Volunteering as a Familyby Elizabeth MacDonald
Every parent wants to instill the act of giving in their children. It is something that can be talked about all year, but most parents struggle in finding ways to insert their kids into volunteer situations. It can be hard, as most programs have age restrictions, but there are several ways you can help encourage a giving heart in your children this year.
The holidays are a great starting point for a lifestyle change or welcoming in a new monthly volunteer opportunity. If the world is going to become a kinder place, it starts at home with families working together.
Ideas to Volunteer as a Family
Serve a Meal: Missions, family homes, and shelters will gladly welcome your family to help serve a warm meal. Ask if you can bring warm homemade treats to hand out, or show up to help prepare and set up whatever items they need help with.
Pack Meals: Contact your local school and ask if they work with a program that provides students in need of food with meal packages over the holiday break. Most schools do this, but most parents have no idea. Students leave school on Fridays with a ziplock bag full of easy to eat foods that they can eat over the weekend until breakfast is served on Monday. Holidays and long breaks are typically a time when these children may have to go longer without food. This is such an easy task, as there is a recommended food list to purchase from and you can pre-make the bags with your children while discussing the difference between what is on your dinner table and the tables of those in need of this food. You can also pack meals for the homeless and actively drive around and hand them out.
Hand Out Fresh Bread: Baking bread is so easy. Your kids can help measure and bake. Share the gift with those less fortunate and wrap a loaf with a jar of jam and disposable silverware. (5 minute bread tutorial)
Visit a Nursing Home: These wonderful people would love to receive a beautiful picture or play a game with your family.
Register for a New Year’s 5k: The whole family can walk together (or run), but make sure it is a charitable race and proceeds go toward something you care about.
Random Acts of Kindness: Teaching and modeling kindness is a goal for all parents. Choosing random acts of kindness to perform will be a great topic of conversation and bonding opportunity for the family. Let your child choose the acts and help them to make sure they are performed completely.
Positive Affirmations in Chalk: Leave notes around your community. Leave them where people would least expect to see them. Chalk is inexpensive and fun for the entire family to use. Make sure you take pictures by your work, and enjoy a big mug of hot cocoa when you are done. Smile and know that you have brightened so many people’s day.
Dog Walk for an Animal Shelter: Animal shelters are always in need of help. Your family can bath dogs or walk them, some shelters simply want people to come in and play with the animals!
Foster an Animal: Every child wants a pet, but not every parent shares the feeling. A temporary house guest to take care of may be the perfect middle ground. Fostering is still a lot of work, but you do give the animal back knowing that you made a huge difference in their life.
Donate Books to a Library: You probably pick up books weekly but rarely think to donate to the library. Children outgrow their books. Have your kids go through their book collection and weed through what they are done with; helping them pack them up and drop them off!
Visit the Children’s Ward of a Hospital: Bring games, coloring supplies, and books to share. There will be hospital rules that need to be followed so call ahead and ask what the protocol is for volunteering.
Bring the Firemen a Treat: Not only will your kids love baking, but they will probably get a tour of a fire station!
Clean Up a Playground: Trash and junk seem to accumulate at playgrounds. Let your children help make the park ore beautiful and inviting! Clean trash, plant flowers (weather permitting) and even start a Little Free Library!
Take Your Volunteering on the Road: You don’t have to volunteer in your neighborhood. If you wanted to plan a trip over winter break, take the opportunity to turn it into a service project. There are specific locations you can visit and volunteer, or you can create your opportunities as you go. No matter what volunteer opportunity you choose, please take the time to work with your loved ones and help others during the lull of the season.