As many of you know I am very involved in our local Secret Santa Program. This is a program I started with my parents and continue to do in my dad’s memory. Because I am so involved my girls grew up involved. They have been elves and spent many hours wrapping gifts. My friend’s children have been Santa’s Helpers for many years. Last year at age 2 and 3 my grandchildren become involved.
I believe that if a child grows up doing for others they make the world a better place. Children are never to young to introduce volunteerism to. I remember being shocked at the Seniors in high school who were cramming to find something to do to complete their 20 hours of community service required of them to graduate. My girls had theirs completed before their freshmen year was up.
Step 1: Clarify your personal goals and motives for wanting to include your child in volunteer activities. Volunteering is a wonderful way to a share your values with your child. Pick a cause that is meaningful to you and your family rather than one that is simply convenient.
Step 2: Explain the importance of volunteerism and the contribution volunteers can make. A child’s favorite question is “why?” Keep your answers simple and concrete. For example, if you are going to volunteer at the food bank, tell your child that “The food bank has lots of food for people who need it, and it will be our job to sort the food so that people are able to find what they need.”
Step 3: Choose volunteer activities to do with your children that are age-appropriate. Children as young as three can begin volunteering. At this age they begin to enjoy participation in group activities and are better able to follow directions. Remember that a preschooler’s concept of the world is not very large and is usually limited primarily to their home, neighborhood and school; therefore, it is important to keep the activity within the realm of what they can imagine. A few examples:
Participate in “clean the park” activities. Be sure to have your child wear gloves.
Take recyclables to recycling collection centers.
Act as a companion to the elderly in retirement or assisted living homes. Simply listening to their stories and relieving their loneliness provides multiple benefits for the senior citizen and your child.
Participate in local races and walks that raise money for a charitable cause that you think is important; most races have a shorter race for children.
Sort food at a food bank. Be sure to confirm that children are welcome to volunteer and that it will be a safe environment.
Step 4: Find a child-friendly not-for-profit. Ask the following questions to help you select the volunteer opportunity that is right for your family:
Does the organization have experience with and a history of successfully working with children and families? Will the organization provide me with a reference from another family who has volunteered with them?
Will the organization staff welcome my child’s participation?
Is there a specific job that my child can do successfully? Who will show my children what to do?
Are there special clothes or supplies needed for my child to volunteer with this organization?
Does the organization conduct appropriate background screenings on its staff? Does the organization have insurance if there is an accident while your family is volunteering?
Can the organization provide a concrete example that will help your child understand how his or her efforts benefit others?
To find these and other great tips for parents, check out Dr. Zurn’s blog at DrZandme.com. For more information on Primrose Schools, visit www.primroseschools.com. You can also check them out on Facebook and Twitter!
Get your kids involved and do your part at making the world a better place.