In light of the recent earthquake and disasters in Japan, a lot of talk at our dinner table has centered around helping others and being grateful for what we have. My husband and I frequently talk to the kids about giving back but we always feel like we need to do more and want to find ways to get the kids more involved in activities that help others.
Writing a check to support a charity is definitely one way to help. We always tell the children when we donate money and why we liked that organization. Every year we buy a Christmas gift for a needy child from the YMCA or Palatine Township Giving Trees. The kids go shopping with us to buy the donated items. We also donate money to the World Wildlife Fund every Christmas to support an endangered animal. The kids love the cool, endangered stuffed animal thank you gift. Every year before Christmas, we donate our used toys and clothes to charity. By doing these things consistently, they have become a giving tradition in our family. The kids actually ask about when they are coming up.
Our kids also love one of our Church fundraisers for a local Women’s Shelter. They hand out plastic baby bottles and ask people to fill them with all loose change around the house. Our kids love searching the house for coins to put in the bottle.
But as a family, we would like to do more hands-on work where we can show the kids how our efforts make a positive impact. Some of the activities that we are involved in offer some great opportunities to give back to the community. With our son’s Cub Scouts troop we have packed care packages for our troops with Operation Yellow Ribbon and we've sorted food at the Palatine Food Pantry. When our kids were taking piano lessons, every year their teacher had the kids perform a Halloween concert at a local nursing home. The residents love to see the kids in their costumes playing music. We have helped to clean up the local forest preserve with my daughter’s Adventure Guides group.
We found a wonderful site, MomItForward.com, that is all about changing the world one Mom at a time. The site has a wealth of great suggestions on how to raise giving children. What we love about the Mom It Forward suggestions is that they remind us that we should all be practicing more random acts of kindness at home. It’s important to help strangers, but it is also important and really easy to help those we love.
Some other resources include volunteermatch.org, where you can type in your zip code and interests and find a list of opportunities to volunteer in your community. If you are looking for information on how the family can be more Green, check out the Dr. Seuss Lorax Project, which teaches kids to save the environment and endangered animals. Finally, GenerationOn.com has some great information on how kids can help make a difference. There's some good information on how kids can help in Japan.
What do you and your family do to give back? If you know of any great opportunities for families to volunteer together, please list them here. Any advice on volunteer projects for kids by age?