I firmly believe part of the reason we are here, on this planet we share with billions of others, is to make life better for at least some of its inhabitants.
If we all take just a little bit of time - it doesn't have to always be about money - we can brighten someone's day, week, life. We might even alter their entire life path. Who knows?! I think its important we instill this in our kids.
Here are some ideas on how to involve kids in making our planet a little better:
Take your kids and donate to community fundraising campaigns. Each year I take $20 of my money and the kids take $2 out of their own piggy banks. Its not much, but every little bit helps. We go to the KoolFM poster boy campaign (a fundraiser for the Grand River Cancer Centre in Kitchener-Waterloo) and donate in person. Its much more impactful that way.
Take part in any little way you can. Does your Santa Claus Parade have a food drive? Take a box or can of food for each of your kids so they can donate during the parade. Or even make a random trip to the food bank to donate. It doesn't have to be a special time of year.
Throughout the year I like to buy toys when they go on super-duper sale and save them for the toy drives each Christmas. (I especially like to focus on toys for the under two age bracket. Most donated toys are for 3 and up.) The kids and I go to the mall and donate the toys. Its hard for them to give up toys, but in doing so they are learning something that just cant be taught with words.
Now this one I haven't personally tried yet. You can have your kids pick one or two toys from their birthday, or Christmas gifts to donate. Or, as a reader suggested in a comment, a couple weeks before a birthday, Christmas or other gift-receiving event is a great time to have your child pick a toy or two to give to a charity or shelter.
Plan a party & ask guests, if they can, to bring a small donation (maybe $5, $10, whatever.) Go to the Plan Canada website - or look through their catalogue - and pick a goal. Maybe its a pig to give a family a sustainable business - $40. How about a clean, safe, reliable water supply for a family - $50. Did you know that a lack of a girls-only bathroom is one of the main reason adolescent girls in the developing world stop attending school? Give a girls-only latrine - $100. Or ask everyone to donate $12 each to buy a mango tree. Some of the gifts are matched by governments and organizational donors, so they go even further.
As a party craft, why not have the kids make cards for other kids that are in the hospital? Pack up all the cards and take them to your local hospital for the staff to distribute - or mail the pack to Sick Kids. (I'm not sure about the logistics of that one, but I can't really see them turning the cards away....) Maybe expand on the idea and ask guests to bring teddy bears and books to donate to the hospitals instead of gifts.
There are lots of ideas on the Sick Kids website on ways that kids can get involved and help out - from organizing read-a-thons at their school to having a community bbq with proceeds going to the foundation.
What kid doesn't love holding their own lemonade stand? Make it a charitable event. Hold your own Alexs Lemonade Stand and fight childhood cancer, one cup at a time.
As an individual or group craft, have kids make Spend, Save and Give banks. Learn about money while helping others. Pick a charity with your kids to donate the contents of the Give bank every six months or year.
A special holiday is a great time to make a handful of cards and truck yourselves on over to your local retirement home. You can do this anytime - Valentine's Day, Easter, Thanksgiving, Chanukah, Christmas. Ask the staff which residents could really use some visitors and go around to as many as you have time for. Have your kids give the resident a card and spend a little time with them. A few moments with a child can do wonders for the soul.
Please feel free to add your own suggestions in the comment section and go out there and lets all brighten someone's day. Even if its just a warm smile at the right time. Its amazing what a little kindness can do.