Kid-friendly volunteer opportunities for the whole family

As Christians, we are called to serve and help those who are less fortunate. Paul states it rather bluntly, in fact:

“In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

Acts 20:35 (ESV)

A great way to teach children this lesson is by volunteering together as a family. Volunteer work is a change to not only spend quality time together but also make a positive difference in your community.

​From the time our children were preschoolers, my husband and I found ways to help them give back that were age appropriate. Now they are older kids in the tween and teen years, and those lessons have stuck.

Our oldest has organized a variety of food and toiletry drives at her school. Our youngest has helped serve at a local food bank.

Volunteer ideas for families Pinterest image 5

The good news is you can find lots of volunteer activities that are a good fit for kids of all ages.

Behind-the-scenes volunteer ideas for families

Some of the best ways for families with little kids to volunteer is in a behind-the-scenes capacity. These ideas are all more hands-off and would all be a great volunteer opportunity for young children.

1. Buy for a local food pantry.

This is the idea our family first started with way back when our children were little. We divided (and still do!) their weekly allowance into three categories: spending, saving and giving.

We talked with our oldest about how she wanted to use her giving money when her brother was still too little to even get an allowance. She didn’t want to use it for church but instead to help people in need.

We found food pantries were a great place to start. We took her to the grocery store with her giving money so she had a very hands-on, visual experience with how she was giving back.

While we shopped and picked items, we talked about how they would help families. Later we prayed for the people who would be receiving them.

2. Collect or buy dog toys and supplies for your local animal shelter

If you have kiddos who love animals, buying toys for a local animal shelter or animal rescue organization is a great idea. These places are always in need of supplies to take care of the furry friends in their care.

Many shelters and rescue organizations have age requirements for volunteering, so donating is a better way to involve all your family members. 

Consider donating toys, blankets, towels, cleaning supplies, pet food, pet beds and more. 

3. Make cards for senior centers.

Many young children love dong arts and crafts. Buy or print out some inexpensive cards for holidays (Christmas, Valentine’s Day, etc.) and donate them to a local senior center or nursing home.

Often senior citizens are lonely and long for connection with young people. This gives your children a chance to make a difference doing something they enjoy anyway.

4. Buy toys for a toy drive.

Toy drives are especially popular at Christmastime. This can be a great activity for families with younger children to get involved.

Share with your children that some kids don’t have as many toys and that you are shopping for a toy to cheer them up. Then let your kiddo help you pick out the toy. 

Depending on the age of your child, be prepared for the struggle of buying for others. Talking about it ahead of time, during and while donating the toy can be helpful.

5. Deliver treats to first responders.

A fun activity for little ones is to bake (or buy) treats and deliver them to first responders. Calling ahead is a good idea.

When my kids were a toddler and preschooler, we called the local fire station and scheduled a time to drop by. We brought some homemade cookies to give the firefighters.

The firefighters gave my kids plastic hats, a firetruck tour and some safety instructions. It was a win all around.

Hands-on volunteer ideas for families

Though behind-the-scenes volunteer ideas work really well for young families, other ideas work well for families with children who are older. 

These volunteer ideas for families work for preschool aged children through high school kids and beyond.

6. Participate in a park clean-up day.

If your local park is hosting a clean-up day, then get your family involved. Children who are preschool aged and older can help with carrying bags or picking up things.

Not only are you working for a good cause, you’re also having time together outside and making memories.

Even if your park isn’t have a clean-up day, you can still pick a day and collect trash as a family.

7. Work in a community garden.

This is great opportunity for children to learn life skills starting from a young age. Bring them along to enjoy getting their hands in the dirt while helping to grow fruits and vegetables to make a difference in the lives of others.

Check out your local community center or other nonprofit organizations for community garden opportunities.

8. Volunteer in a local soup kitchen.

You don’t have to serve the food to be helpful. Soup kitchens need all sorts of work families can undertake. Check with local organizations that serve food and see what they need.

Besides serving food, you may find volunteering experience for families such as cleaning, food prep, setting up tables, organizing ingredients and more.

9. Participate in a drive for school supplies.

While you can certainly stay behind the scenes by donating school supplies, working at the supply distribution is a volunteer project older children can especially benefit from.

Youth volunteers for these programs are great for running supplies where they need to be. It also allows your older children a chance to feel some gratitude for the blessings in their own lives.

10. Plan a car wash to raise money.

Whether you’re looking to help a nonprofit organization, one of your local churches or even a children’s hospital, hosting a car wash is a pretty easy activity youth can get behind. Find a location in a busy part of town that will let you hook up hoses. 

Bring along hoses, buckets, sponges, soap and signs. Make sure your signs are clear what organization or group is benefitting from the car wash proceeds.

11. Make care packages for your local homeless shelter.

Personal care items are always needed at homeless shelters and other organizations ministering to the underserved. Toiletries such as soap, shampoo, toothbrushes, toothpaste, deodorant and feminine hygiene products are just a few examples of needs to be filled.

Food stamp programs do not cover these items either. So any organization serving those reliant on food stamps can probably utilize these essentials.

12. Coordinate with your school counselor.

Many parents are aware teachers spend some of their own money on supplies and needs for their classrooms. But school counselors and/or sometimes school nurses do as well.

For example, my daughter learned a counselor at her school was buying various toiletries to help out students in need. So, my daughter hosted a toiletry drive at school and filled the counselor’s supply closet to overflowing.

Our entire family got involved with the project by helping collect, count and sort the items.

13. Organize a canned food drive.

Organizing a canned food drive might sound intimidating, but it’s not as hard as you might think. We’ve done this a few times at the kids’ school.

Once you have permission, you basically just need collection containers and a time to pick up and transport everything to the food bank. Publicize the food drive on social media, in the school newsletter and/or with an information sheet to help get the best results.

We’ve also found some good old-fashioned bribery works, too. Promises of an ice cream party or candy to the class who brings in the most is quite a good motivator for kids.

Our family is happy to buy some cups of ice cream or bags of candy to help keep the motivation going.

14. Volunteer at your local library.

No matter where you live, your local library could use your help. Even with paid staff, there are always tasks that need to be done.

If you have a child with a love of reading, your library may have a program he or she can participate in to read to senior citizens, dogs or young children. Other library volunteer activities could include helping set up for story time or sorting through old circulation material.

15. Help your neighbors.

Sometimes you don’t need to use official volunteer programs to reach out and make a difference in someone’s life. Look around your own neighborhood and see what neighbors have needs.

You may find an elderly neighbor who needs help with lawn care or even taking the trash cans to the curb. Or maybe a family with a new baby could use a hand watching their older kids one afternoon a week.

All sorts of people are in need around us that we can reach out and help as a family.

16. Volunteer at a food distribution center.

Food pantries certainly need help, but don’t forget about the food distribution centers that supply many pantries. The local distribution center for our family has an age requirement of 12 or older for volunteer positions.

For us, this means our oldest child can volunteer right now, but our youngest cannot. So, my daughter and I have gone a few times and done a variety of tasks from sorting onions to stapling papers. There is never a lack of need.

Creating a legacy of service

With so many volunteer ideas for families, you won’t run out of activities any time soon. These are all great ways to encourage our children to love on those around them, which is the most important thing we want to encourage as Christian moms and dads.

Set an example and get your entire family involved so your family tradition of volunteering becomes a legacy of service.

About the Author: Stacey A. Shannon

Stacey A. Shannon is a freelance journalist and blogger who has been published internationally. She's also a Christian, a wife and a mom of two school-aged children. She started Families with Grace in 2019 to encourage Christian moms as they create homes filled with grace, love and faith.

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