the kind life

10 Volunteer Ideas That Help Children Learn About Compassion

kids protesting

Most children are too young to volunteer at brick-and-mortar nonprofit offices, which is a shame since they are often more passionate than adults. Still, there are ways to get kids started on their path towards compassion, and many start at home with just their imagination and a few supplies.

My son, Bear, has done so much activism on his own. He started a stand at our community farmers’ market selling local oranges when he was quite small. He made an adorable messed-up sign, used orange crates, and then donated the money he earned — his idea — to Farm Sanctuary.

When I was shooting “Sister Of The Groom” in the Hamptons, he was upset by people fishing on the beach, so he made a lemonade stand and sold snacks, and raised $60 (well, it was the Hamptons after all!) and donated it all to Sea Shepherd!

Bear asks to volunteer at Gentle Barn all the time. The amazing thing is his young, compassionate heart comes up with these ideas entirely on his own. Bear is also happy to sort through his possessions and donate items to kids in need. He routinely cleans beaches wherever we go, on his own accord. I’m always so inspired when I see him on a mission.

Here are some easy volunteer ideas to help get you and your kiddos making a difference together.

1. Cause Clothing

Kids can share their message (of kindness, eco-consciousness, animal rights, etc) easily on their sleeves. Wearing clothing with messages is a real conversation starter and allows kids to preach to their cohorts naturally. Every nonprofit sells message clothing, but kids could also make their own using fabric pens, tie-dye, or collage.

2. Love Rocks

Paint a rock with a message of inspiration and leave it on a neighbor’s doorstep or in your local town or woods for someone to stumble across. This works as both craft and service.

3. Toy Story

Have your child go through their toys and clothes and see what they are willing to donate to a local women and children’s shelter. Hand them a box and deliver the box together. You can also use givebackbox to mail them in.

4. Discount Time

Scour your local farmer’s market or supermarket together for foodstuffs on special/ sale, and stock them up to deliver to your local food pantry.

5. Garbage Girl

Take a nature walk with a biodegradable garbage bag and pick up trash on the way.

6. Foster Friends

Foster an animal for your local rescue group (they can all be easily found on petfinder or adoptapet) and let your child participate in the exciting part of rehoming and looking forward to who is coming next as your foster mission continues.

7. Senior Sweetness

If your child doesn’t have a grandparent, consider having them “adopt a senior” at a local nursing home. Although covid restrictions won’t allow them to visit, they can surely send beautiful drawings and crafts over.

8. Peace, Man

In the same vein, create a poster, sign, or piece of art that sends a message of equality, and hang it where it can be seen near your home.

9. Postcard Play

Make a stack of postcards and mail them to your local legislator encouraging them to pass bills that better protect animals or the environment.

10. Muffin Madness

Bake a tray of muffins or pick up a vat of coffee together, and deliver them to your local police station, school, or hospital to thank them for their service and dedication.

No good deed is too small to improve our communities. Any long journey starts with a single step!


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