From picking out presents to carefully wrapping each gift and placing it on the hearth, the holidays are a season for giving. If we aren’t mindful, though, it’s easy to become more focused on receiving than giving! To teach your little ones the joy of sharing—not just getting—try out some of these holiday volunteer ideas for kids.
1. Donate Clothes and Toys
Donating clothing and toys is a great way to give to those in need throughout the year, and even more so during the holiday season. Begin by contacting homeless shelters and donation centers in your area to find out what items they’re most in need of.
Explain to your kids that many families can’t afford presents and that they can make a difference by giving away just a few of their less-loved toys. If they seem hesitant, try framing it in terms of “making room” for new ones or “sharing” them with friends in need.
You can also amp up the fun by turning donating into a family extravaganza: sip hot cocoa and listen to cheerful holiday tunes while driving to drop off your clothing and toy donations.
2. Organize a Canned Food Drive
Many food pantries can’t get by on second-hand goods alone. To make a bigger impact, take a “giving road trip” to the grocery store! Nonperishable foods, diapers and toiletries (such as toilet paper and soap) are especially appreciated.
To take it one step further, organize a canned food drive for a local food bank. This is a wonderful way to make a difference and get your community involved, whether you work with your children’s school, your office or your place of worship to hold the drive. You’ll be demonstrating to your little ones how important it is to give back—not only from your own used items but from your paycheck, too.
3. Share Time With Others
Beyond physical donations, one of the best ways to volunteer with kids over the holidays is to give of your time. You don’t have to find an official charity event, either! There are plenty of informal opportunities right there in your day-to-day life:
- Shovel snow, rake leaves or take out the trash for a neighbor.
- Offer to walk a friend’s dogs.
- Assemble holiday-themed healthy goodie bags to share with neighbors.
- Schedule a visit to the local senior center for caroling, card-making or chatting.
- Make handmade cards and distribute them to nursing homes, hospitals or overseas soldiers.
By finding simple ways to share your time, you’ll show your kids that sometimes the most helpful gestures are small, spontaneous acts for the people around us. These quick activities are also perfect if you’re busy trying to survive the holidays with a toddler!
4. Serve a Holiday Meal
Many faith centers, shelters and community service organizations host free holiday dinners for those in need, and volunteers can pitch in by donating ingredients, preparing dishes or serving guests. You and your little ones can also take the holiday cheer on the road through organizations such as Meals on Wheels.
5. Make Your Own Food to Share
There’s no place like home for the holidays…so bring the merry meal-making into your own kitchen! Let your kids choose their favorite dishes and then make them together. You can use your creations to host a charity dinner, fill your neighbors’ fridges or stock the local food pantry.
When making food to share, consider cutting down on potential allergens so that everyone can savor the homemade goodness. If you’re making a meal for a food pantry, check their requirements beforehand.
While you’re frosting Frosty cookies or baking casseroles, chat with your kids about the importance of volunteering and brainstorm fun ways to continue serving others beyond the holiday season.
6. Give Your Kids Ownership
Children have much more fun volunteering when they have some say in the activity. If Harrison loves reading, let him pick out a special book to donate. If Julia is obsessed with dogs, consider volunteering at the local animal shelter! The best volunteer opportunities for kids revolve around their specific interests to teach them that giving back doesn’t have to be a chore.
7. Build a Lifelong Habit
Focusing on your child’s interests is just one way to turn holiday volunteering into a fulfilling long-term habit. To continue encouraging a mindset of service, be sure to:
- Talk about your volunteer experiences as a family: how you felt and what you learned.
- Turn volunteering into an official family ritual, whether it’s a yearly holiday meal service or a monthly toy drive.
- Plan community service together, taking turns choosing activities.
- Make volunteering a part of daily life. In fact, why not start by making it a family new year’s resolution?
Get Inspiration: How Our Team Volunteers with Their Kids
“Every holiday season, my wife, the kids, and I all go through the house floor by floor and “go shopping for others.” Clothes not worn for over a year or outgrown and toys no longer played with are gathered. The kids have a blast and are super excited to help those less fortunate. We then pick a charity to donate everything to—this year’s choice was the Salvation Army. The kids love it because we truly try to teach them that the holidays aren’t just about presents—rather it’s about presence—being able to assist others in need and making their holidays brighter.” – Brent, Father of 2
“Around the holidays, I like to take my children to the Target toy section and have them choose a toy to donate to another child. I tell them to choose something they know they would enjoy receiving so they can earn that some children need the toys more than they do. It’s a nice opportunity to spend time together while giving back.” – Aimee, Mother of 3
“My kids are still a bit too young to volunteer with us, but I’m excited to start introducing them to giving back. My husband and I love volunteering with children and sharing our own experiences. I can’t wait to instill in my own children the importance of giving back.” – Maegan, Mother of 2
The holidays are a wonderful time to volunteer with kids. Not only will you spend precious time together, but you’ll develop a spirit of giving, gratitude and empathy that will enrich your children’s lives—and those around them—for years to come. So why wait? Get out there and spread the holiday joy!