The impact of early volunteering for children is two-fold. While they touch and change others’ lives, they change their own lives in ways that may not be immediately visible. Many of the qualities children acquire and come to master in adulthood are mostly accumulated in childhood, such as empathy, social skills, and organization. Appreciation for the role of volunteer service in children’s development has promoted parents’ inclination to encourage their children to volunteer. As a result, this has caused a significant shift in the age demographic dedicated to volunteering.
According to the Corporation for National & Community Service, 15.5 million youth ages 12 -28 volunteer in the US. The youth rate of volunteers is near twice the rate of adults. These volunteer efforts add up to a whopping 1.3 billion community service hours per year. Where parents tend to be uncertain is the appropriate age to encourage their children to volunteer. “Many organizations set minimum ages of 12, 13, or even 18 to be involved in activities. But there are things that you can do with children—even young ones,” says Dr. Amy D’Unger, chair of the Board of Directors for Compassionate Kids, Inc. Volunteering for children doesn’t have to start with an organization. Toddler days at local nursing homes, cleanup days, and food drives are all creative ways to engage your child.
Why Should My Child Do Voluntary Work?
The benefits of helping your child find age-appropriate volunteer work are far-reaching. According to Peter Levine, formerly director of the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning at Tufts University, children who volunteer are more successful in school and more likely to graduate from high school and college. Volunteer work teaches children important school (and life) skills like “long-range planning, working in groups, interacting with people who are different from yourself, and defining and solving complex problems.”
Find out some other benefits of charity work for children below.
- They acquire new perspectives. For some children, the world doesn’t extend beyond the family and their school. This can make the world seem small, which leaves your child’s mind narrow and their worldviews rigid. But by volunteering, your child has a chance to step beyond their circle into a whole new world and experiences. They get to meet and talk with people from different walks of life. The new perspectives they acquire are a key process of empathy.
- Help them with future ambitions. Volunteering can help your teenager’s prospects with further education and employment. The volunteer work they’ve done can be included in their resume. By doing this, your teenager is demonstrating to the admission officers that they’ve acquired vital skills beyond the classroom. They also show that they cared about a cause and were motivated to do something about it. Ultimately, this is proof of compassion, selflessness, character, and self-improvement. This gives your teenager an edge in the competitive admission cycle.
- Improves their soft and leadership skills. Soft skills help your child collaborate with others successfully. People with strong soft skills know how to listen, organize, communicate compassionately. By starting to build their soft skills early through volunteering, your child prepares for the job market. Strong soft skills are in high demand, so many companies sometimes organize community service for their employees. They do this to strengthen teamwork and other interpersonal skills.
- They are making a difference. As part of a disaster relief effort, your child is probably helping build houses for others or provide books for other children to read. While as a donor, they may be helping someone else acquire a skill or a pair of shoes, come back from a health challenge or feed others. Volunteering in their immediate community through neighborhood watch or community cleanups helps keep the neighborhood clean and the crime rate low. Ultimately, whichever volunteer service your child chooses, they are making a big difference. This gives them an enormous sense of self-worth.
- Cultivating gratitude and being appreciated. Children can sometimes see their sheltered existence as something universal. Volunteering can help highlight to your child how privileged they are, thereby cultivating that feeling of gratitude and desire to do more. Also, your child will be appreciated for their volunteer services. A lot of people will tell you how moving it is to be appreciated and thanked for their service. This feeling of appreciation builds your child’s self-esteem.
- Develops friendships and contacts. A wide and varied circle of friends is important for anyone. It gives us different perspectives, somewhere else to go when one friendship is strained, and friendships across age groups and lifestyles. Our children can easily be caught up with just having one group of friends who are all very similar to them. Here we have an article for Your Child Struggles to Make Friends
Volunteer Ideas for Children
You can take advantage of children’s volunteer opportunities with local organizations or create your volunteer opportunities. Below are some volunteer ideas for children.
- Organize park cleanup to tidy it for other children.
- Deliver a get-well card to a local hospital.
- Pick the neighborhood litter with a garbage bag.
- Bake and deliver cookies to a local fire station.
- Ask your child to deliver one of their toys to a community center.
- Start a community garden.
- Support animal rescue organizations by putting coins in the community charity box.
- Visit home shelters to donate art supplies like crayons and markers.
- Organize a neighborhood garage sale and donate the proceeds to a local charity.
- Keep food or water out for stray animals and reach out to a local animal shelter to take them in.
- Help with ticket sales at an elementary school event.
- Volunteer at an Olympics Event.
- Help shelf books at a local library.
- Help decorate a senior center for a holiday.
- Encourage your child to invite a child playing alone to come and join him or her.
- Write to your politicians, encouraging them to support policies that can help preserve an endangered species.
- Ask neighbors to contribute unused clothing for a refugee program.
- Attend political rallies together for a good cause.
- Write letters to troops.
- Befriend an elderly neighbor and help out with chores.
How to Encourage Your Child to Volunteer
Instilling the spirit of volunteering in your child can be achieved through the following ways.
- Put it in the family schedule. You can get your child to get used to the idea of giving back by scheduling it as a family activity. You could take advantage of holidays, anniversaries, or even some weekends. The fun in doing things as a family is not lost on children. To engage your child fully, make them part of the decision process. Let them help decide which charities to support.
- Look for what your child is interested in. Not all children take to volunteering from the get-go. Some might show some level of apathy, and you may have to tease it out of them. Knowing your child’s personality, look for something that soothes their temperament and can get them excited. You can support your child by matching their donation.
- Engage friends and extended family. As your child gets into the flow of giving back, don’t let it stop there. Enlist your friends and extended family to join in. This further solidifies for your child the importance of giving back. The logic here is simple. If your friends and extended family are doing it, then it has got to be important.
- Discuss the impact. Volunteering promotes conversation with your child both during and after the service. This allows you a glimpse into your child’s world, helping to build a stronger bond between both of you. After a volunteer service, discuss the experience with your child. This gives you the chance to know how they’re feeling and to reinforce positive messages.
Final Thoughts on What Volunteering Can Do for Your Child
For starters, volunteering doesn’t have to take up your child’s entire day. It might begin to feel like a chore. So you should consider starting with something easy and fun. Alternatively, you can also introduce your child to volunteering by exposing them to an important social issue or people who need help. The important point is that volunteering and charity work does not have to be a great organized world-changing event. It could easily start with helping a neighbor mow their lawn. It is one of the key components of developing a sense of genuine happiness.