It’s never too early to start building positive habits and behaviors in our little ones. In the preschool years, our kids are absorbing a whole new world of information and learning how to process it and make good choices. The value of introducing a lifelong interest in service and volunteerism will help shape a future infused with kindness and giving. The roles our kids can take on now will develop and change over the years as service and learning become a part of their formal education. These 6 great opportunities to serve in the early years can inspire much larger projects and ideas as our kids grow.
- Decor – Anyone who’s stepped foot into an assisted living or nursing home facility knows just how brightening a child’s visit can be. When you couple such a visit with some seasonal or festive artwork and crafts, an amazing service project is born. From holiday cutouts to hand-drawn masterpieces, finding a local facility to brighten with some youthful flair will be much appreciated and show your child how this small kindness can bring so much joy to others.
- Donations – Kids always love selecting a few well-loved toys or books they’ve outgrown to sell at a neighborhood garage sale. Rather than selecting toys to make money and buy more toys, have them select toys and books to donate to a local shelter or children’s hospital. Talking with them about how their toys will make their way into new families and bring happiness to other children in need will open their eyes to the struggles of others and the good feelings associated with bringing some happiness into their lives. If a donation center doesn’t come to mind, items could also be sold at the neighborhood sale with the proceeds going to a charity of your child’s choosing.
- Animal Lovers – If your kids are obsessed with all things four-legged and furry, they will love being able to serve a local animal shelter in the community. Whether it’s setting up a time to walk or play with some animals at the shelter or dropping off some toys for them, it’s sure to be coupled with some wet-nosed gratitude. Imagine Our Life has a quick and easy no-sew toy idea using leftover fabric scraps that would be fun to craft and donate.
- Neighborly Niceties – No matter what time of year, there is always something one can do for a neighbor in need. Whether you’re helping out someone elderly, under the weather, or just overwhelmed, showing kindness to someone close to home allows your child to see and be reminded of the warm fuzzies associated with helping others. Try asking your students what they think might help their neighbor. From weeding, planting, and watering in the warmer months, to shoveling and clearing off cars in the colder ones, there’s always a chance to brighten someone’s day any time of year.
- Local Kids’ Runs – Whether you’re an avid racer/runner or not, it’s never too early to get your kids involved in the joy of fitness. Most 5K runs or races for charity offer a kids’ run along with their main event. This a chance for your child to learn about the organization or charity that is sponsoring the run and possibly collect donations in support for their own time on the course.
- Mail of Gratitude – Just as a kind word or visit can brighten someone’s day, for those who can’t be reached in person, a letter or package can have the same effect. Little ones can write or dictate a short thank you to a service member or veteran and accompany it with a piece of artwork. The whole family could contribute to a care package for someone serving. The Red Cross or a program like Operation Gratitude would be a great starting point if you don’t have a personal connection to a service member.
With just a little time and effort, a starting point for a lifetime of service and volunteerism can be established. Teaching our kids the importance of helping others and showing kindness to our fellow man (and furry friends) can never start too early. These 6 opportunities are perfect for preschoolers and older kids, and the benefits will reach far beyond the positive effects on our little ones.