Ten Ideas for Volunteering with Young Children

November 16th, 2010 by Dionna | 7 Comments
Posted in Adults, Children, Community Service, Compassionate Advocacy, Eclectic Learning, Ecological Responsibility and Love of Nature, Environmentalism, Just for Fun/Miscellaneous, My Family, natural parenting, Preschoolers, Teens, Toddlers

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Service to my community and fellow humans is very important to me, but it’s hard to find a good place to take a little one who is too young to do any real “work,” but is too old to just sit in a sling while you do something meaningful.

Here are ten ideas to help my fellow mama philanthropists find opportunities to volunteer with toddlers and preschoolers. While some of the ideas are season or holiday specific, you can tweak them to work at any time of the year.1

1. Adopt-a-Person: Find someone who needs help – an elderly person in your own neighborhood, someone at church who is ill, a single parent – and find creative ways to make them smile. Walk their dogs, plant some flowers, bring them some homemade muffins. Put it on the calendar and get your little one excited to help: “It’s Friday, what can we do for Ed today?!” Need ideas for how to help someone in need? Here are a few I listed in “How to Help a Parent Undergoing Cancer Treatment.”

2. Connect Generations: If you have a sociable kiddo, they might enjoy connecting with older adults. Try assisted living centers, nursing homes, or visit your elderly neighbors. Bring flowers to the residents on Valentine’s Day, make homemade garland to decorate for the holidays, take sugar-free muffins any day.

3. Make a Donation: Have fun going on a monthly spree to collect donations. Canned food for a food bank, gently used clothes for a women’s shelter, baby items for a birth center. Delivering the items should be half of the fun!

4. Go Wild: Does your little one have a soft spot for animals? Find a way to volunteer with animals or donate to wildlife causes. The World Wildlife Federation has a new gift catalog that allows supporters to make a donation and select a symbolic animal adoption. Charity Wire has a list of other animal and conservation charities that may offer other giving programs.

5. Find a Friend: All your little ones want to do is play, right? Well, let them play! Find an organization that serves children (the Boys & Girls Clubs, a homeless or domestic violence shelter day program, library story times), and ask how you can help. Your child may have more fun making a meaningful connection with another child.

6. Pack It Up: If you have a few dollars to spare each month, use it to make different kinds of packs. You could make packs to hand out to the homeless; Lauren from Hobo Mama had an excellent post on what to include. Is it back to school time? Stuff backpacks full of common school supplies to donate to children in need. My mom’s church does Operation Christmas Child – they fill shoe boxes with gifts for children, the shoe boxes are sent overseas to kids in need.

7. Save Change: This year Kieran was introduced to “Trick or Treat for UNICEF.” He raised about $15.00 in change with his little orange box. The way we helped make it meaningful for Kieran was by relating it to the “Little Engine that Could” story (one of his favorites). He loved pretending he was the little engine, helping bring good things to the boys and girls on the other side of the mountain. Now that the Salvation Army bell ringers are out, we’ve talked about how the money people put in the kettles also goes to help those in need. At home every day, he pretends to trick or treat and ring a bell (sometimes simultaneously), and we give him coins. He can’t wait to give the coins to help “the boys and girls.”

8. Easy Bake: Do you and your child love to bake? Make an extra batch of cookies and take it to your local fire station, National Guard Armory, police station, or other service-oriented organization. Write a note thanking the men and women for their service (or as Kieran says, “for helping keep our city/country safe”).

9. Arts & Crafts: If your little one is reserved (like Kieran usually is), you might want to opt for an activity that doesn’t involve meet and greet with a bunch of strangers. Try making and decorating holiday cards. You can send them overseas to let our service men and women know that their efforts are appreciated. Or send them to residents of a nursing home or assisted living center.

10. Recycle It: Does your library have a recycling bin? What about your office (or your partner’s)? Do you recycle at home? If not, why not start?! Involve your little one in the process of arranging for recycling, for selecting bins, etc. It’s never too early to start raising an eco-conscious child!

How do you nurture a giving spirit in your children?

Photo credit: 1041992

  1. Thanks to the mamas who helped with a few ideas on this topic in the April Carnival of Natural Parenting.

7 Responses to:
"Ten Ideas for Volunteering with Young Children"

  1. Amy   InnateWholeness

    These are all wonderful, thank you! :)

  2. love all these suggestions.

    while we haven’t fully adopted anyone, we do see the same handful of elderly people walking in the mornings while we’re out taking our morning walk and i love to see the way they light up when they see and interact with d.
    i love knowing that he brightens their day – even just for a moment.

    xoxo

  3. Ruth

    I cannot tell you how pleased I am to see that the spirit of caring and sharing that I tried to make sure that I had instilled in you as a child has continued to shine!!! And I am equally as thrilled that Kieran is learning to be the same wonderful warm, loving person that you were as a child!!
    This week is our Operation Christmas Child pack em up and get em on their way week….Donna and I have spent countless hours, putting them all together and imagining the smiles on the childrens faces as they open them up!!!
    This time of year you could also consider adopting a family, you can always find a single person who needs to be adopted, if an entire family seems a little too daunting.
    Just little simple things can help foster that caring, helpful spirit too….”Look…Mrs. Jones hasn’t picked up her paper yet…maybe we should take it up to her front porch” or “Oh dear, that lady dropped something out of her purse would you like to run over and pick it up for her”…just show them small opportunities to be helpful everyday!!!

  4. daisy   TooTooDaisy

    These are all lovely ideas. When it comes to connecting with other people, I think it is important to remind our children that relationships are reciprocal — there is much to learn from someone of a different background or generation, and we must be open to receiving help as well as giving it. This helps keep even unintentional condescension at bay.

  5. Amber   AmberStrocel

    I am a LLL leader, which is a volunteer role that you can do with kids in tow. My kids see me talk to moms on the phone and lead meetings. It’s not so much about my kids giving, but I still think I’m setting an example for them. And they’re giving of their time with me, which is probably the most valuable thing they can give at this point.

  6. Thank you so much for posting this. I’ve been trying to find ways to include my daughter in the small amount of volunteering I do. I have been struggling with what sorts of things I can do with her now that she is getting nervous in groups of strangers, so your list is really helpful to me right now.

  7. Wonderful post full of great ideas! Thank you for sharing this!

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