As kids are preparing their wish-lists and the holiday chaos creeps in, let’s not lose sight of the true spirit of the season, giving back! The perfect opportunity to focus on giving while sharing a memorable experience helping people in need is coming up the Saturday before Thanksgiving, November 20th, National Family Volunteer Day. On this day, families across the country are encouraged to carve out some quality time and support causes they care about in any way they choose.
Volunteering together as a family helps kids learn that they can make a positive difference in the lives of others – and that feels downright inspiring and good. Family service also cultivates empathy and helps children learn to recognize their personal good fortune and blessings. Volunteering together fosters positive communication and strengthens bonds in ways no other activity can. As an added holiday bonus, family memories and traditions made while volunteering together will last long after their shiny new toys have passed into recycle bins.
Ready to get started? Check in with your local HandsOnNetwork Volunteer Center to see volunteering activities planned for Saturday, November 20th. Or start your own family service project and include friends and neighbors, too!
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 family shelter, refugee center or charity thrift store.
- 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.
More Ways to Give Back
Family Friendly Volunteering: Ideas from A-Z — a free eBook by VolunteerSpot
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.