40 Ways for Kids to Volunteer!

Hey Readers! This just came in over the transom (okay, over email):  A lovely list of really great ideas for how to get kids volunteering. For instance: Take shelter dogs for a walk. Babysit to help a single parent.  Form a clean-up crew to go in and help a senior clean her apartment.  And so many more!

This is a subject close to my heart. My son and I help out in a homeless shelter and he’s there sort of sub rosa. Most volunteer jobs — like most other jobs, even newspaper delivery — now insist that participants be at least 18 years old. Yes, for insurance reasons. And also for not-believing-in-kids reasons. Discouraging volunteering is  yet another way to discourage kids from taking responsibility and connecting with their community. So check out the list and be inspired! — Lenore

25 Responses

  1. My son loves to volunteer. Sometimes it is easier as a group (Cub Scouts), probably because of insurance reasons and group reputation. My 7 yo will help a dog rescue show dogs at adoption day. He helps make cards for the local nursing home. He collects food for the Church pantry. He donates from his collection of toys to the local DCF office for children in bad circumstances who need to be removed from their homes & the local domestic vilence shelter. I have a knack fir finding freebies, he’ll often politely ask for extras so he can give them to those in need

    I lead by example as charity begins at home. While he can’t help out everywhere he wants, he does what he can. Though we don’t have much money, he was thrilled to give up an item from his wish list to select toys for our Church giving tree this past Christmas.

    I know when we venture to NYC he wants to help those who live on the street. So we always save some extra $$ to put in the collection jars for the Coalition for the Homeless. The volunteer is often overzealous with praise & thanks for his donation as others rush by averting their eyes. My son blushes and quietly says your welcome, proud that he is allowed to help.

  2. Thank you for addressing this! Tweens and young teens are most eager to volunteer, but there are so few places for them to do so. Sad.

  3. What a great list. I’ve been really disappointed by how many places refuse to let kids volunteer (unless it’s part of some mandatory school “volunteering” service project – a pet dislike of mine).

    A couple to add:

    Food sorting at a food bank. The one in San Francisco used to do great group projects that were fantastic for a family to do together. You could also dress up as packet of food and help raise awareness at collections outside supermarkets if you were more extrovert. Also particularly good if you’re looking for a way to indirectly help kids too as a higher percentage of children are food insecure than adults – they really need these services.

    Wikipedia – there are quite a few young editors and admins on the site. If your kid is mature and likes more scholarly pursuits this is a project that is having a major impact on people’s access to knowledge. I would probably have preferred something a bit more active as a kid, and some parents might be nervous about the site since some content is very adult, but for some kids this would be perfect.

  4. A few other things my daughter and her friends have done:

    They went to a women’s shelter and swept leaves off the playground in the backyard.

    They spent an afternoon at a senior center (which I know is on the list), but what they did was a little different and very popular. Each girl brought a doll (they all brought American Girl dolls, but they wouldn’t have to be) and they each took turns telling about their dolls… then went to the residents and showed them their dolls. What surprised me the most was that several of the residents invited us to their rooms to see their doll collects! So we went to their rooms and they told us about THEIR dolls!

    Another thing they’ve done is get together to make knotted fleece blankets to donate– women’s shelters, crisis pregnancy places, etc. love these.

  5. In Portland, OR kids can also volunteer at the community gardens that the Oregon Food Bank has to help feed the homeless.

  6. When I was in high school we needed 200+ hours of community service to graduate. Currently, I believe they need 400. So, there is hope.🙂

  7. My library system allows kids to volunteer. I think they start around 4th or 5th grade. I see tons of kids that sign in and do jobs for the librarian. They are there a good portion of the day during school holidays.

  8. When I was 10 I volunteered at the local farm park, (Frying Pan Park, for those of you would might live in Northern Virginia), I spent 2 hours once a week collecting eggs, feeding and watering the animals, and helping out with other projects. It really was a wonderful experience, and I wish kids now had the same opportunities, I am only 26 now but things have changed so much in the last number of years. Even things like organizing a coat drive or food drive can really help a kid connect to the real world. Thanks so much for the suggestions!

  9. What… what… kid’s can’t volunteer, they might experience life and get exposed to all those falling and tripping and eating and walking and breathing and thinking and talking and biking and running and playing and fun having and lesson learning risks that are out there… oh wait… I’m all for that!

  10. In 1990, when my daughter was 13, I told her to go volunteer somewhere and get the heck out of my hair. She jumped on her bike and looked around our town.

