Volunteering is incredibly important to my family. Well, mostly to me, at this point – my one, four, and six-year-old kids haven’t quite caught the community giving spirit yet. But I’m doing my best to help them catch the bug, to make volunteering and making a difference highly contagious. That’s especially true during the months of November and December, when the Santa-and-gifts obsession threatens to spiral out of control.
That said, volunteering with the little ones isn’t always easy. They’d be more hindrance than help in a soup kitchen, with the potential to cut off their thumbs while chopping carrots or pour boiling cauldrons on their heads. They’re not quite tall enough to reach all the shelves in a food pantry and sort food. And, it’s a little cold out for one of our go-to projects, park clean-up. So, right now, at-home projects work best for us. We can do them whenever the time is right for our schedules, when little bodies are well-rested and sibling wrestling matches are at a minimum, and take a energizing gingerbread cookie break whenever we need one.
Luckily, there are tons of family volunteer projects that we can do at home, like participating in this LEGO drive. All of these are easy for preschoolers and young elementary-aged students to do, they can be done in an hour or two, and most don’t require more than a trip to the store or post office. Here are five of our favorites.
Project Cure is collecting bags of basic medical supplies, such as adhesive bandages and antibiotic ointment, to provide to families living in rural areas in developing countries, where such supplies can be scarce. This way, families can conduct basic medical care at home. Picking up supplies and then sorting them is an easy project for families to do at home – and what kid doesn’t understand the power of a Band-Aid to heal boo boos?
Every year, the Red Cross sends mounds of holiday greeting cards to active duty service members, veterans, and their families. You and your kids can make a few cards at home and then send them to the Red Cross. Just make sure to do so by December 6th, so that the cards will arrive in time to wish the troops a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.
Put together a collection of items to brighten the day of children in the hospitals over the holidays. The Children’s Hospital in Denver has a long wish list that includes everything from video games to board books. Your kids can pick out a few items that they know other kids would like, and put them in a festively-decorated cardboard box to deliver to your local children’s hospital.
Dog lovers and bakers alike will enjoy making homemade dog biscuits. You can then donate them to a local shelter – but call first to make sure they can accept homemade goodies. Or, pass them around to your favorite neighborhood mutts. Spreading a little joy in the neighborhood cultivates a sense of community, and gives kids a chance to see the ways they can make a difference and help on a small scale. That can then transfer to larger-scale giving.
For my four and six-year-olds, learning that not every kid gets a birthday gift was a real light-bulb moment. The idea of helping out Santa by picking out a toy for another child who wouldn’t otherwise get something is a fun, easy way to turn attention to giving rather than getting. Of course, if your kids, like mine, still believe in Santa, you may want to wait a few years for this one.