Kindergarten to Second Grade: Little kiddos can get involved in a big way! You and your little one can visit and distribute gifts at a local nursing home–remember that many folks would rather be at home with their families, and can get very lonely in a nursing home. You may even wind up with a “grandfriend”–someone with whom your little one forms a special bond. You can visit this grandfriend often, as the presence of a child can be comforting to those who have no one to talk to.
You can also volunteer to deliver Meals on Wheels in your neighborhood! This is great for parents and small children to do together–you would visit a regularly scheduled route of people in need, which gives you a unique look into your community. You can foster friendships all while spending quality time with your little one.
Third Grade Through Sixth Grade: You can raise a service dog! Normally there’s a two-year commitment to training and care, but when you’ve finished your two years, you will have provided a companion to someone in need! This one may be difficult, as you’ll have to say goodbye to a friend, but in that heartache is a lesson: one of sacrificing something your child wants (because who doesn’t ALWAYS want a puppy?) for the good of someone else! We love this idea–you can get in touch with Hero Dogs, Angel Service Dogs, or C.H.A.M.P Assistance Dogs (as well as many others) for more information!
Once a week, have your children prepare a snack for your local sanitation workers! Things like popsicles, Gatorade, protein bars and handmade-with-love sandwiches are great for the summer months, and hot chocolate, coffee, and wintery candies are great for those colder days!
Also, consider that your local animal shelters often need a lot of helping hands–you can make or collect dog toys, use fabric scraps and recycled clothing to make pet beds and blankets, or just volunteer to play with some furry friends every weekend! Who knows…you might end up giving some lucky pup a forever family!
Middle Schoolers: Your child can exchange letters with deployed service men and women all around the world. Often, those in uniform can feel isolated, being so far from home turf–it can change their day to receive regular handwritten letters from caring kids! One young army infantryman received a care package from a little girl with her beloved stuffed fish inside–and he carried it everywhere he went during his two-year tour! It can change, or even save, a life. (check out www.amillionthanks.org)
Consider volunteering with your child at a local food pantry (sorting donations, packing bags, etc…). This is a great way to spend time with your child, while helping others!
Talk with your local City Hall to see if you can adopt a local monument and volunteer to keep it clean, plant flowers, etc…!
High Schoolers: If your teen has grown out of all their old clothes, toys, book and movies, help them find locations to drop them off! They can take gently played-with stuffed toys to a children’s hospital; books and movies can be donated to local libraries and schools. Of course, gently-worn clothes and shoes can go to Goodwill or a woman’s shelter!
In lieu of a birthday present, teens can ask that donations be made to a charity of their choice!
During the Christmas season, you can answer letters from needy children…as Santa! We know, this is super cool–just drop by your local post office to pick up a letter! Then you can buy a gift and mail it back! It’s just that easy to change a little child’s life!
Teens can also volunteer based on their skills–get your teen to tutor a child in school subjects or musical instruments, art, dance and more! Some teens can coach their favorite sports, too! If you have a particularly tech-savvy teen, they can give basic computer and smartphone lessons to the elderly!
No matter how old or young your child is, there are hundreds of ways to get involved! You can serve your community by offering a friendly hand to new neighbors, shut-ins, teachers, law enforcement and first-responders, the homeless and hungry, and of course, furry friends. Volunteering with your child not only brings you together, but puts you in touch with your community, too!