Virtual Volunteering Part TWO: 8 Amazing Ideas for Children and Families
The dog days of summer are the perfect time to help your child give back by volunteering and participating in charitable activities. There are TONS of opportunities… but who has time to look for the right ones, right?
Here is my list of 8 super-fun and super-meaningful opportunities to get children of all ages involved in volunteering. Each of these ideas are super-easy, can be completed from anywhere at pretty much anytime, and can be done by an individual child, a group of children, or with the whole family – whatever works for you!
Looking for a way to keep kids busy for an afternoon? What about on a rainy day? Looking for something for the kids to do when they visit grandparents? These ideas have your back. They are even great for birthday party activities, boy/girl scout activities and family picnics.
Which will be your family favorites?
IDEA 1: Write letters of Gratitude for people serving in the military
Through Operation Gratitude children can write notes and create drawings that will be collected, bundled and sent along with care packages to Troops, Veterans, new recruits, wounded heroes and first responders. This is a great activity even for the youngest of children – simple handprints and random, colorful painting spread cheer among the troops!
Over and over again the recipients say that the letters and drawings from children are the most cherished items in the boxes!
The website gives instructions and suggestions that are easy to follow.
IDEA 2: Support a local classroom by fulfilling a request from a teacher
Teachers and students from all over the US need your help to bring classroom dreams to life. From crayons, field trips and telescopes to special equipment and other supplies, you and your child can look through and choose teacher-requested items from neighborhood schools at the “Donors Choose” website.
The site is primarily a funding site so after choosing something to support you can make a donation of any amount. Your child can do a little fundraising by organizing a lemonade stand, doing yardwork for neighbors, collecting chore money at home, etc. and donate towards the items. It’s a great opportunity to talk about school activities and how individuals can have direct impact in the community.
An alternative suggestion is to add a geography aspect to it, by having your child pick a location on the US map and searching for a teacher request from there. It presents the perfect opportunity to explore history facts and interesting points of interest from that location as part of the discussion of helping out the classroom.
Check out the Donors Choose website at:
IDEA 3: Inspire people to recycle by painting Recycle Bins
Paper and plastic make up about half the waste in landfills and you can encourage others to do something about it!
You and your child can paint colorful motifs (flowers, patterns, etc.) on recycling bins and donate them to your school or local library. But wait…. feeling like it’s too much to pick up recycling bins and paint them? Or maybe you need an activity ASAP and you don’t have time to go pick up recycling bins…. Print the recycling symbol out on several pieces of paper and have your child decorate them, then donate those signs to local businesses, schools and libraries to hang on or near their recycle bins.
This is just one campaign of many – DoSomething.org – a global movement or good – is a site with over 100 different campaigns for children, teens and young adults to get involved and make a difference – from environmental projects to social activism and more. Most of the projects have a decidedly teenager/college-student slant but can easily be modified for younger children. And all of them are great for group activities. Young people join, participate in the activities, and then upload photos to share their projects and celebrate together. Check out their website at:
The recycle bin painting campaign can be found here (as of Summer 2019):
IDEA 4: Help track birds and insects as a citizen scientist for journey North
If your child has a passion for nature you must check out JourneyNorth.org where your child can create an account and help track migrating birds and insects while following their movements on line and learning all kinds of cool facts. Get your binoculars ready and go out to your local park to explore! Your child can log in and report sightings, view sightings, check out maps of migrations and learn all kinds of cool facts about the species of their choice.
Current projects include hummingbirds, American Robins, butterflies, eagles and more. There’s even a sunlight and seasons project to help track patterns of seasonal change. These projects provide amazing opportunities for exploration, learning and discussions and are great for individual children and groups. Going camping? Taking a trip for vacation? Why not add an educational volunteer experience your whole family will enjoy! Check out the campaigns and register at:
IDEA 5: Easy-Knit hats for gifts and shelters while supporting mothers in the poorest countries
Christmas in July? Why wait until winter to get started on gift-making?
KidKnits has a great backstory – it was founded by a young girl, Ellie, who learned about Rwanda in school and wanted to help communities there. It’s a great story to share with your children as an example of charitable entrepreneurship – you can do it at ANY age!
$20 – $25 purchases a kit that includes everything necessary to weave/knit a warm winter hat with hand-made yarn created by village women in Rwanda.
