Service ideas for younger kids

What are some things you have done with younger kids to teach them how to serve others. I’m off during the summer and I’ll have some spare time. I’d like to think of a way for my kids to serve others that doesn’t involve money. Not that donating is bad and we enjoyed earning coins for our rice bowl, but the fact is, toddlers can’t be gainfully employed and they know that the money ultimately comes from “the bank”. I know my 4yo in particular wants to do things that actually make a difference. Any ideas?

This is just a random one that popped in my head, but maybe baking cookies for the local priest in thanks for all he does? They can help get the ingredients and package them up for him. Then they can be there when they’re delivered at the rectory.

Depends on the age. One Summer, we got a small group of 10-14 year olds together to help some elderly parishioners with yard work.

When I used to volunteer at a nursing home, there was a volunteer mom who brought her baby in with her. The residents loved it. Maybe you could be matched with someone for the summer? It might be hard if you can’t continue after the summer, though.

It’s always nice to gather up some older toys and books and donate them.

In our area (New England) there is actually a nonprofit called “Project Giving Kids” that can match families with kids to specific projects or needs. There might be something similar in your area.

Nothing better then visiting a home for the elderly.
Their eyes light up and the children are delighted by their tales.

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Our parish has a bag lunch ministry to the homeless that children can participate in. The youngest color paper bags while older children make sandwiches and assemble the lunches. There would be a cost of the supplies, but that’s it. Do you drive by places where people beg? I feel more comfortable giving someone a bottle of water and some good food rather than cash. Your kids could help make the “kits.”

That’s a good idea, but my kids are a little young to do much more than drive you crazy when you’re trying to do yardwork. (4 and 2)

I’ll have to see if there’s a program like this in our area. I’m a little nervous about the bags of food idea. My coworked just tried to give money to someone who was begging over the weekend, the cops came up behind them and literally arrested the guy!!! (the begging guy, not my coworker)

Nursing home!

My mom’s group goes there once a month and the residents beg to see more of us. The 4yo especially could offer to ‘play a game’ Bring something like “Lucky Ducks”. That doesn’t require much gross motor skills or many rules for either party.

The Meals on Wheels program gives each person a hand made card for Valentine’s Day and birthday cards made by children. One card I remember seeing was made with stickers and coloring. An adult or teacher wrote something about the child artist, for example, loves to swim and color. It makes the homebound individual feel loved by someone.

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I don’t know why I didn’t think if that! My mom worked as a dietician in nursing homes and retirement centers and she always brought us to the parties to sit with folks who didn’t have any visitors with them.

Maybe also look closer to home. Considering their age, your out of home options are limited and I expect you want more than a one off experience.

What can they do around your own house, to help build the habit of helping/serving others. Maybe giving them some special chores that you can coach them on.

What can they do to help a neighbor, someone who will be supportive of your efforts to train your kids and where it’s also convenient for you to make happen repeatedly.


I think this idea of starting the habit of “service” by helping others at home, or the close neighbors, on a daily basis is a good one.

They learn a lot by imitating parents, so if there is some service project you can do at home, such as making cookies for the church bake sale, making meals that get frozen and distributed to shut-ins, making up kits for later distribution to homeless even if you don’t do the distributing yourself but leave that to a shelter, making cards for hospital patients or nursing home residents, etc. then you could do that and have the kids help you with it to the extent they are able.

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Even just serving other family members can help build the habit, and it might be more tangible to a young mind than helping people they don’t know nor understand.

The homeless are more deserving, but young kids may not be able to comprehend what’s going on vs a person they have a relationship with. I think teens are much better at grasping the dynamics of helping people who are truly disadvantaged. Even walking the neighbor’s dog can help them with the concepts. I’m keying off your toddler requirement :slight_smile:

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