Through volunteering, your children will see many things—some sad, others surprising. They will learn that people, animals, and natural resources all need care and attention—but there just aren’t enough hands or funds to go around. When you and your kids volunteer as a family, committing your time, money, skills, and energy to improving conditions in your community and elsewhere, you enhance your children’s lives as well.
Finding an organization that’s a good fit is an important part of the process.
You’ll want to make sure your kids have a basic understanding of, and an interest in, a particular activity, for instance, visiting the elderly. Adjust your plan if you believe your little ones care more about being around pets or fostering animals that are available for adoption.
Volunteering opportunities fall into several categories. They include:
- Feeding the hungry
- Donating clothes, toiletries, toys, and other items to those who need them
- Making towns, parks, and cities safer and more attractive
- Guarding wildlife and natural resources
- Caring for animals
- Visiting the sick
- Assisting those without family
- Providing academic support in areas such as reading or math (good for older kids)
You may worry that volunteering could interfere with time set aside for other important activities, including reading, music lessons, or sports. However, each organization has different needs, and each one requires a different level of commitment. Some prefer long-term help, while others require a set number of hours each month; and still others are fine if volunteers come and go.
Before narrowing the field, visit several facilities, talk to administrators, and ask questions. Learn about age restrictions, skill requirements, hours of operation, length of commitment, training, orientation, and the group’s needs and expectations. Look for a program that will enhance your child’s creativity, confidence, caring, curiosity, or values.
What else can kids gain from giving to and helping others? According to experts, a lot. They can:
- Make friends
- Have fun
- Be creative
- Acquire skills
- Gain self-esteem and confidence
- Ward off boredom
- Experience compassion
- Feel appreciated and useful
Research indicates that an individual who volunteers as a child is likely to volunteer as an adult, so try to create a positive experience, even for the littlest ones in the family. Kids can help you select food and canned goods at the market or remove gently used clothes from your closet—and that’s just a start.
Who knows where it will end?