Teaching your child at an early age to be involved in his or her community or to give back in other ways can have lasting benefits (apparently, even when they’re “forced” to volunteer). Some examples of the rewards:

    •    developing emotional intelligence
    •    building good character
    •    bonding with family (by volunteering together)
    •    gaining new skills in many areas, including social skills
    •    developing confidence and a sense of empowerment as they learn that their actions can make a difference

But finding opportunities for young kids isn’t always easy. And how can you encourage your child to want to volunteer? Here are some ideas for volunteer work kids can do from an early age and some ideas for incorprating giving back into your family’s life.

5 ways to inspire kids to get involved with volunteering

1. Start young. At a very young age, you can begin with simple things that get kids used to the idea of giving, like donating toys to Goodwill. Talk to them about why they’re giving their toys and who will receive them. Allow them to choose items to donate. Help them imagine how excited another child will be to play with the toy.

2. Lead by example. When kids see you volunteering your time, getting involved in the community, and doing things for others, they are more likely to want to be involved and to see it as a natural part of everyday life.

Ideas: volunteer at your child’s school, host a get-to-know-your candidate meeting before an election, run errands for someone who is house-bound.

3. Make it personal. Giving to a food bank or donating money are important, but hands-on volunteering that allows kids to see who they are helping and see the results of their efforts makes a much bigger impact. Ideas: have kids accompany you for volunteering at a nursing home, taken kids with you for Meals on Wheels deliveries, planting in a community garden, or expanding their world view with an organization like Extend-a-Family.

4. Keep it simple. Come up with little ways to say thank-you. You don’t have to do organized volunteering in order to give back. (It can be difficult to find such opportunities for younger kids anyway.)

Ideas: Ask kids to draw a picture for a caretaker and make it into a card. Do something special for someone who is lonely or in need, like cooking freezer dinners or raking leaves for an elderly neighbour.

5. Make it interesting. Steer kids toward volunteer opportunities that align with their interests and let them make the final decision. If they love animals, consider fostering an animal; budding musicians can perform at senior centres; help little artists find a community beautification project; kids with a knack for building with Legos might be inspired by a Habitat for Humanity project.

And if they get bored easily, change it up with regularly schedule one-off projects like a charity walk or helping out at a soup kitchen.
PHOTO: STEVEN LUSXHERFLICKR CC

More resources:

Family volunteer opportunities in Toronto

Count Me In Movement

Volunteer Toronto

Make a Difference Day (October)

Good Turn Week (April/May)

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