The kit includes instructions, the loom and the yarn, and after you buy one full kit you can purchase additional sets of yarn for $11 – $13 to make additional hats. Purchasing the kits and yarn through KidKnits means much-needed income goes to families who desperately need it.
It takes about 3 hours to make a hat and these are great for family winter holiday gifts, as well as donating to local homeless shelters. The organization has expanded to include yarns from Chile and Kenya as well. On the KidKnits website children can learn all about the process of making the yarn and read short stories about the actual women in the countries who make the yarn. There’s even specific lesson plans aimed at grades 4 through 6.
Check out their website at: http://kidknits.org/
IDEA 6: Run a race anywhere, anytime and support a charity
VirtualKidsRun.org was created to help kids develop an active and healthy lifestyle while giving back to others. Have your child sign up and look through the available races to choose the one that most interests them. Then, whenever it’s most convenient, time your child running the race. Upload a finish photo and time and your child will get their medal or trophy in the mail soon after.
When you register for a race you get awesome details about the organization which you can further explore with your child. It’s a great motivator and it’s something the whole family can do together. You could even set up a race day with a group of your child’s friends. #SummerFun
One awesome example race is the current “Run for Mia” where participants earn a collector trophy replica of Mia the spotted leopard – a current inhabitant of the Waystation. A portion of your registration fee for the race goes directly towards her upkeep and you can learn all about Mia and further explore spotted leopards and the Waystation with your child as part of the race experience.
Grab your running shoes and start collecting medals and trophies while supporting a wide variety of causes!
IDEA 7: Become a citizen-scientist and help explore the light pollution’s effects on ecosystems
Globe At Night is a program of the National Optical Astronomy Observatory and part of the National Science Foundation. It is an international citizen-science campaign to raise awareness of the impact of light pollution by inviting citizen-scientists to measure and submit nightly sky brightness observations.
It’s super easy to do – all you need is a computer or smart phone. Throughout the year the organization posts specific constellations they want you to hunt for – giving you directions on how to find them (with photos and maps) and cool facts about the stars and the constellation, including mythology. For the child who loves astronomy this is an amazing way to volunteer and get involved! Perfect for late, hot, summer nights and building family memories! Who doesn’t love star-gazing!?!!?
Check out the details and the latest constellation campaigns on their website at: https://www.globeatnight.org/
IDEA 8: Encourage summer reading and foster literacy around the world in the process
Ah, summer reading…. Some children love it, some need constant nagging to do it. Encourage their reading by helping them donate used books once they are done with them.
You can easily donate them locally – most local Food Pantries will take them to leave out for clients (and most clients don’t have disposable income they can allot to books for their children) – or you can collect them and send them to an organization to share your books around the world! One such organization is “Books for Africa” – an organization that collects, sorts, ships and distributes books to African students of all ages, fostering a culture of literacy.
It’s easy to participate, simply box up and ship your used books to the organization. They’ll take any popular fiction or non-fiction books (hard and soft cover), textbooks that are 15 years old or newer, children’s books and more. The books help children who would otherwise not attend school by supplying them materials for learning. According to the US Agency for International Development, 40% of school-age children in Africa do not attend school. 46 million African children have never set foot in a classroom. Many of those that do attend school have never owned a book of their own. So your child’s used books make a HUGE difference in these children’s lives.
Add some fun to summer reading by holding a book-a-thon contest where a group of children read as many books as they can in a set amount of time. The individual who read the most books wins a prize (like a certificate to a local ice cream store). Another idea for an extra twist is to have your child create a drawing of something from the book after reading it. Mail the book in but keep the drawing. By the end of the summer your family could have a collection of drawings!
Check out details about the Books for Africa program here: https://www.booksforafrica.org/index.html
Creating opportunities for your child to get involved, give back, and volunteer teaches empathy, provides opportunities to explore new interests and develop new passions, encourages civic responsibility, and can help them develop new perspectives around their place in the world and the impact they can have. Plus… it’s FUN!!! And is an amazing avenue for creating family memories. So, what are you waiting for?
Do you have additional ideas for volunteering and charity work for children? I’d love to hear them! Leave them in the comments section for all to share.
Thank you for joining me this week! HAPPY SUMMER!