When you identify a need within your local community and would like to help, a good first step is to reach out to existing organizations related to your cause for ideas and information. This is particularly true if your goal is to get children involved. Ask if they can provide materials and activities for kids to help you pique their interest—child-specific content from these programs can make your life a whole lot easier! Even without prepared materials, a great way to get children interested in helping out is to make a game or learning activity out of the process.
Helping out a local food bank is a popular volunteer activity for au pairs, parents and children. We use this cause in the following example to provide suggestions that you can apply to nearly any activity to motivate children. To empower kids to get involved and have fun learning about the values of community and giving back, we suggest:
Make it a game! Perhaps your local food bank needs supplies. Begin a conversation with your kids about the idea that some people don’t have enough to eat. Ask how it makes them feel and let them brainstorm how they’d like to help. Ask what they would like to give to someone that was hungry if they could. Then steer the conversation to the food pantry and its list of needs.
Encourage your children to select a number of items from the needs list and then pick one item they want to give (that may or may not be on the list) as their special contribution. Create a shopping list together and go to the store to make the purchases. Perhaps you let one of the children write the list. Next, you can go on a shopping safari and hunt each item on the list one by one. With multiple children, they can take turns leading the search party!
You can make a game and assign responsibilities according to the capability of each child: let one child cross items off the list as they are found; let one child take items off the shelves or have children take turns; let one child use a calculator to add up how much the items cost; you can have children round to the nearest dollar for each item going in and keep a running tally; or simply count the number of items going into the cart. Be creative! You’ll be helping your kids with lessons in math, leadership and following directions.
You can further engage and entertain your kids if you have them draw a picture and write a note to include with the donation, or you can even have the children decorate reusable or paper shopping bags to fill with the donation items. When you’re ready to make the donation, call the pantry ahead of time to let them know about your plan to get your kids involved. Ask if someone can be available to greet them specially when you arrive. Encourage your children to talk with this person about the adventures you had and the special item they chose to donate.
So many volunteer activities are available for families to enjoy together. Hopefully, this example has been helpful to illustrate creative ways to get kids involved in the good work. If you have any thoughts or suggestions about this topic, please share in the comments section. We look forward to hearing from you!