My 8th grader has to log 10 hours of community service this year as part of her middle school graduation requirements. Personally I love that she and I have had conversations about some of the things she can do to give back to the community. She has already put a few hours toward her required goal by painting classrooms at a local school.
It’s pretty easy to focus on giving back during the holidays. We see constant reminders of need, from food drives at the neighborhood grocery store checkout line to toy donation bins at retailers. But what about the rest of the year?
I love the calendar of giving concept as well as these ideas for kids featured in a Working Moms Against Guilt blog post entitled How to Start Giving as a Family All Year Long.
5 Easy Ways to Give Back as a Family
- Birthday Celebrations in a Box: Start a tradition of generosity on your kids’ birthdays by hosting a party in which all of the birthday child’s friend’s assemble individual boxes of goodies (including cake mix, frosting and candles) for a group of needy children so they can enjoy nice birthdays too.
- Stuffed Shirts: Help your kids stuff a t-shirt or gym bag with soap, shampoo, a toothbrush and other necessary toiletries. These are precious and hard to come by items for those living on the streets or in extreme poverty.
- All Dolled Up: Help your kids and their friends choose, clean and dress up gently used dolls to pass on to little ones in need.
- One Book at a Time: Have your kids choose and buy one book a month to send to a book-hungry child in need. Encourage your kid to write a letter to include with the book and create a new pen pal.
- Sponsor a Family: Through your local food pantry, Family-to-Family or another charity, your family can provide grocery donations every month that give a family in need 7 dinners. Enhance your sponsorship by occasionally sending old, gently used clothes and personal letters, especially from your kids to those in the sponsored families.
From the Working Moms Against Guilt article: Sharing your bounty with those who have far less is not only surprisingly easy and fun, but will enrich your family’s life in ways you won’t realize until you’re in the “doing.” I hear frequently from donating moms and dads throughout the country that they are amazed at how much a “Calendar of Giving” has taught their children about empathy and generosity of spirit. What better way than to open their own hearts in new and positive ways?
Community service is not only working toward a common good…it is good for your health. A study by UnitedHealth Group and the Optum Institute finds that volunteering is linked to better physical, mental and emotional health.
What ideas do you have for teaching your children the value of giving back year-round? And let us know if you try the giving calendar idea!
Jamie Reeves is a Nashville-based writer, editor, and lover of all things social media. She and her husband Alan have two daughters, two dogs, and too much laundry. This busy soccer mom can typically be found cheering from the sidelines or in her car on the way to school or sports practices. She loves traveling with her family and exploring fun things to do in Middle Tennessee. Jamie has been pontificating about poop and pinot noir at Blonde Mom Blog, since 2005.