Volunteering together as a family helps kids learn that they can make a positive difference in the lives of others, which feels both inspiring and good. I can't promise that your kids won't still ask for every toy they see, but having them involved in giving back seems to restore a certain balance during a time when materialism is so often the focus. Community service empowers kids with responsibility, engages their compassion, and offers them the chance to affect the lives of others. It also helps children learn to recognize their own good fortune and blessings.
Volunteering together fosters positive communication and strengthens bonds in ways no other activity can. Family memories and traditions made while volunteering together will last long after shiny new toys have passed into recycle bins. If you are looking to get your kids involved but are not sure where to start, read on for a list of some of the best service projects for kids.
• Collect toys, books and movies and donate them to children in need of some smiles. Possible locations for donations are Ronald McDonald House and St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. Many times children suffering from serious illnesses are bored, scared and cooped up for long periods of time. Having a few new toys to play with will not only give them a little comfort but will also brighten their day.
• Fall is the perfect time of year to organize a food drive in your neighborhood, church or school. Many low income families struggle to try to put food on the table every day, especially at Thanksgiving.
• Have a garage sale and donate the proceeds to your favorite cause. Get the kids involved by giving them age appropriate tasks.
• Whenever school supplies go on sale, pack up a backpack and supplies for local children in need. Many organizations — including the YMCA — frequently collect these types of donations.
• Is there a park or recreation center in your neighborhood that could use a good cleanup? Put on gloves and pitch in! Arrange a "Community Clean Up" day in your neighborhood.
• Volunteer at an animal shelter such as the Baltimore Humane Society or ASPCA. Animal lovers will especially enjoy this service project. Play with the animals, help to care for them and clean up after them.
• How wonderful would it be to come out to a raked yard or even a shoveled driveway when it snows? Rake leaves or shovel snow for an elderly or disabled neighbor.
• Donate used baby and toddler toys, clothes and gear to a nearby church, synagogue, mosque or temple for their youngest members. Most places of worship have a place for little ones to be entertained during services but don't necessarily have a budget to purchase these items.
• Do you have a cool talent or hobby? Ask your local Girl Scout or Boy Scout group if they would like you to come in to be a guest speaker. You can share your collection, hobby or talent with them, and allow them to ask questions and learn more about it.
• Have your kids pick out a couple of outgrown outfits to be taken to their school's resource center or day care center. Often, they use extra outfits when kids have an emergency or can send them home with kids in crisis.
• Take a handful of quarters and a roll of tape and stick the quarters on gum ball machines all over town. Or put the quarters inside the coin return on a video game machine. You will absolutely make a child's day!
• Find a need and meet it. We are all on social media and see needs daily. Did a friend's house burn down? Take supplies. Someone sick? Take a meal. Parents these days have a unique opportunity to enable their children to become more socially aware.
• Deliver cookies and hot chocolate to local fire or police stations. After all, they do take care of us 365 days a year.
• Put together a care package for a missionary or member of the military. Be sure to include toiletries and other convenience items — such as phone cards — that they may not have available to them. Have your children make cards or write letters to include in the packages.
Danielle Moser is a Reisterstown resident and can be reached at email@example.com.