Kitchen Table Activities
Scroll down to find a vareity of family service projects that can be done right in your own home. Or bring families together at your school, church, temple or neighborhood park building and work as a team to make a real difference, while having fun and building community. Also, be sure to check out DGT’s newest initiative — Big Hearted Families. No matter where you live, you’ll find all the tools you need for your family to live generously.
Improving People’s Lives
Create greeting cards
Make greeting cards to deliver to ill children in need of some cheering up. Two websites (www.makeachildsmile.org; www.hugsandhope.org) provide photos and information about sick children who are hoping for some happy mail. Families can make a card together for one of the children. You can also enclose something lightweight with the card, such as stickers, coloring sheets, a postcard or a bookmark.
Color A Smile collects crayon drawings from children, then distributes them monthly to nursing homes, Meals on Wheels programs, and individuals all across the country. Their goal is to make people smile! Families can create a drawing and mail it to the address on www.colorasmile.org. Adults can read kids the messages on the “thank you” page of the site.
Fill breakfast bags
Make breakfast bags for Ronald McDonald House which provides a “home away from home” for families of seriously ill children receiving treatment at nearby hospitals. Volunteers buy and sort breakfast bars, bagels, yogurt, fruit cups, etc., into individual brown bags. The families can grab these on their way to the hospital or clinic in the morning. Decorating the bags before filling them can be another fun project for children. To find your local Ronald McDonald House and details on what to include in each bag and where to deliver them, visit www.rmhc.org.
Decorate cookies or cards for nursing homes
Families can make and decorate cookies or other edibles to donate to a local nursing home. Homemade, cheery cards can accompany the treats. Contact a local nursing home to find out if they’re interested in your homemade goodies.
Become a Senior Angel
Through once-a-week chatty letters, friendly cards, uplifting notes and an occasional small gift, you can encourage and support an elderly person. It only requires about 30 minutes each week. If your family can reliably dedicate itself to such a schedule, visit www.chemoangels.com/seniorangels.htm for more information.
Families can make a blanket for a child in need of comfort. For instructions to create a simple, no-sew fleece blanket (anyone can do it!), visit http://www.projectlinus.org/patterns/pdf/NoSewFB.pdf. The blankets can be donated through Binky Patrol (www.binkypatrol.org) or your local chapter of Project Linus (www.projectlinus.org). Watch a video about Project Linus together with your children at http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/16711082/ so your child will understand the impact these blankets can have in kids’ lives.
Decorate placemats for Meals on Wheels
Meals on Wheels programs love having “extras” to hand out to the people they serve. Families can make placemats, sun catchers or other small gifts to cheer up these isolated elderly people. If you are in the Twin Cities, contact Metro Meals on Wheels at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 612.623.3363. Otherwise, visit www.mowaa.org to find the program near you.
Make whisper phones for ESL classrooms
The “Whisper Phone” is a teaching tool that helps students better hear the speech sounds (phonemes) and words they say, increasing comprehension and making learning more fun. Whisper Phones are made of polished, furniture-grade PVC and are easy to put together. For instructions, visit http://www.ehow.com/how_4667985_whisper-phone.html. The phones can be packaged with a book and/or bookmark. Call your local school district to ask if they’d like to receive the Whisper Phones you create.
Make goody bags for America’s First Responders
Purchase brown paper lunch bags then color patriotic designs on one side and add a personal letter. Later, your “goody bags” will be stuffed with candy, letters, poems and puzzles for America’s First Responders. A letter template and address for mailing are on the website, www.operationgoodybag.org.
Write a family email to a soldier
It will only take a few minutes, and it will bring joy to men and women who are far from home. For more information, visit https://wwwcfi.cnet.navy.mil/dearabby/.
Check out these other organizations to send letters or packages to troops abroad:
Decorate oven mitts
Your family can help Meals on Wheels by decorating oven mitts so the volunteer delivery drivers don’t burn their hands while delivering hot meals. You will need to buy the oven mitts (light colors work best for this project), then decorate them. For easy instructions, visit
Make greeting cards
Your family can help Meals on Wheels by creating handmade greeting cards for home-bound, elderly or ill meal recipients. Most programs are interested in cards for all holidays and for birthdays, and will make sure they get delivered to clients along with their daily meal on the appropriate holiday. Use your creativity and any art supplies you have – and remember to create cards that are general enough to give to any client. If you are in the Twin Cities, contact Metro Meals on Wheels at email@example.com, or 612.623.3363. Otherwise, visit www.mowaa.org to find the program near you.
Decorate lunch bags
Families can decorate brown lunch bags to be used for Meals on Wheels volunteers to pack lunches. Pull out the crayons, markers, stickers and any other art material you have handy. If you are in the Twin Cities, contact Metro Meals on Wheels at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 612.623.3363. Otherwise, visit www.mowaa.org to find the program near you.
Assemble creativity kits
Collect and assemble coloring books and crayons to help low-income children learn better. A coloring book is an excellent preschool development item and opens an important creative avenue for young children. This is a wonderful project for children and youth groups.
Items for kit:
- New coloring book, sensitive to a diversity of families; subjects can include animals, trucks, cartoon characters, etc.
