Childhood is the optimal time in a person’s life to learn the value of community, empathy for the downtrodden, and the confidence to make a difference. And volunteer opportunities abound in most communities, but they aren’t always kid-friendly. Some organizations don’t allow children to participate due to insurance liabilities, and some opportunities just aren’t appropriate or fun for kids. However, there are community service projects for kids out there, and we have gathered all the best ones to help you get your child involved.
Kindness is a cool adventure!
Thinking of sending your kid off on a safe and fun community service project? Great idea. Volunteering in the community is a proven way to encourage kindness and empathy in your child. Plus, it’s a great adventure! While you’re at it, why not pick up our Adventures From Scratch: Family Edition? This family puzzle book has oodles of clever games and creative challenges for you and your children that will bring your family together and could be great practice for the problem-solving of community service.
The Benefits of Community Service for Kids
Truthfully, when your schedule is filled to the brim with soccer practices, homework, and birthday parties, piled on top of work responsibilities and keeping everyone alive, adding good works to the pile just feels impossible. However, volunteering in the community doesn’t have to be anything overly time-consuming or difficult. It can be easy and fun, and it may have a greater impact on your child and your family than any of those other activities. The benefits of serving others and building community relationships are numerous, especially for kids!
1. Community Service Breeds Compassion
Children are inherently a bit selfish. It’s not their fault. That is just the stage of development that they are in, and it’s the responsibility of adults to broaden their outlook on the situation. The old adage says something like “there is always someone worse off than yourself.” – Aesop. While that sounds gloomy, it’s usually true, and that means there is someone whose life you could help improve in some small way.
All parents try to teach their children compassion, but sometimes it’s more effective to show them. Introducing your children to the idea that we are all connected, and that our actions can have a positive impact on the lives of others is a huge life lesson. While you need to protect their hearts in some ways, exposing them to age-appropriate volunteer projects produces compassion and empathy for those around them.
2. Community Service Teaches Teamwork
Working together with other children and adults teaches a plethora of life lessons. Like participating in sports, volunteering helps children develop problem-solving skills, learn to deal with difficult personalities, and operate within an authority hierarchy. All of these skills are essential for functioning in an adult working world, and it’s never too soon to learn them.
3. Community Service Creates Confidence
The problems of our world are often overwhelming, even for well-rounded adults. The truth is we cannot fix the world, but we can each do a small part for the people around us to improve it. Children participating in service projects can see the change happening before them. This builds confidence within them, affirming that they can do small things to improve the lives of people in their community. It teaches them that actions matter.
4. Community Service Broadens Identity
Children generally see themselves as just that, your child. They may identify as a student or a brother or sister, but their actual identity is so much more than that. Charity work allows your child to broaden their circle of influence. Through charity work, kids realize that they are also valued members of society, good neighbors, and an integral cog in the wheel to keep society operating at its best. For our communities to flourish, we all have to do our part, and service projects show young children that they have a valuable part to play.
The Best Service Project Ideas for Children
Remember, community service doesn’t have to be difficult. It doesn’t have to be time-consuming, and it doesn’t even have to be through any kind of organization or event. You can serve your neighbors through random acts of kindness, building a life of good deeds, without ever attending a charity marathon.
There will be times in your life when you have a full Saturday to volunteer at a children’s hospital, there will be other times when all you can spare is a quick run by the food bank. That’s why we have included activities for kids of all ages and personality types and at every stage of life. The best community service idea for your family is the one that you’ll do!
1. Visit a nursing home.
Many of our senior citizens are living out their final days in nursing homes, assisted living, and senior centers, and they can be terribly lonely. The vitality of young children has a strong effect on their mental health. Take your children to visit a “Grandfriend” occasionally. Let them play games, tell a story, or make an art piece for an elderly friend. You’ll be surprised how much they appreciate this little act of kindness. It’s the perfect service idea for young children.
2. Shop for a local food bank.
We guarantee your local food pantry is probably running low on something! Find out what it is. Take your children shopping, and volunteer to physically stock the pantry with your purchased items. This can also be done with your local homeless shelter.
3. Perform a chore for a neighbor.
Performing seasonal chores for elderly or disabled neighbors is a great way to serve the local community. You could rake leaves in the fall, plant flowers in the spring, water the flowerbeds in the summer, or shovel snow in the winter. It could be as small as taking out their trash on Tuesdays or bringing their mail to the porch.
4. Compete in a charity sporting event.
Most larger communities have marathons, triathlons, and fun runs. Many of these events allow children to participate. Some are solely for children. Check your city website and the websites of larger communities near you. If there isn’t one in your area, then organize one. Have your children help. Including their ideas in your event planning will ensure that the service is something that children will enjoy!
