Dear Dr. Renee,
I want to get my child involved in community service but there is nothing around here that is available for young children. Most organizations want volunteers 16 years and older. What do you suggest?
Congratulations on getting your child involved in community service! This is a passion of mine.
Volunteering is one of the best ways to teach your child the value of empathy and compassion. Not to mention that offering someone a little bit of help goes a long way.
You will need to be a little creative to do community service with young children. I am going to ask that you keep an open mind. Please do not feel the need to be in a formal program if there are none readily available for young children in your area.
Here are 7 ways your whole family, even the littlest ones, can serve others:
- Pick up garbage at a park or as you walk around your neighborhood.
- Write/Draw/Decorate cards for veterans, patients in a hospital, or residents in nursing homes and assisted living facilities.
- Host a drive in your neighborhood. Check with the organization you want to support to see what their needs are before you do a drive. Things you could collect include non-perishables/canned goods for your food bank, newspapers/towels for an animal shelter, diapers for a homeless shelter.
Your child can help make the signs, knock on neighbors’ doors, and go with you when you drop off the items you’ve collected.
- Prior to the pandemic, our library had a program where children could read to therapy dogs. This was a great reading experience for the child and good practice for the therapy dogs in training.
- Your child could also read or put on mini-concerts for residents in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Singing kid songs is just as welcome as playing musical instruments.
- Bring cookies or other special treats to your local fire station, police station, or other first responders.
- Go through books you have outgrown and donate them to your local library or homeless shelter. Another option that is becoming quite popular is to leave your gently used books in a “little free library.”
If you have your heart set on volunteering at a specific organization, call them directly. Sometimes they allow young children to tag along. They might also have something you can do together that is not readily advertised.
I wish you many happy volunteering experiences and memories,