- New crayons (set of 24) – thick if possible
- A 9″ x 12″ envelope (unsealed) to slip the items into. Your children are encouraged to decorate the outside of the envelope, too.
In the Twin Cities, contact the Minnesota Visiting Nurse Agency (www.mvna.org) to find out where to deliver the kits. If you live elsewhere, contact any agency that serves low-income families.
Form an email relationship with an individual with intellectual disabilities. www.ebuddies.org
Healing the Earth, Taking Care of Other Creatures
Make cat toys for your local humane society
These toys take only a few minutes to make, but will amuse cats for hours. Call your local animal shelter to see if it can use them.
- Infant- or child-size crew socks (make sure they are new!)
- Cotton balls or craft stuffing
- Dried catnip
- Non-toxic permanent markers
- Non-toxic washable fabric glue
Stuff toe of sock with1 tablespoon of dried catnip. Stuff foot of sock with cotton balls or craft stuffing. Squeeze fabric glue on the inside of the sock’s ribbing to glue sock closed, or knot top of sock. Then decorate with fabric markers.
Other pet toys to create:
- Braided fleece chew – take 3 pieces of fleece, knot at one end, braid, and knot at the other end. For more specific instructions, visit http://www.mevsthehouse.com/make-your-own-homemade-dog-toy
- Tennis balls – Donate tennis balls that you decorate with Sharpie markers.
Make cloth gift bags
To conserve wrapping paper, make gift bags from cloth, and ask recipients to reuse them, too. It’s simple. Just buy some bright fabric, cut two matching rectangles and stitch three sides together. Once the gift has been inserted,tie the bag shut with ribbon. Make all different sizes, and create extras for family and friends!
Buy ingredients for 80 to100 sandwiches (meat and cheese without condiments is best), then assemble and deliver them to a local homeless shelter. In the Twin Cities, contact Simpson Housing Services (www.simpsonhousing.org), Our Saviour’s Housing (www.oshousing.org) or 363 (www.363days.org) to ask about guidelines for making the sandwiches, quantity and delivery. If you live elsewhere, contact your local homeless shelter and ask about their sandwich needs.
Assemble birthday bags
Create birthday gift bags for disadvantaged children. Invite families over and ask each guest to bring small, new toys for children ages 3-12. Then enjoy assembling the gift bags, placing several items in each. Deliver them to a nearby shelter or food shelf. For more information, visit www.cheerfulgivers.org.
Make helpful kits
Put together a small assistance package and make a big difference. Church World Service collects and keeps them for distribution to disaster victims or to people who need continuing aid. Families can create themed kits, such as health, school, baby or “heart-to-heart” kits. For details on what to include and where to send, go to http://www.churchworldservice.org/kits.
Make friendship boxes
Families can decorate a shoe box for children in a family shelter, then fill them with a card and fun items — unused fast-food toys, school supplies, stickers, small stuffed animals, small notepads, Play dough, card games, small puzzle books, and so on. Contact your local family shelter to find out how many boxes are needed.
Repackage goods to help food shelves
Help out food shelf shoppers by purchasing large bottles of dish soap and shampoo, and pouring them into smaller containers. You will need to purchase or provide the large bottles of dish soap and/or shampoo, small containers for downsizing, and bags for delivery. You may want to hold a drive to help defray costs. Similarly, you can downsize large bags of beans and or rice into family-size portions (2 cups per bag). You will need to purchase pinto beans and/or rice and 2-quart reclosable plastic bags (like Ziploc). You will also need food handling gloves. Contact your local food shelf or homeless shelter to see what quantities are needed.
Participate in the Box Project
This organization matches sponsors with needy families in rural areas of the United States. The sponsoring family sends a box once per month filled with clothing, food, or other needed items and offers encouragement, friendship and support. Visit www.boxproject.org for more information.
Connect with Family-to-Family
Family-to-Family enables you to sponsor a family living in profound poverty for $31.21 per month, which provides a week’s worth of groceries. In addition, you can mail “extras” to your family each month if you’d like such as soap, shampoo or toothbrushes. If you aren’t able to make this commitment, the organization offers other ideas for kids and families who want to make a difference, such as putting together “birthday boxes” or spearheading a book collection. Visit their website for more information.
Write a letter
Write a letter to free prisoners of conscience, protect human rights and defend lives. The monthly AIKids’ Urgent Actions are things children can do while learning about letter-writing as an empowering tool. Each action listed on the website provides information about young people who are experiencing human rights violations. Information is available at www.aiusa.org/aikids.
Know your elected officials
Post the names of your elected officials on the refrigerator and include their email addresses and phone numbers. Then, if your family comes across an issue that troubles you, you can easily contact your representatives. To find out who represents you, visit the League of Women Voters at www.lwv.org and click on “Take Action.”
Host a birthday party for a cause
Are you concerned that children’s birthday parties are getting too, well, competitive? Instead of extravagant gift bags, expensive entertainment or staged outings, consider choosing a fun service project as your focus. Use one of the “kitchen table” service ideas above, or consult the ideas at the Charity Guide website.