When children have the opportunity to serve in their community, they develop a desire to help others and make a difference. Not only do they become more aware of others who are less fortunate, they will learn to appreciate the blessings in their own lives. Kids who serve others are more likely to give of their time and treasures for a lifetime.

When you choose a family service project, try to pick something that excites or interests your children because they are much more likely to become invested in the project.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Organize a drive: Collect coats, hats and gloves, blankets, toys or clothing to donate to those in need. Have the kids clean their rooms and sort through items that are in great shape but are no longer needed. Many organizations will collect these items to give to shelters, foster care or victims of fire.
  • Fill the food pantry: Talk with your kids about others who may not have enough to eat. Take them shopping to choose their favorite non-perishable items for meals and snacks to donate to a local food pantry. Try going door to door in your neighborhood to collect even more items.
  • Work outdoors: Help a neighbor, friend or family member who may be unable to do their own yardwork. Offer to rake leaves, shovel snow or mow the lawn. Ask if there are other projects like painting, gardening or maintenance that your family can help with.
  • Work in the kitchen: Everyone loves cookies. Get the kids to help out in the kitchen by baking up some tasty treats to share with friends and neighbors. Consider taking them to a local police or fire station to show your appreciation for their hard work in the community. If you know a family in need, consider taking them a meal and, if appropriate, deliver it as a family.
  • Send cards: Words of encouragement, handmade cards or coloring pages are a great way to brighten a soldier’s day and show your appreciation for the sacrifice they are giving for our country. This is a great way to talk to kids about soldiers, veterans and our country’s freedom that they defend. Nursing homes also appreciate delivery of items like these for their residents.
  • Help a four-legged friend: Animal lovers will enjoy volunteering at a local animal shelter. Typically, shelters need help walking dogs, cleaning cages and giving lonely animals attention. Oftentimes, shelters can also use donations of food, cat litter, bedding and cleaning supplies. Contact your shelter to see if there are things that your family can donate as well.
  • Give back to mother Earth: Kids who love nature may enjoy volunteering to clean up a local park, adopting a street in your city or cleaning up the green space in your own neighborhood. Contact your local school or church to see if there is landscaping that needs attention. Kids can help plant trees, flowers, pull weeds and lay mulch. They will see the beauty of their hard work in no time.
  • Donate proceeds: Do you have a budding entrepreneur in the family? Consider hosting a lemonade stand, garage sale or bake sale, and donating the proceeds to the charity of your choice. This is a great way to teach kids money management and business skills while helping others in need.

These are just a few ideas of how you can serve your community; there are countless others. When parents take the time to serve others, their kids will see volunteering as a priority and will develop a desire to give back as they become adults.