How to Get Kids of All Ages Active on Service Day

published Jan 11, 2023
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People painting wall together
Credit: Getty Images | Hill Street Studios

Volunteering can be an excellent way to make meaningful connections with your community, and teaching kids about volunteering from an early age will help them develop compassion and empathy while showing them that they can make a difference in their world. But it can be hard to know where to start and how to get your kids involved. 

Before bringing your child into the discussion, research volunteer opportunities in your area. Many cities have organizations that provide updated lists of ways families can volunteer together. Volunteer Match and Points of Light are two great national resources for finding the best project to fit your needs. Here are a few tips for getting your kids started with volunteering on Service Day (January 15) and beyond!

Model Volunteering

Children model the behaviors they see, so one huge step toward getting your kids to volunteer is to show them how you work to improve your own community. If you serve on the board of a charitable organization, help with the PTA, or pick up trash in your neighborhood, you’re already doing this work. Take the next step, and tell your kids what you’re doing and why so they can begin to connect the dots about why volunteering is important. Ask them how they can see themselves improving their community, and use that to find an experience that’s right for them.

Consider Your Child’s Interests and Abilities

Your family volunteering experience should be guided by the interests and abilities of all participating family members. If your family is full of animal lovers, look for opportunities at local animal shelters or the SPCA. If you love the outdoors, check out organizations like The Chesapeake Bay Foundation or The Nature Conservancy and research ways to become involved in person. 

Beyond your child’s interests, you should also consider their skills and stamina. Depending on their age, you may want to look for tasks you can accomplish in an hour or two or even from the comfort of your home. Older kids may enjoy volunteering with friends or being dropped off to volunteer, giving them a little independence and personal accountability. Volunteering can be a fun way to bond as a family, so consider volunteering as a group.

Volunteering Ideas for Kids 2-5

  • Use a grabber tool to collect and dispose of trash and recyclable materials in your neighborhood. Start with your block, and gradually build up your radius to include more area. (You can even take your grabber to a park or playground and clean it up!)
  • Collect or buy food and donate it to food banks, free pantries, or community fridges. Take a look at the list of needed items before you shop!
  • Start saving and donating money — Give your child a piggy bank for themselves and one for charity, and then let them pick the beneficiary. When they hit a certain goal, donate the money to that organization in their name.
  • Create care kits for unhoused individuals. This is a great one because you can do it from home on your own time!
  • Have your child pack up gently-used toys or clothes they’ve outgrown to share with friends in need.

Volunteering Ideas for Kids 6-10

  • Visit with seniors. Kids and seniors can read or cook together, or just ask questions and listen to stories from their lives.
  • Adopt a refugee family, and collect items they need as well as gifts.
  • Learn more about a cause and ways to help with Alltruists, super fun volunteer activity kits for kids on a range of topics from food security to refugee aid.
  • Make cat or dog toys to donate to an animal shelter, and then bring them with a bag of food, and spend some time cuddling with the animals.
  • ‘Adopt’ a wild animal from the World Wildlife Federation, and help your kids learn more about that animal and their impact.

Volunteering Ideas for Kids 10+

  • Help your kids write and send letters to their political representatives about issues that matter to them. This is a great way to encourage independent research, develop writing skills, and model civic responsibility.
  • Bake items for a bake sale.
  • Start a school supply drive for other kids with the Kids in Need Foundation.
  • Cook a meal for families at the Ronald McDonald House in your area.
  • Offer tutoring for younger students.
  • Always on their phones? Encourage them to sign up for Be My Eyes, an app where sighted volunteers can help the visually impaired.

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