To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children…to leave the world a better place…to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Kick off a new tradition for your kids this summer by introducing them to the wonderful world of volunteering!
Third grade teacher Melanie Walrath says that the holidays and summer are the perfect time to help teach children compassion. Children learn the value of caring and sharing, how to corporate and negotiate with others. They also gain valuable experience that may be an added benefit when college essays roll around. Using their skills and talents to help others without monetary return is also a great way for children to make friends and expand their awareness of the world around them.
The good news is, volunteering doesn’t always have to be done with or through an organization. It can be scary for children at first so start them off at home until they realize the inner satisfaction that comes from service and find their comfort zone. Talk to your child about volunteering and assess his/her skills, talents, and interest then take a look at the ideas below to get your child into the volunteering groove:
- Children can go through their toys and choose some they may want to donate to Toys for Tots, their church charity or Goodwill.
- If you have a dog or cat at home, ask your child if they would like to volunteer by making sure the animal always has clean water or taking them for a walk. Later they can branch out into volunteering at pet shelters.
- Ask an older child to volunteer to read a bedtime story to their younger sibling. Nursing Homes and Veteran Hospitals are great places for children to expand their audience if interested.
- Teach your child how to recycle then donate the money to a charitable organization for children.
- Scavenger hunt. Contact your local food bank, church or community charity and find out what they need. Ask your family, friends and neighbors to donate an item or two and let them know when you plan to take in the food . Ask them to leave their donations on their doorstep. The kids can pretend that they’re on a scavenger hunt! They can sneak up to doorsteps and collect the treasure (donations) then help to deliver it.
- Call up your local zoo. Some Zoological Gardens accept youth volunteers to assist visitors in the educational center or work at the petting zoos.
- Start and maintain a garden to produce vegetables for food pantries serving the needy.
- Encourage your child to start their own volunteering club. This will encourage the development of leadership skills.
- With your assistance children can prepare birthday bags or snack packs for kids living in shelters.
- Do yard-work for an elderly or disabled family member or neighbor.
Mark Snyder, a psychologist and head of the Center for the Study of the Individual and Society at the University of Minnesota said — “People who volunteer tend to have higher self-esteem, psychological well-being, and happiness.” Plus, it can be lots of fun!
Share your summer volunteer plans!