Ways to get your kids involved
We all want the best for our children, so it makes sense that we work hard to surround them with both love and learning opportunities. Often, we take these efforts to staggering heights. A 2013 survey by the Today show reports that 42 percent of mothers surveyed said they suffer from Pinterest stress over trying to create new crafts and creative outlets for their children. “It seems like there is a lot of pressure on parents these days,” says Jessica Mills, Shawnee mom. “I love finding recipes and craft ideas on Pinterest, but it often can make me feel terrible that I don’t know how to create the perfect unicorn cupcakes for my daughter’s birthday.”
In order to set a strong example for our kids and offer them special experiences, we often need to look beyond Pinterest. Volunteering is a wonderful way to teach children the value of helping others and provide a feel-good activity for the family to enjoy together. No matter what your kids’ ages, there are both organized and home-grown opportunities to do good right outside your door.
Volunteering doesn’t have to be a regular commitment or even an organized event. There are lots of ways to help others and teach children valuable lessons, while keeping a focus on family time. “We do a bake sale in our neighborhood every year. We take the money and pick a charity to donate it to,” says Kate McGregor, Olathe mom. “The kids enjoy the sale and they love picking out where the money will go. It is a great activity for us to do together and it is truly our own tradition.”
To help select the volunteer activity that is right for you, divide the options into groups. These can include categories such as community, neighborhood and home.
Partner with friends and family to pick the activity or the organization that speaks to your values. Here are five suggestions to get you started:
- Create artwork and send it to active military personnel overseas.
- Visit a local animal shelter and pass out treats.
- Make a trip to a local retirement home and give away gift bags.
- Visit your local VA hospital with thank you cards.
- Have a garage sale/bake sale/craft sale and donate the money to the charity of your choice.
Head out into the neighborhood with a team of friends and family and make your streets a truly special place to live. Here are five projects you can tackle right away:
- Make a date with friends to clean up the neighborhood. Pick up trash, collect recycling and beautify the areas you share and enjoy together.
- Visit an elderly neighbor and help out around the house.
- Pick up the mail for a neighbor who is out of town.
- Mow the lawn for a neighbor free of charge.
- Help shovel show.
Charity starts at home! Starting to focus on doing your part at home will help build positive qualities and encourage a giving spirit. Here are a few ideas:
- Set up a recycling station and take the recycling out each week.
- Create a donation box and keep the house de-cluttered by donating items your family no longer uses.
- Before you put old items in the trash, look for new ways to “upcycle” and create a project for the family to do together.
- Set up a little lending library in your front yard to share the gift of reading with your friends, neighbors and family.
- Build a bird feeder; watch and enjoy the birds together, knowing you are providing them with an enjoyable treat.
No matter how or where you get started, the lessons of these activities will stick with children for years to come. “When we help our elderly neighbors with their chores, my kids are so proud of themselves. They brag about it for days afterward,” Heather Grant, Kansas City, MO, mom says. “It is wonderful to see them feeling good about themselves and know that they are learning the importance of helping others.”
So what exactly will your kids get out of volunteering? Here are just a few of the positive benefits:
- Career exploration: Your community service experiment could end up starting a career path for your child.
- Strengthening community: If your children see the benefits of building the community, they will be inclined to reinvest in that community later in life.
- Socialization: Starting a project that brings your family out into your neighborhood or community gives your children a chance to meet new people and interact in new ways. This can build valuable communications skills.
- Family bonding: The time spent together as a family will build memories and bonds.
Melissa Bellach is a writer and mom of two living in Overland Park.
Are you looking for a more organized volunteer opportunity for your children? For kids ages 11 to 18, the Youth Volunteer Corps of Greater Kansas City is a great option! They are one of 45 YVC chapters across the nation. Their goals are:
To engage youth in service projects that are challenging, rewarding and educational.
To serve the unmet needs of the community and its residents.
To promote among youth a greater understanding and appreciation for the diversity of their community.
To promote a lifetime ethic of service among youth.
Visit YVCKC.org for more information.