My children’s school has a requirement for them to do volunteer work throughout the school year. Much of it is done at school itself, as they take on projects each Friday. But as the kids hit the higher grades, they’re required to do some volunteering on their own in the community. It’s a nice requirement, if sometimes a headache for us to find time. But the hardest part of all was finding places to volunteer with the kids.
This is one of those things that gets easier as the kids get older. An awful lot of volunteer opportunities are for adults or late teens at the youngest only. Next come the ones that only take volunteers ages 12 and up, or thereabouts. Fortunately, there are also places where you can volunteer even with younger children.
1. Animal Shelters or Rescues
My kids’ favorite place to volunteer is called YAPS. It’s an animal placement society, and they accept volunteers as young as five years old. It’s really popular with kids from their school in general – after all, most kids love working with animals. Kids can help with laundry and certain kinds of cleaning (but not all of it until a certain age), pet the cats or dogs to keep them used to people, or even earn the right to take the dogs for walks and help train them.
Not all shelters or rescues take kids so young. Many require children to be at least 12 or so. Still, if you can find one that allows young volunteers, it’s an easy way to get your children into the idea of volunteering.
Keep in mind that children can get quite attached to the animals, and this can be difficult when the animals are adopted. I’ve talked to my kids about it being okay to miss a particular animal but still be happy that it got a new home. It helps.
2. Participate in Clean Up Days
Many communities have regular clean up days, and so long as parents are along, they aren’t always picky about age. Check on requirements for individual events, however, as some will say 12 and up, or similar.
If you can’t volunteer for an official clean up day, you can always make your own. Go to a park near you and clean it up with your kids.
3. Donate Food
Food banks are always in need of donations. Whether you add a little extra to your cart for charity when you go grocery shopping or set up your own collection event, this is an easy way to show your kids how to help the less fortunate.
4. Visit Nursing Homes or Senior Centers
Nursing homes and senior centers often welcome visits from children. Kids can play games with the seniors or just talk with them. Contact individual locations for their rules on this kind of volunteering.
5. Write Letters to Soldiers
For kids old enough to write, letters to soldiers are often very welcome. It doesn’t have to be a long letter; in fact, some websites give you tips on what to say in your letters to soldiers. My kids’ school had them do this last year and it went really well. There are also websites where you can simply type your letters in.
6. Collect Supplies Or Money For Charity
What’s your favorite cause? Is there a place that will allow you to collect donations for them?
You can donate pet supplies to animal rescues or shelters, for example. You can collect supplies for homeless or women’s shelters. Contact the charity you want to do this for, and find out what kind of rules you should follow when you do this for them.
7. Participate in Charitable Walks/Runs
Are your kids more active? There are walks and runs for all kinds of causes, and some even have events specific to children. It’s fun and healthy.
8. The Library
Libraries sometimes allow children to volunteer, although age restrictions are common. Still, once your kids are old enough it’s a great place for them to go, especially if they really love books.
9. Make Your Own Opportunities
Nothing else appeals to you or your kids? Make up your own volunteer opportunity. Take a look at ways you can help whatever cause interests you. Get creative.
Websites to Help You Find Opportunities to Volunteer With Kids
There are lots of websites available to help you find volunteer opportunities you can do with your children. Here are a few:
Whatever kinds of volunteer you do with your kids, make sure it’s something that interests them. It’s hard for kids to see the point if they’re bored with what you’re doing. Make volunteering something they enjoy so they’ll want to do it again and again.
If this is something your children’s school requires, as ours does, think about continuing to volunteer even beyond what the school requires. We continued our volunteer time at YAPS even over the summer. It gets more of the point of volunteering across, in my opinion, if it is done beyond simply what the school requires. You show your priorities by keeping volunteering with your kids a part of your life.