5. Volunteer with your church.
Local churches usually have community service projects going on. They may involve cleaning up a park, planting flowers, building a ramp for a disabled community member, a Christmas mall for those in financial need, or delivering Thanksgiving meals. If you attend a church, keep a watch out for opportunities to serve.
6. Clean up the neighborhood.
Some communities have an annual clean-up day on Earth Day or at an appointed time, but you don’t need to wait for that. Spend a few hours during your week cleaning up your neighborhood park, the riverside, or your neighborhood streets. Have your children gather their cleaning crew from among their friends, teaching them not only to serve but to mobilize!
7. Bake cookies for the homeless.
Many of our most downtrodden citizens are scraping by to get the basics, and they rarely get to partake in something that is just for pleasure. Bake cookies or a luscious dessert for the homeless in your community. Hand them out in the community or drop them off at your local homeless shelter. You could even ask the local shelter to create a wish list for its habitants and fulfill a wish on the list.
8. Plant trees or flowers in the community.
Beautification of your community is a quick way to brighten the day for everyone in town! A clean and colorful city produces a sense of pride in most. Offer to plant new trees in the city park or create a flower bed at the local library or high school. You may need to get permission from the mayor or a committee, and you’ll need to be prepared to maintain the area in the future.
9. Host a canned food drive.
One of the easiest ways to make a big impact is to collect non-perishable food items. Children can have a role in every part of this. From donating a percent of their chore money to purchase items to setting up collection boxes at the local hospital, businesses, and school, to stocking them in the local food pantry.
10. Make Holiday cards for the elderly.
Surprising your local nursing home or even elderly neighbors with a cheery Christmas or birthday card is a simple way for children to give back. Let them design and decorate the cards and choose who they would like to give them to. Allow the children to deliver their masterpieces in person.
11. Make gift baskets during the holiday season.
Gift baskets are a great way to show appreciation. You could make them for local service workers like the police or local fire department. You could bring them to the ancillary staff at the local school, like the janitor or the bus drivers. Think about people often overlooked and surprise them with a custom-made holiday gift.
12. Donate school supplies.
Most school districts have a program to collect school supplies for lower-income children. Have your children pick up crayons, notebooks, and their favorite pencils to donate to the school for children in need.
13. Write letters to service workers.
Service workers keep our society flowing smoothly, and they are often overlooked. Letters of gratitude to the city council members, firemen, policemen, soldiers, and pastors might be just the encouragement they need to make it through another day.
14. Set out snacks for the mailman.
Put your child in charge of keeping a snack bucket for the Fed Ex man. Have them make a nice note for mailmen to take a snack or drink if they need it. Sometimes a bottle of water and a Cosmic Brownie is just what they need to make it to the end of a shift.
15. Send care packages to soldiers.
Men and women serving our country in the armed forces often miss major holidays and family events in the line of duty. Send them a big thank you with a custom care package via Holidays for Heroes through the American Red Cross.
16. Take a meal to a children’s home.
You may be surprised to know that our foster care system is so overloaded with children that many communities have gone back to having children’s homes where volunteer staff “parent” several children living in a facility together. Bless one of these homes with a huge meal. Let your children serve the other children and hang out for a while.
17. Build a little free library.
Popular in parts of Europe, a “little free library” is a great way to give to the community. Set up one in your front yard where neighbors can borrow and return books. It’s an act of trust for sure, and some of your books will certainly not return as they should, but that is a lesson in itself too.
18. Become a tutor.
Older kids can serve their community by tutoring younger children in a subject in which they excel. If your child is a math genius, encourage them to help a neighbor that is struggling. It is a sacrifice of their time and a personal way to give back on a one-to-one level, and it can be very rewarding for both parties. Teens can even tutor virtually through organizations like Learn to Be.
19. Organize your own fundraising campaign.
Every single nonprofit out there has to raise funds, and they need help! It’s an ongoing and ever-changing job to come up with inventive ways to raise funds. Find a charity that you love and sign on to help. Your child could do a speech in their class at school to raise awareness. They could sell lemonade or a homemade recipe, do chores for money, or organize a fun run to raise money for the selected nonprofit. Every penny helps!
20. Volunteer at the local animal shelter.
Animal shelters need people to walk and play with the animals. They need baths and feeding, as well as people to help raise awareness. Many accept high school students to take on these tasks or younger children with adult supervision.
21. Gather art supplies for your local children’s hospital.
Children’s hospitals go through lots of crayons and stickers! Make boxes for individual children, and ask if you can deliver them to a specific unit. You may need to call ahead and make an appointment for delivery, but most hospitals will allow it with proper registration.
