Here are 25 ways to give as a family this year. Yes, you can give and volunteer with toddlers and young children! All of these volunteering ideas can be done as a whole family, because it is never too early to teach our children about the importance of giving!
Volunteering with kids
“Those who are the happiest are those who do the most for others.”
-Booker T. Washington
This time of year, children start thinking about all the things they want for Christmas and begin writing lists and letters to Santa. This year, instead of only thinking of what they want, help your children recognize how much they get by giving to others! Teach your kids that there are so many different ways to give.
Here are 25 ways to give as a family this year. These ideas are perfect for families of all sizes, and most of these activities can be done with toddlers and little kids!
This list has volunteering ideas for toddlers and young kids as well as ways they can give and help others in their community.
You can try doing all of these activities in December (one for each day until Christmas), or you could pick and choose just a few that work for your family and go from there.
If you want this list in a 1-page printable, it's available at the bottom of this article! Just make to read through the list first to get all the tips for each volunteering opportunity with kids.
1. Rake leaves or shovel snow for a neighbor
Yes, you’ll end up doing most of the work. But giving your child a shovel, a rake, or a broom to help out and doing it as a family will bring joy and pride to your little one and teach them how important it is to help a neighbor.
2. Clear the table *or* return the shopping cart
The next time you go to a self-serve restaurant, have your children offer to clear someone else’s table. It will bring such joy to both your child and the person they are serving, plus it’s something “I can do all by myself” for those independent children!
If this is not an option for you right now, try showing your child how important it is to put the shopping cart back and how it helps the people who work at the store and also helps the next family have a shopping cart for their groceries.
3. Volunteer to pet-sit
Many people travel over the holidays. See if any of your neighbors or friends need a pet-sitter. Kids love to help feed and keep pets company while their owners are away. This is a great volunteering opportunity for toddlers (under supervision, of course!) because that sense of responsibility will make them feel so proud!
4. Create a care package for someone who is unable to leave the house during the holidays
This year is especially difficult for those who are unable to be with family and friends for various reasons. Put together a basket with snacks, nice warm socks, books, puzzles, games, etc… that show that person you love them!
If you can, visit them often and wave hello through the window.
5. Bring food to someone
We all know how helpful it is when someone brings us a meal. Find a friend or someone in your community who could use a meal, or a fun snack box, and bring it to them. Have the kids help assemble and deliver the meal. They’re sure to remember it.
This is a great way to help out a family without putting them on the spot. Tell them you worked together with your child to think of special people in your lives and bring them food, without singling them out!
6. Make a “Thank You” basket for the delivery people
My kids LOVE when we get packages in the mail (that's why we LOVE Raddish Kids). Set up a basket for the delivery people outside the front door. Have the kids help keep it stocked. Put out water bottles and small snack bags with a sign that says “Thank You!”
A little joy to break up the monotony of doing deliveries all day makes a huge difference!
7. Leave a note
Decorate a card, color a picture, or write a nice note for someone and leave it on their car windshield or door to their house. Something as simple as "Have a nice day!" or "We hope you're having a great December!" would work.
If your kids are patient enough, sit and wait for the person to come back and see the note. Your kids are sure to be rewarded with a big smile from a complete stranger. Feel free to up the game with flowers or candy, if you're giving this to a neighbor and they will know it's from you. (Otherwise candy from a stranger might seem creepy on a windshield or by the front door haha).
8. Bring hot chocolate to someone
The next time you head out on a cold day, pack a disposable travel mug (or an older one you want to give away) with hot chocolate. Drop it off to the local crossing guard who is out in the cold helping kids get to school safely, or to someone on a corner asking for food or money. It is sure to bring a smile to their faces!
9. Read a book to a pet
Your toddler may not be able to read yet, but animals are non-judgmental. They can show the animal the pictures and tell them the story. Being with the animals will fill their hearts with such joy at Christmas, and the animal will reward them with lots of love!
10. Donate to a food pantry
Look through your pantry at home or make a special shopping trip to get some non-perishable goodies. Give away food to a pantry, church, or other food drop-off location. Talk about the types of foods that kids like, and have your children give away something that’s their favorite to share with another child.
Encourage them to imagine the little boys or girls who will be enjoying the special treats. This is such a good way for kids to help their community!
11. Volunteer at an animal shelter *or* drop off supplies
Lots of shelters are looking for extra hands to help with feeding pets and visiting animals. Call ahead and ask when is a good time to come in and volunteer with young children and what young children can do (such as fill the bowls with food while the animals are not around, etc.).
