Last week, our family volunteered at a local food pantry with our 4H club. It was fun, educational, and very rewarding. And it made me think.
Todd and I often find ourselves in the middle of various volunteer projects. I am sure many of our readers also frequently share their time and talents with others. This is especially true for older kids and adults.
What about small children, though? Sometimes it can be hard to engage in acts of service with small family members in tow. Over the years, we have found several ways to serve in activities and the community–even with the age 6 and under crowd.
Here are our five favorite ways to encourage young kids to engage in acts of service:
1. Volunteer at a local food pantry.
We have volunteered at a couple different emergency food pantries over the years with our kids. We always ask in advance whether or not children are welcome. Last week, our oldest daughter worked independently helping people with their food selections.
Our youngest daughters worked side-by-side with us. They chatted with people throughout the evening, pushed shopping carts, and learned valuable realities about folks struggling with poverty. The most important lesson my kids learned? That in most ways, the people needing food from the pantry are just like them.
2. Ringing bells for the Salvation Army.
At Christmastime, there is a never-ending need for volunteers to staff the red kettles. While some members of our family go a little batty from the constant ringing, our youngest daughter thinks the bells are great fun.
Jocelyn can successfully dance, cheer, engage in acrobatics, hide, and carry on a conversation, all while ringing a bell constantly for a couple of hours. Plus, I am fairly certain shoppers feel a little more generous at the kettle when they see a small child smiling up at them.
3. Set up and tear down at activities.
Our kids participate in several different activities. One of our current activities is led by folks who frequently arrive several minutes after many children have been dropped off by parents. As a result, many of those children find ways to entertain themselves inappropriately until supervising adults can stop them.
Todd and I try to teach our kids that a lack of supervision does not mean permission is granted to misbehave and mess around. Rather than lecturing my child about expectations, leaving my child alone, and hoping for the best, I put our time to better use. We set up chairs. A lot of chairs. And sometimes, other kids help us out. Even though we never ask.
4. Preparing food for others.
Funerals, the arrival of babies, holidays, and major milestones like graduations all seem to necessitate vast quantities of food. Kids like to help in the kitchen, and we have often had our smaller kiddos contribute their efforts when we prepare food and share it with others.
Our kids tithe. They did even when they were little. We are not fussy about where they specifically choose to share their tithe money. Sometimes they bring it to Sunday school. Occasionally they contribute to a VBS offering. They have donated to church camps, youth gatherings, and community outreach efforts.
For us, it is more important that they willingly and gladly give. And if they are able to choose where their tithe offering goes, our kids are cheerful givers.
Because our kids have always participated in acts of service, they eagerly volunteer for things now that they are getting older. It is our hope and prayer that their spirit of service will stay with them throughout their lives.
Do you engage in acts of service with your kids? What are your favorite activities? Send me an email or comment below!