22. Use your voice for good.
Everyone has a part to play. Some of us are great at getting our hands dirty with service jobs. Others have a talent for raising funds, and some are experts at mobilization. If your child is one of those that everybody wants to follow, encourage them to use their natural magnetism to get others involved in their passion. They could write a newsletter for their school, give a speech about a local charity, run for student council, or use their social media platform to raise awareness.
23. Volunteer with the Special Olympics.
The Special Olympics is one of the major nonprofit organizations that allows children of all ages to volunteer. They have volunteer opportunities ranging from playing alongside the athletes to helping with fundraising.
24. Gift cards for homeless people.
Giving gifts to the homeless population has some drawbacks, and most choose not to give cash gifts. Gift cards are a way around this. A gift to the local pharmacy can help them get necessary medicines. A gift card to a local restaurant will allow them a rare meal out, and a gift to the grocery store allows them to shop for their preferred food items.
25. Put on a Veteran’s Day show.
Show the veterans in your community that you appreciate their sacrifice. Let your young children make up a skit or poem expressing their gratitude. Let them make costumes. Invite your local veterans, and provide them with a small gift and a big smile for Veteran’s Day this year.
26. Organize a project for National Youth Service Day.
National Youth Service Day is in April. It’s a great time to organize a spring clean-up for your neighborhood. Have your teen and their friends take on a few projects in the neighborhood. Paint the local playground. Volunteer to spruce up a business or community building. Organize a recycling campaign. Get creative!
27. Donate a Christmas tree.
Head to your local Christmas tree farm and pick out the perfect tree for your local homeless shelter, children’s home, or nursing home. Make some hot chocolate and snacks and spend some time with the population decorating the tree.
28. Set up a coin jar.
Small children love to collect things. Send your child on a change-collecting campaign. When their jar is full, they can donate the money to a charity of their choice, or they can use it to buy a gift for someone in need.
29. Read books to younger children.
Older children can volunteer to read to younger children at the local library or in a local shelter. Even gathering children from the neighborhood for weekly reading time is an effective way to give back!
30. Volunteer with Big Brothers Big Sisters School-Based Program.
Big Brothers Big Sisters normally requires volunteers to be 18 and older. However, their school-based program allows children ages 16-17 to volunteer with parental permission.
31. Sponsor a child during the holidays.
Almost all communities have an Angel Tree or some sort of sponsorship for children in need. Like many things on this list, you’ll probably have to foot the bill, but you can let younger children pick out the gifts, wrap the present, and make the card. Children of all ages are can donate their own money to help buy the gifts as well.
32. Sponsor and international child for school.
There are countless school and meal sponsorship the world over. Unfortunately, unequal education opportunities and famine are still major problems in parts of the globe. By sponsoring a child, you not only get to provide a life-giving opportunity to that child, but you also give the child the ability to form a friendship. Your sponsored child is the perfect pen pal for your child. Let them be a part of each other’s lives by writing simple letters to one another. Mission of Hope Haiti is a fabulous organization with a top school for orphans and the underserved in Haitian society.
33. Check with your local soup kitchen.
Many local soup kitchens will allow children to help serve fruits or snacks. Ask if you can set up a table to volunteer.
34. Pet-sit for a neighbor.
Giving your neighbor peace of mind while they travel is an invaluable gift. Older children can provide that gift with the simple act of feeding and playing with a neighbor’s pets while they are away.
35. Foster a pet.
Many animal shelters had to close due to the pandemic, and most others are overrun. Volunteer to foster an animal until they are adopted. It’s a good opportunity to teach responsibility, allowing your child to be in charge of the animal’s welfare.
36. Join a community service group.
Youth groups like 4-H and the Boys and Girls Scouts are wonderful opportunities for kids to get involved in organized community service projects. These are nice too because it takes some of the pressure off the parents.
37. Take a service trip with GoEco.
GoEco is a wonderful travel organization that allows families or teens to volunteer abroad. They specialize in organizing service trips that are safe and focus on giving back in the form of public health, education, community improvement, or wildlife conservation.
Make Your Move
Remember, the best community service idea for your children is the one that they will do! Start small or go big. Take your child’s passions into consideration, and make your move! You won’t regret it. Any community service is a learning opportunity and worth the investment.
For more volunteer opportunities for teens, check out our guide to “The Top 12 Service Trips for Teens.” Form a deeper connection with your kiddos with a few tips from “A Parent’s Guide to Connecting With Kids of Any Age.”
Frequently Asked Questions
Children of all ages can get involved in the community. Think about your child’s and your family’s passions. Choose a charity that lines up with your interests and ask them how you can help!
Children can start making an impact in their community with small acts of kindness like raking the neighbor’s leaves, starting a free library, or collecting canned goods for a local shelter.
Help your child organize a scavenger hunt fundraising event for your favorite nonprofit, pick up trash in your community, or make holiday cards for your local nursing home.