You want to help your children volunteer and teach them the importance of community service. You know volunteering teaches responsibility and lets children explore a topic of interest - not to mention it looks good on scholarship applications. But it's challenging to find the time.
Make it easy for children to volunteer and you may discover that your children volunteering just a few hours encourages them to be civic minded in other ways. Here are 5 ideas for working moms to include children's volunteer activities in their busy lives.
Can Children Volunteer at School?
No matter how well-funded your child's school is, the administrators probably don't have all the resources they'd like. Ask if there's a way for your children to volunteer on school grounds. Some ideas include:
- Helping solicit donations of classroom supplies or books on teachers' wish lists.
- Picking up trash from school property or sorting recyclables.
- Cutting paper or organizing supplies for school art projects.
- Stuffing envelopes or filing paperwork in the administration office.
- Organizing a toy or canned food drive for needy families in the community.
Plan Children’s Volunteering Alongside Other Activities
When you take your daughter to soccer practice every Saturday morning, look for nearby volunteer opportunities for your son. Working moms multitask in every other arena - why not when children volunteer?
If your children differ somewhat in age, the older one may even be able to volunteer at the younger one's activities. A young teen can be a counselor-in-training at a summer camp or a volunteer helper at a daycare center.
Depending on your children's temperament, and sibling rivalry tendencies, you may want to suggest that they be placed in different classrooms or activity groups.
Ask a Religious or Nonprofit Organization
The first stop for families seeking volunteer opportunities is often their church, synagogue, temple, or mosque. If you don’t affiliate with a religious group, try your city or county government or a nonprofit charity in the community.
While many organizations require a minimum commitment of hours, others will offer an annual day of service for families that cannot sign up for ongoing volunteer work.
Some other organizations to try include:
Think about your children's interests and what type of activity would naturally stir their emotions and encourage compassion.
Children Can Volunteer With Elderly or Sick
Have you ever taken a young child into a nursing home? It's like carrying a burning torch through a dark cave filled with cold people. The patients turn to face the child, their faces light up, their spines straighten. I’m convinced it's just as important for their health as the pills served with every meal.
Call your local hospitals and nursing homes to see if they'd be open to you visiting with your child or children. It could be as simple as coming to chat with patients once, or as committed as "adopting" a grandparent.
If your children have any talent for performance, consider whether they could sing, do magic, or otherwise entertain nursing home residents. While carols go over well during the holidays, music can also be a delight throughout the year.
Ask Children to Donate Toys and Clothes
The simplest way for children to volunteer may be to sort through their toys and clothes for outgrown items. Then donate their gently used belongings to a local shelter or organization for needy families.
If your family is one of the lucky ones to receive an abundance of gifts at holidays or birthday time, consider whether your children could choose new gifts to give away. These are especially needed by Toys for Tots and similar initiatives.
But make sure not to force children to give away toys if they are reluctant. Your goal is to make community service a fun and satisfying experience that will build your children's lifelong commitment to civic involvement.