Volunteering teaches children important skills and values that are difficult to learn in their everyday lives. It exposes children to people from all sorts of backgrounds and helps them learn to respect and work with people who are different than they are. It also exposes them to people who have less than they do.
Becoming aware that not everyone has the same opportunities and resources helps kids appreciate what they do have. Being able to make a difference in people’s lives also helps them to develop a healthy view of themselves and to see themselves as being able to contribute to the world.
Get started with these volunteer opportunities for kids of all ages:
Ages 3 and up:
- Grab some gloves and garbage bags and spend an hour collecting trash and debris from your favorite park or walking route.
- Donate food to a local food pantry.
- Run some ice cold water bottles out to the mailman and garbage truck driver on the hottest summer days; in the snowy winter make it hot, homemade cocoa or coffee in disposable insulated cups.
- Take up a neighborhood donation of old towels and blankets to donate to a local animal shelter.
- Create thank you messages and drawings for local police and firefighters and deliver them to the station along with a treat, like cookies or candy.
- Deliver cookies, flowers, a meal or a care basket to a senior, sick or disabled neighbor.
- Visit a senior care facility or nursing home. Your child can even put together some drawings to hand out to the residents!
- Gather toys and clothes from around the house that your children have outgrown and donate them to a shelter.
- Donate back to school items such as backpacks, sneakers, coats, notebooks, art and writing supplies, to a local school to keep on hand for children with hardships.
- “Adopt” a family in need during the holidays, then and assemble and deliver gift baskets of food, clothes, toys and/or personal care items.
Ages 10 and up:
- Help a senior, sick or disabled neighbor with leaf raking, snow shoveling, mowing or gardening.
- Participate in a relay or walkathon to help support a charitable cause of your choice.
- Help prep and serve meals at a soup kitchen.
- Help clean cages and cuddle cats and puppies at a local animal shelter.
- Look into volunteer opportunities at your local children’s hospital to see if there are ways for you and your child to get involved.
When you provide your children with opportunities to volunteer, you equip them to become healthy men and women who see themselves as both capable of and responsible to make a difference in the world.
Jean Holthaus, LISW is a Licensed Independent Social Worker and clinic manager at the Pine Rest Pella Clinic. She earned a BA in Elementary Education from the University of Northern Iowa and a Masters of Social Work from the University of Iowa in 1995.