If your local animal shelter has an age minimum for volunteers and your kids are too young, then put together a care package with old towels and blankets, paper towels, cleaning supplies, and pet food for the animal shelter.
Your kids can help you write a nice note to the shelter volunteers or to the animals. If we're writing letters to Santa, why not write letters to animals too, right??
12. Deliver flowers to someone
Pick up a bouquet of flowers (or pick some wildflowers!) and find someone to deliver them to. You could pick a teacher, neighbor, family friend, or someone special to the family. Either way, let your child decide who gets the flowers and deliver them together.
13. Give away toys
Before getting new toys, have your kids go through their old toys and pick a few things that they would like for some other boy or girl to enjoy. You'll be surprised how giving kids can be if you explain the concept to them! Yes, even those same kids who are screaming "MINE! I DON'T WANT TO SHARE!" during a plate date. 🙂
14. Decorate snowflakes to hang in your window
Decorating your house so others can see is a form of giving. Snowflakes and happy messages make people smile as they walk by, and it's important to show kids how easy it is to make people happy and make the world a better place.
Have the kids make snowflakes, snowmen, or any seasonal decorations to hang in the windows in the front of the house to greet neighbors walking by. This can be done for ANY holiday or season!
15. Make a card or craft for the neighbor
Decorate cards or other coloring pages, and deliver them to neighbors (or grandparents). Or make this cute and easy Christmas tree paper craft with your kids. Have your kids do the decorating and delivering.
16. Compliment someone and say “Thank You”
This is a HUGE act of giving that we often forget about, and something kids will learn from their parents… so, when you’re out, if you think someone was kind or funny, say so. Involve your kids: ask them, “wasn’t it nice for that man to hold the door for us? Let’s tell him thank you!”.
Involve your children in Thank-You's and compliments!
17. Donate clothes
Go through closets and find clothes that don’t fit or aren’t ever worn. Find a family in need or donate them to a shelter.
18. Take cookies to the neighbors
Make a plate of cookies and deliver them to neighbors and friends. Have the kids do the delivery.
19. Give to the Salvation Army / Girl Scouts / Local Organization Bucket
When you go to the grocery store and see a bucket or high school kids raising money for their school clubs, give your child some change to drop in. Watch your kids grin from ear to ear when they get a thank you from the bell ringer or from the local kids who are asking for donations.
20. Give and create gifts
Giving starts in the family. Involve the kids in picking and creating gifts for other members of the family. Have your kids help wrap the presents too!
21. Send gifts to those in need
Find an organization like Operation Shoebox, Operation Christmas Child, or Angel Tree to help. Kids love assembling boxes for others to give away! Just watch the deadlines - a lot of these ask for you to deliver the boxes BEFORE December.
I know from experience that Samaritan's Purse is a great organization that has done a lot for the Bahamas after hurricane Dorian and throughout 2020, so they are a great organization to be involved with, regardless of your faith.
Kids love to help with other kids, especially with a baby. Offer to watch someone’s kids so they can go shopping, and let your kiddo understand that they’re giving their time to help someone else.
23. Zoom/Skype/Video chat
Have your kiddos prepare a song or color a picture for a family member or friend and share it on a video chat. It will make Great Grandma’s day to see those kiddos… even if they don’t talk long, it will be a special memory on both ends and it teaches your children the importance of spending time with someone and taking a moment to do something special for someone in their life.
24. Pick up a mess
Help the children help clean up for someone else, whether at home, at a play area, or in daycare. Teach them that it is kind to help others.
Another option is to go to a local park or beach and pick up trash. Give them a trash bag and some rubber gloves and they will be volunteering, spending time outdoors, and moving around and being active at the same time. Obviously you should supervise the kids so they don't pick up anything dangerous!
25. Adopt a family
This website has instructions for how to "adopt a family" and a list of organizations where you can find a family in need this holiday season. Give those organizations a call and ask if you can “adopt a family.” They can usually match you with a family with kids of similar age. You can shop for food and presents for them. Depending on the organization, you may be able to “deliver Christmas” to their door and see the huge smiles on their faces!
The things you do to make life better for others will make a HUGE and LASTING impact on your children! This winter, see if you can try a few of these 25 ways to give as a family this year.
And then continue the tradition throughout the new year!
Teach your children the joy of giving!
Download this list as a free printable: 25 Ways to Give as a Family
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