As our annual Inside Out Club Fall Family 5K is approaching, I’ve been thinking a lot about family-friendly volunteering. Running or walking for a great cause is a simple, meaningful way to involve your kids in giving back – especially your youngest – but the opportunities don’t stop there.

 

We’ve revived one of our past blogs with even more ideas – check it out, and get started!

Kids are never too young to start volunteering.

I know – it can be hard to imagine taking your toddler with you to school auction meetings. Are you now envisioning your three-year-old pulling the tablecloth out from under an intricately decorated auction table? How about simply staying quiet for an hour while you chat with the adults? I have two boys and if you told me they could volunteer when they were that age, I’d have thought you were crazy. But now I see that a child of any age can start volunteering with their parents, grandparents, or caregivers. It’s never too early!

The key is matching the volunteer opportunity to the child’s age.

Easier said than done, right? What can your three-year-old do alongside you, especially when it seems so many organizations just need the help of teens and adults? We are here to help you brainstorm!

A toddler can join you for an hour trash pick-up project (bonus – who can find the most, or the yuckiest?), or your toddler can pop into a stroller for your next 5K walk to raise money for charity (a great way show your kids that you prioritize and value community involvement). A two-year-old can lay a pillow on a pad at a DuPagePads site with help from you, and a four-year-old can make dog treat boxes for the Humane Society. Invite your five-year-old to help pick out the best patterned fabric for fleece-tie blankets to be made and donated to local hospital patients.

But, how do you connect it all? The trick is in explaining to your children the “whys” – ask them why it’s important to pick up trash. Explain to your two-year-old why they’re putting a pillow on a pad. When you get home that night, explain it again as he places his head on his own pillow.

Elementary-aged kids are becoming more and more aware of challenges their peers go through such as having cancer, families not being able to afford the same clothes and food as they have, bullying, having trouble learning – the list goes on. The opportunity for them to do something about it is here – they just might need your help getting there.

“Is there something in the world that makes your heart feel sad?” 

Ask your kids what they think about helping others their age, or protecting our planet, or caring for animals. Help them explore ways to meet a need in the community, and consider how it will fit into your family’s schedule. Not only is this a great conversation starter on some tough issues, but it will get them fired up to volunteer when they are passionate about the cause.

Need some ideas to get started? Check out our six core social causes or a list of local nonprofits at Inside Out Club Through Community (many of our partners are national organizations).

For my kids, it’s all about dogs and cats

My boys both attended the Naperville Area Humane Society’s Summer Camp and loved it! Annie our youngest had to join in like her “big brothers.” For her 4th birthday, she collected toys at her birthday party for the “doggies and kitties.”

When's a Good Age to Start Volunteering Donation to Humane Society

Find a charity in your community championing your child’s favorite cause with a quick “Google” search.

Contact the charity to find out what their needs are and how you can help. Let them know the time you have to give and work together to determine a great volunteer project. Middle school and high school students are able to take on more responsibility with their volunteering efforts. As teens are able to perform more complex tasks for charities, it is often easier to find these opportunities. Great places to start include: volunteer fairs, high schools, churches, community organizations and municipal websites.

I hope these tips have convinced you that no matter what the age of your child – now’s a great age to start volunteering together.

By Marion Ruthig

Want more information? Check out the following resources:

In the Naperville, Illinois Area – http://www.naperville.il.us/serviceopps.aspx – community service opportunities http://www.kidsmatter2us.org/volunteer/ – hosts local volunteer fair, volunteer opportunities https://www.insidoutclub.org/ – volunteer opportunities for families with kids ages 3-12 Related articles & information- http://www.parents.com/parenting/better-parenting/style/volunteer-with-your-kids/ http://www.scholastic.com/parents/resources/article/global-awareness/how-and-why-your-child-should-start-volunteering http://www.volunteermatch.org/

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