It’s not always easy to get kids involved in activities you want them to do. That’s true for learning to cook a meal, chores around the house, hiking or even volunteering.
All of those things have value, teaching life lessons and skills—especially volunteering. Studies show that volunteering offers many benefits for children and adults, including improved mental and physical health. For children, it also is a great way to broaden their perspective and learn compassion and how to work as a team. Besides, it’s a fun way for families to feel closer and more connected.
So how do you teach your kids about volunteering?
Talk about volunteering
If you don’t discuss volunteering in your household, how will your children understand its importance and grow to love it? Studies show that being asked to volunteer is the No. 1 reason that youth volunteer. So ask your kids to give back.
After you’re done with a volunteer opportunity, talk about it at home. Also, encourage your kids to talk to their friends about it. Research also shows that discussing volunteer experiences makes young people more likely to make volunteering a regular activity.
Be an example
Modeling volunteerism also is a fantastic way to encourage volunteering in your children. When children have volunteering role models at home, they’re twice as likely to be regular volunteers themselves. So take the time to volunteer and let your children see your service, whether it’s at their school, in the community or your religious congregation.
Make it part of your routine
As a parent or caregiver, you know how important routines are to family life. You have morning routines, so everyone gets to school and work on time. Then you have mealtime routines, after-school routines, evening routines, bedtime routines—all to ensure your life runs as smoothly as possible. Making volunteering part of your routine, whether it’s daily, weekly, monthly or annually, will ensure you and your family are regular volunteers and reap the benefits of volunteerism.
Find something they’ll enjoy
You and your children are more likely to enjoy volunteering and keep at it if you find something you enjoy.
- Do you like the outdoors? Consider volunteering in a community garden, planting trees in your community, or volunteering for bird counting events.
- Are you interested in cleaning up an area? Contact your city or town about organizing a river, park or general clean up.
- Would you like to help the elderly? Call your local senior centers and retirement communities to see what they need. You also can call your local Meals on Wheels office about delivering meals.
Look for inclusive opportunities
Not all volunteer activities are suitable for all age groups. Often, nonprofit agencies have a minimum age requirement for in-person volunteers. But even if your children are too young, there are ways they can be involved in volunteering.
Even toddlers can be involved in collecting food and delivering it to your local food bank or food pantry. If you want to go bigger than collecting from your own pantry, they can help with a bigger food drive.
Many community nonprofits also collect kits, which is something small children can do, too. At Community Action Services and Food Bank, we collect items for Kids Nutrition Paks as well as
- Hygiene Kits
- Homeless Kits
- Birthday Kits
- Back-to-School Kits
Teaching your children about volunteering will give them valuable life skills and lessons, make them healthier and happier, and strengthen your family. Getting youth interested in volunteering can be daunting, though. It will be easier if you talk about volunteering at home, model volunteerism, make it part of your routine, find something they’ll enjoy and look for inclusive opportunities.