Early next year, readers will have the opportunity to hear from Child Care of Southwest Florida's youngest volunteer, Tillman (9-years-old), and her father, Bill. Tillman's involvement with the Joseph H. Messina Center got us thinking—what other ways can we help our children to become involved helping our communities, forge valuable community connections, and acquire great values along the way? See the list below for some great ideas for volunteering with your child:
A toy drive is an event that can be easily adapted for young helpers. Many toy drives call for sorting and organizing, which are engaging tasks for those learners four-years and older. Additionally, sorting through the toys that are to be given to others who are less fortunate than they are can lead to small discussions about giving and generosity, particularly during the holiday season. In general, sorting is not the only volunteer activity available for adults and children at toy drives. My cousin Kristen took Max (4 months) to a toy drive where she could watch him while pricing donations (this particular drive allowed participants to shop at a reduced rate of 80-90% off), greeting guests, helping in the craft room (watching kids while parent participants shop), and bringing and serving baked goods. Kristen loves taking Max to events like these to raise him with the understanding that "giving is the essence of the holiday season and of the community we love."
Food pantries differ from soup kitchens in that they generally distribute the food from a "grocery trip" to needy families so that meals can be prepared at home. Additionally, food pantries generally do not have an age minimum for volunteers. Every pantry differs, but most have the clients select groceries from a list. For example, the client can select "3 proteins, 8 vegetables, 5 fruits, etc." Then, the volunteers go through and fulfill the clients' wishes, sometimes having to substitute if desired foods are out of stock. In the food pantry where I worked in my home state of Ohio, kids loved selecting the food, bagging it, and distributing it.
Like toy drives, food drives can range from small to huge affairs, with a number of different tasks available for young learners. Kids can sort food, collect food, break down boxes, throw away expired food, or greet donors as they arrive.
Walks and runs for charitable causes are fun ways to involve your child, whether they participate themselves, accompany you from a stroller, or cheer from the sidelines with friends and family. Involving children in these events can help to foster a sense of community and teach the importance of teamwork. Below is a picture of Aly leading her daughter Emmy to the finish line in a race to support pediatric cancer research!
Sending Cards and Letters to Military Members
If thinking about squeezing an extra event into your already busy schedule overwhelms you, consider having your children who are reading and writing compose letters to soldiers overseas, wounded warriors, or veterans. Operation Gratitude, A Million Thanks, and Soldiers' Angels are just a few of the many organizations that facilitate sending letters to America's servicemen and women.
Non-Profit Child Care Centers Like Child Care of Southwest Florida
Non-profit child care centers love having young volunteers come in to play with early learners, read to them, and help with varying tasks and activities. Interacting with your older child is an opportunity for early learners to see a "big kid" being a good role model.
Have you had a successful volunteer experience with younger learners? Let us know in the comments!