Many children today have an abundance of opportunities. They attend great schools, have plenty of food to eat, have new clothes for every season and amuse themselves with the latest electronics. But, not everyone is so fortunate. So while parents want their children to be happy, they also want to teach them to look outside themselves. Volunteering is the best way to help children recognize their blessings and encourage them to make a difference in the world. So, here are five great service projects for families to do together.
1. Host a Food Drive
Invite your child’s friends over for a playdate with a twist. Ask each child to bring a non-perishable food donation. As one of the activities at the playdate, you can have children draw pictures or make cards to be given out with the food boxes. This is one of the easiest service projects for families to do in their local communities.
Bring your child along with you when you deliver the food to the local food pantry, and have them help carry food into the building. Even a toddler can carry a can or two. This can help them internalize the feeling of helping others who are hungry.
2. Spend Time With the Elderly
Visit a retirement community or nursing home with your children. Many people don’t have family members who visit them. Even those who do have family members may enjoy a visit from children, especially if their own grandchildren have grown up.
You can either ask if you can “adopt” one person who doesn’t have many visitors or try to spread cheer to multiple people in one visit. It can be helpful to bring something to do, such as a board game or craft.
3. Adopt or Sponsor an Animal
Many local zoos, aquariums, rescues and nature sanctuaries offer the option of sponsoring an animal or meals for an animal. Check to see what options your local zoo, animal shelter or rescue offers. Have your children make a token contribution to the financial aspect of the project by asking them to donate a portion of their allowance or birthday money.
Visit the zoo or sanctuary regularly to check on your animal. Extend the project by reading books about “your” animal’s species. Or, you can offer to foster an animal until the rescue or shelter can find a home for them. When it comes to our animal friends, there are lots of great service projects for families to share.
4. Host an Exchange Student
Exchange student host families make room in their home for a high school or college student from another country. The stay could last anywhere from a few weeks to a year. Your children can learn about another culture, as well as how to teach others about theirs. Also, they will find out what it is like to share their home with someone new.
5. Provide Bedtime Comfort
One of the most heartwarming service projects for families is to make a no-sew fleece blanket to give to a child staying in a homeless shelter or hospital. Add a new stuffed animal and a bedtime storybook so that spending the night in a new place will feel a little safer. Bring your child with you to deliver the items, so they can feel what it is like to help someone in need. This is a valuable lesson for children that they will carry into their adult lives.
Each of these five great service projects for families to do together will help your children think about others. Soon, they will have their own ideas about how something they do can make life a little better for someone else. After all, we can give our children all of the clothes and toys in the world, but the most important things we can give them are experiences that help them to grow up to be kind, responsible adults.