Tag Archives: volunteering

9 Ways You Can Volunteer With Your Kids

9 Ways You Can Volunteer With Your Kids

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:

Volunteer Match
Keep America Beautiful
Network For Good
Points of Light
America’s Promise
Hands On Network
Your Local Chamber of Commerce

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.

When Was the Last Time You Got Around to Volunteering?

A big part of improving our world is getting out and directly working on the problems we face. The troubles we’re facing only get worse when no one takes the time to work on them.

I’ll be the first to admit that sometimes it’s hard to find time to volunteer. With three kids and a home business, my life is busy. But at the same time, that almost makes it more important to volunteer. What better way to be a great example?

Where to Volunteer?

There are many places you can volunteer in any community. Some are more environmentally focused while others are more about helping the less fortunate. Either sort is a very good idea.

You can volunteer in a food kitchen. You can volunteer to help clean up a natural area near you. You can volunteer to read to kids at your local library. You can volunteer to build homes with Habitat for Humanity when they’re in your area or someplace you can go to help. You can volunteer to help a local CSA. You can volunteer to help bring environmental programs to your local schools.

You won’t always be able to do your first choice. Sometimes programs have enough volunteers and need to turn people away. Don’t let that stop you from volunteering. Look at other options or try again another time.

Not all volunteer opportunities will be right up there dealing with the problems that need to be fixed. You may be able to volunteer to help with the less obvious positions, such as keeping in contact with volunteers, helping with fundraising and so forth. These may not be as much fun, but they’re vital to many organizations.

Don’t Forget the Simple Things

Not all volunteering has to be big projects. You can do little things to make your community or the world a better place. Donate old glasses to Give the Gift of Sight.  Do a little guerrilla gardening. Offer a microloan through sites such as Kiva. Give a donation to a good cause. Tell your friends and family about the causes you support. Some of them might choose to get involved too.

It’s not always going to be easy to find the time or money to help out the causes you’d like to support. But if you don’t try at all, it’s never going to happen. Take some time and think about where you could be making a difference right now. Get your kids involved as appropriate. We can all make a difference if we choose to.

Checking Out Disney’s Give a Day, Get a Day

What child doesn’t want to go to Disneyland or Disney World? It’s a hard siren call to resist, even knowing how well they work kids to get them to buy this, that and the other. Especially girls with Princess gear.

But their Give a Day, Get a Day project is still pretty neat. You volunteer for a day and get a ticket to a Disney theme park.

I’ve been looking over the opportunities in my area as well as the ones in my area. Kids as young as 6 can volunteer for certain opportunities within this program, although there are relatively few of those. Makes things challenging for me, as my daughter has been begging to go to Disneyland for a long time now, and it’s not something I’m willing to spend money on just now.

Combine it with the learning opportunity of volunteering and my resistance goes way, way down.

Some are full already, but they say more opportunities are posted daily. Many want you to contact them to set a schedule.

So many of the ones I know my daughter would love to do are either full or say she’s too young. There’s a trail cleaning one, for example, that you have to be at least 11 for. My kids pick up trash when we go hiking, so it would have been a natural match if it had been available. Rats.

This is one of those things for us that either works out or not. Volunteering is good even if you aren’t getting a Disney theme park ticket in return, after all. But I’ll be checking back for that perfect opportunity.