By Karen Bantuveris, Founder & CEO, VolunteerSpot
Discover the joys of service with your children and give back to others in a big way during the holidays. As the message of ‘getting’ is being broadcast on every kid channel and families are getting pulled into the chaos of the season, make plans now to invest family time in ‘giving back’. When you volunteer together as a family, your kids will learn that their actions can make an important difference in the lives of others and they will remember the experience well after the last sugar cookie is nibbled or the twinkling lights dim.
Serving as a family builds on kids’ natural capacity for kindness, teaches them to think of others and to recognize their own blessings. Especially during these tough economic times, helping others feels good puts our own family hardships into perspective. Volunteering together also provides meaningful memories and positive family traditions.
The Saturday before Thanksgiving is National Family Volunteer Day. It’s the perfect opportunity to kick off your holiday giving season! Check in with your local Volunteer Center to see all the volunteering activities planned for November 20th. Or start your own family service project — include friends and neighbors!
10 Simple service activities for kids of all ages:
- Decorate reusable grocery bags and fill them with their favorite non-perishable food items. Feeding America offers a Food Bank locator, searchable by zip code.
- Stuff new, warm socks with water bottles and granola bars to give to homeless men and women you pass on street corners.
- Decorate holiday cards for soldiers overseas. Red Cross-sponsored Holiday Mail for Heroes will deliver letters postmarked before Dec. 10, 2010.
- Box up their gently used clothing to donate to your local foster care foundation.
- Donate their gently used books and DVDs to a local children’s hospital.
- Make holiday decorations and cards and then sing carols for nursing home residents. Call ahead to schedule a visit.
- Engage a team of secret friends to clandestinely rake leaves or shovel snow for an elderly neighbor for a whole month.
- Collect used towels and pet toys for the local animal shelter.
- Host a hot chocolate or cider stand and donate the proceeds to a charity of their choosing.
- Adopt a family for the holidays through a local business or faith group, and have your kids help shop for that family.
Making it a Habit
Volunteering as a family while kids are young develops a positive service habit that sticks long into adulthood. Use the following four tips to help ensure your kids understand the impact of their good deeds.
- Celebrate your service!
- If donating goods or money to a local charity, deliver the items with your kids in person so they can better internalize how they helped make a difference.
- Be sure to talk about your family’s service experience. Discuss what you did, why you did it, how it felt, and what you learned.
Build on your kids’ enthusiasm and right then choose your next service project together.
Family Volunteering Resources
GenerationOn — resources for kids, teens, parents and teachers.
Doing Good Together — project ideas for home and in the community.
About the author: Karen Bantuveris is the founder & CEO of VolunteerSpot (http://www.VolunteerSpot.com/school ), a time and sanity-saving online coordination tool that empowers busy parents, teachers and grassroots community leaders by making it easier get involved. VolunteerSpot’s free sign up sheets can be used for organizing anything – classroom volunteers, snack schedules, charity fun-runs, tournaments, community potlucks, holiday parties, Giving Trees and more. Karen is passionate about increasing parent participation in schools, engaging parents to fund education technology, and using new media tools to inspire social action in the ‘real’ world. Karen lives in Austin, TX with her husband and daughter.