glad you’ve gotten so many great responses! I’m going to check out an assisted living place around here. (And you’re not alone, those places are heart-wrenching.)

  13. when my son was about 7 months old we started visiting two ladies at a nursing home every week who had no other visitors. us coming was the highlight of their week. So I love that idea. Since your son is older the nursing home residents could read to him. They would love that!

    you could also take him to a park to pick up trash or something like that.

  14. What a fun and positive question!

    Why not organise a volunteering opportunity yourself, instead of trying to find an already established group? You know your little one’s limitations and interests and with all of your experience it seems that you could create the perfect situation yourself..?

    Perhaps you could even involve other mothers with babies?

    ~crafting circles for needy children/families
    ~baking and cooking circles to take food to brand new moms
    ~regular walks with elderly neighbours
    ~adopt a roadside and plant flowers or herbs

    Thanks for such a lovely spirit, I can’t wait to hear what you come up with!

  15. Amber   AmberStrocel

    I volunteer with La Leche League. I’m not sure if it’s what you’re looking for, but it is very toddler-friendly. And it fits in with what matters to me in my life right now, which is helping mamas and babies. :)

  16. Zoey @ Good Goog   goodgoogs

    If you are struggling to come up with volunteering ideas you could always work on projects with donating to charity. You could do up an old piece of furniture to donate. Or he could help you sort through clothes to donate. Or you could put together presents/gift baskets on holidays.

  17. I just had a whole long comment and somehow it got lost. Annoyed. I’ll try to re-write it later. =(

  18. Sheryl @ Little Snowflakes   sheryljesin

    Like Amber, I also volunteer with La Leche League. I definitely recommend it! I find it to be very toddler friendly. My son loves coming with me to the meetings – he loves seeing all the babies and we usually have a big box of toys in the middle of the room for him to play with. I also bring lots of snacks to help keep him occupied.

  19. Joni Rae   kitchenwitch

    Volunteering is AWESOME! We’ve made dinner for the residents of the local Ronald Mcdonald house, and we’ve also helped wit our local UU church’s suppers and our homeschool org’s events. We also did a park clean up and a couple of Earth Day Beach clean ups.

    Those all work well with my littles.

  20. Form a Kids Care Club. Most of the activities are geared for 5+ but there are some you can make work with a group of toddlers.

    Do school supply/book drive and have the kids stuff backpacks with supplies and come with you to drop them off.

    Plant flowers. Little ones love that kind of volunteering!

    Bake cookies and bring them to firefighters. Bonus: getting to hang out with the firefighters.

    Make lemonade and bring it to an outdoor event where older kids are doing a clean-up. Giving lemonade to people who are cleaning up the park or beach is a great way for younger kids to help!

    Spring time is perfect, too, because you can volunteer outside. I get a little nervous, especially around health clinics in the fall and winter with the little ones…but in the spring there are so many wonderful things to do.

  21. Darcel   mahoganywaymama

    I was also going to suggest retirement homes/assisted living places. They love seeing children there.
    I think it’s great that you volunteer. That is something I did growing up, and would love to get back into with my kids.

  22. Karen   KarenAngstadt

    A local food pantry here always needs help sorting food and separating it into portions for delivery. They welcomed our group of moms and toddlers who committed to helping once a month for couple of hours. The kids really enjoyed it, and it was an opportunity to talk with the older children who had questions about who needed the food, and why.
    Good luck!

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