This article, "Great Ideas for Volunteering with Kids," comes from MomsEveryday contributor Erin Ferris.
Late fall into early winter is a perfect time of year to begin a volunteer tradition. Though these months often overflow with academic, athletic, religious, and social commitments, they also host holidays that remind us to be thankful and generous.
No two communities or organizations operate the same way when it comes to donated time, so when looking for a youth or family volunteer opportunity, start by contacting organizations – by phone, email, or in person – to learn more about their volunteer policies. To help you gain a clearer picture of what might be available in your area, listed below are a few common youth and family volunteer opportunities. Once you find a good fit, make a commitment (remembering to start slow with something easy and fun) and KEEP IT.
Note: as you consider these volunteer opportunities for children, assume that any child under the age of 14 will need to be supervised by you while they volunteer. Children 14 and older can often volunteer without a parent or guardian, but this age will vary from one organization to another.
- Animal Shelters. Children can play with and help feed, water, brush, and walk the animals.
- Homeless Shelters. In shelters that provide meals, children can help set tables, pour drinks, serve food, and clear tables when the meal is finished.
- Food Banks. Children can help sort and organize donations as well as bag/box selections made by shoppers.
- Toy Drive. During the holiday season, children can collect new or gently used toys to donate to organizations that make sure other children have a gift to open on Christmas or Hanukkah.
- Book Drive. Children can collect new or gently used books to donate to local libraries, or collect new or gently used books, DVDs, CDs, and coloring books (along with crayons and markers) to donate to hospital pediatric units.
- Canned Food Drive. Children can collect unopened nonperishable food and toiletry items to donate to food banks and homeless shelters.
- Coat Drive. In regions of the country where the weather turns cold during the winter months, children can collect new and gently used coats to donate to schools and youth centers. (Most elementary schools and youth centers keep coats, as well as basic cold-weather clothing items, on hand for children who arrive unprepared for chilly temperatures.
- Neighborhood Projects. Children can help neighbors – those who need a little extra assistance and even those who don’t – by raking leaves, shoveling snow, sweeping sidewalks, and taking garbage cans to and from the curb on trash day. Children can also rake leaves and pick up trash at their local parks and playground areas.
- Product Sales. Children can hold lemonade stands or garage sales and donate their proceeds to a nonprofit organization of their choosing.
- Kindness Outreach. During the holiday season, children can make holiday greeting cards for patients in hospitals, rehabilitation centers, and nursing homes. Throughout the rest of the year, children can make get-well-soon cards or even color pictures for these same patients. Children can also bake cookies for neighbors, fire fighters, police officers, mailmen, and sanitation workers.
So what will it be? Tell me how you and your children have volunteered in the past or what you’d like to do in the future!