    She stopped at a local retirement home. On her own she walked in and volunteered. She spent every day that summer in that home. She talked with the residents, helped with meals, and even helped the staff with mail and filing, etc.

    She’s now 33 and is a paralegal in state family law.

  11. Check with your local organization before running over there to volunteer. My 17-year-old son was turned down when he tried to volunteer at several animal shelters. (They only accept volunteers over 18.) Luckily, he found another organization that welcomed his help.

  12. I work for a small, community-based, non-profit that actively encourages children of all ages to participate. Helping them to develop a connection to their community and to nature (we’re a watershed organization) shows them that they can make a difference. Being empower to change their world for the better is such a powerful thing for kids. Not every volunteer opportunity we have is appropriate for various maturity or skill level, but as often as possible we want everyone working together to make our community the best it can be.

  13. I was a tour guide at a local history museum when I was 10 or 11. The museum was a large, late Victorian home that had been built by one of the town’s early bankers; there were displays of clothes, furnishings, etc., from the family or from the period. I had to learn talking points that took about an hour to deliver at “normal” speed.

    It was great fun. Sometimes a larger group, sometimes just one or two people, but I met people from all over the US (and a few from Europe!).

  14. My daughter, fiance and their friends volunteer with the Coast Keepers, a large group that takes elementary inter-school kids to the beach (some have actually never seen it before) to pick up trash and generally clean up the area. Being they’re in their early 20s, it ‘s really great that they not only enjoy helping out, they are actually doing some real good for the area and teaching the younger ones to be responsible for themselves by working together as a group and not trash our natural resources. And the young ones looked up to them as role models, which we seem to have a lack of in this day and age. Very satisfying.

  15. My boys are active with foster dogs that we host in our home from the local humane society. They work with the dogs on leash training, basic obedience and house manners. Plus when the dog is ready for adoption we can proudly let prospective families know the dog is “kid certified”

  16. Do most volunteer jobs require that kids be 18? That surprises me, because I review applications for college scholarships and volunteer work during high school seems to be almost de rigeur.

  17. […] 40 Ways for Kids to Volunteer! Hey Readers! This just came in over the transom (okay, over email):  A lovely list of really great ideas for how to […] […]

  18. Kate – There are a lot of restrictions for some of the volunteer jobs. My son volunteers at a soup kitchen. He’s supposed to be 16, but he’s only 15. They haven’t checked. Our church sponsors a mission trip every summer and there are many restrictions on those, too. Habit for Humanity volunteers need to be 18 or older.

    One idea that wasn’t on the list was to help out one of your own neighbors. Is there a senior nearby who might need raking, shoveling, help with groceries, changing light bulbs, etc. Kind of like an “Adopt a Granny” program.

    Hank the Cowdog – Is your name from the books? We LOVED them when my son was little! Don’t tell, but sometimes when we go to the library to hang out I go over to the kids section and read some of the new books.

  19. Lenore,

    I heard you speak at Near North Montessori in Chicago last evening. I felt fortunate to give substance to your blog which I’ve been subscribing to for some time. (We were the under-age boozers)

    My son is 3. He volunteers / insists on working in the kitchen. His tasks are advanced for his age relative to the society we live in. I wonder if in other countries he might be considered lacking.

    We hope to lead by example in the area of volunteering outside of the home so that when he’s able, he may choose to do so himself.

  20. My niece, who is now a freshman in college, was president of her high school’s “stream team” in southwestern Missouri (Ozark mountains). This was much more than just a float-trip club – they did everything from taking trash bags with them on floats to collect trash to going to the state capitol to lobby against dams and intrusive development (everything from vacation condo complexes to pollution from high-density hog/ chicken factory farms) on or near wild rivers. Environmental radicals in swim suits, bless their hearts.

  21. Just thought I’d share this
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/us_child_air_traffic
    Thought it might be important to note that no planes crashed! Isn’t it amazing what kids can do when we teach them and let them take the reins? Also noted, he had a safety net so to speak, as the parent was nearby and he wasn’t just going into it blind.

  22. This is great! my kids are pretty young, but we still find small ways to volunteer together as a family. I was shocked last summer at how hard it was to find an organization that would let my very responsible 15-year-old stepson volunteer for them. I’ll have to pass this list on to him next summer.

  23. In Portland, OR kids can also volunteer at the community gardens that the Oregon Food Bank has to help feed the homeless.

  24. I don’t think I would have so much fun with my freiends with that they liitter and HATE old ppl,got anymore?:)

  25. More suggastions?

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