My kids don't know how lucky they are. How could they possibly know? They live in their sheltered world, in which play dates, music lessons and toys are a given.
Yet, I want my kids to understand that there's a world beyond their "needs" of the moment. But, how does one teach kindness, compassion, and gratitude?
I thought that volunteering as a family would be a good place start, but quickly hit a wall: Many organizations do not accept child volunteers.
Here are five kid-friendly places where you can volunteer as a family. I've also included suggestions for simple acts of kindness you can do together, without an organization.
1. Nursing and Retirement Homes. Visiting with a senior, writing letters, or drawing pictures, are great ways to get involved and forge relationships. Older kids may be able to assist with games and special events.
2. Library. Reading Buddies and Tutoring programs often welcome tweens.
3. Deliveries. Many organizations ask volunteers to make deliveries. Sometimes kids can assist with loading the van, and tag along with parents. In Calgary, there is a wonderful organization called Made by Momma, which collects and delivers goods to mothers in need. They welcome young helpers with parents, and engage in a variety of activities. Grassroots organizations like Made by Momma tend to be more open to children volunteers, so check for similar groups in your community.
4. Soup Kitchens, Food Banks, Shelters. Some soup kitchens will allow older children to serve food. Younger kids can help out by shopping with parents for food items to be donated. Although kids won't likely be interacting with residents of shelters, many families in distress would appreciate donations of books and toys. Encourage kids to donate items from their collection that are in excellent condition, or select something to buy together.
5. Fundraising Bikes, Walks, Runs. Joining these active fundraisers is a great way to enlist the whole family in a good cause. Many opportunities are available in the spring and summer months. This is exercise that is good for the body and soul.
If you can't find an organization that's right for you and your kids, try creating your own acts of kindness! Here are some ideas:
Lemonde Stand. Kids can donate the proceeds to a charity of their choice.
Visit Friends Going Through A Rough Time. Teach your kids that when people are sick or sad, friends can help them get through rough patches. A visit with a homemade meal can mean so much.
Bake Cookies For the Neighbours. Delivering homemade cookies to neighbours is a great way to begin establishing a sense of community.
We are trying out some of these activities this summer, and hope to stick with them throughout the school year. As a bonus, we have so far managed to stave off boredom and keep some focus during summer break.