I grew up in a family where service was one of our Christmas traditions. We would buy gifts for kids off of giving trees, spend a day baking cookies and then deliver them to neighbors and friends, and go caroling at nursing homes. For me, serving others has always been part of the holidays.
As I’ve gotten older and had kids of my own, we’ve continued to make community volunteering a part of our Christmas traditions. Since my oldest was just a toddler, we have shown our kids that giving to others through acts of service can be simple – and benefits you almost as much as it does others!
I know that it can be hard to plan volunteer activities that involve kids, but there are so many opportunities in the Twin Cities to serve, especially in the winter! We have such an amazing, diverse population, and no matter what your family is into, there are lots of ways to serve others in our communities.
Here are 20 easy service ideas to do with kids this holiday:
- Drop off pet food, blankets, or towels to an animal shelter.
- Pick out gifts from a giving tree.
- Donate new or gently-used toys or clothes to a homeless shelter or women’s shelter.
- Visit a nursing home and play games, sing songs, or read books to the elderly.
- Draw pictures or write letters to send to soldiers.
- Make thank you gifts and hand them out to cashiers, custodians, bus drivers, or other people who help in the community.
- Leave a nice note in the mailbox for your mail carrier.
- Leave treats on your porch for delivery drivers bringing packages to your house.
- Pack sack lunches and hand them out around your community.
- Collect activity kits for children in the hospital.
- Play with a new mom’s older kids so she can have some one-on-one time with baby.
- Take thank you cards to first responders.
- Decorate cookies and deliver them to neighbors or friends.
- Decorate placemats or lunch bags for Meals on Wheels.
- Shovel snow for neighbors.
- Walk a neighbor’s dog.
- Help package food for hungry children (Feed My Starving Children is a great place to volunteer).
- Help prepare a meal and bring it to a neighbor or friend.
- Help organize a collection in your neighborhood or community (you could collect food, pet supplies, clothes, toys, books, winter clothing, or sports equipment).
- Donate books to the library.
It doesn’t matter if your children are 2 or 18, if you have one or four. There are tons of ways kids can serve others and give back to the community. Get them involved in choosing one (or a few!) of these easy service ideas and they’ll be more invested when they help out.
I found this out a few weeks ago, when I took my five-year-old daughter with me to help package meals for kids in Nicaragua. She didn’t say much while we were there, but she smiled and didn’t complain, or even ask when we would be done. After two hours we finished, and we sat down to hear how many meals we had helped package. I asked her how she felt about being able to serve those kids, even though she didn’t know them, and she said it made her feel good inside. I could tell that she knew she had done the right thing and felt good about her service, even if it wasn’t as fun as playing at the park or watching her favorite movie.
I would encourage you to consider getting your kids involved in community volunteering this holiday season. Even if it doesn’t take a long time, the effects will last and benefit not only those you serve, but your family, too!