I’ve recently come to terms with a startling revelation: my little guy is not so little anymore.
To all who know him, this comes as no surprise.
Kindergarten is peaking over the horizon. Wiggly teeth are inspiring predictions about the tooth fairy’s next visit. And his plans for the future involve more rocket launches and alien battles, and fewer descriptions of the house he’ll build next to mine.
My little guy is the youngest of three, so I'm prepared for the transition ahead of him. We've been growing his kindness muscles, along with his curiosity and independence, to be sure he's ready.
I’ve been working with Doing Good Together for a long time, long enough to know how important it is to grow strong roots of kindness and courage before that first day of school.
These big-hearted roots will anchor him during the exciting, but often-overwhelming, first days of school.
His habits of kindness will help him forge new friendships. Regular volunteering gives kids a strong sense of empowerment, as they see themselves as helpers. When they see a problem, they tend not to wait for someone else to step in with a solution. This self-reliance translates to courage in the classroom, as well as on the playground.
I’ve seen this with both of my daughters. Though one is more outspoken than the other, both are problem solvers. Both are brave when it comes to standing up for others and for their own big ideas.
As a parent, these are exactly the skills I’d like my son to bring to school.
I've been making my list of service projects to try - or revisit - before his first day of kindergarten.
As I browsed through my collection of project ideas and flipped through this book by DGT's founder and director Jenny Friedman, I realized something else.
Some service projects are just more fun with younger volunteers.
That's why I'm sharing my list. The projects below are all efforts I've particularly enjoyed with my own young children. I'm hoping to make time for most of them before my little guy heads off to school.
A quick reminder, before you get started. It's important to set our little ones up for success. Most of my uncompleted service projects failed because I tackled them when it was expedient for me, but my young one happened to be hungry, distracted, or ready for a nap. This is an avoidable mistake (I'm reminding myself here!).
Before you begin, please remember:
Pack enough snacks.
Be sure they're well rested.
Let them know what to expect, if you're serving out in the community.
Be prepared to table the idea and start over when they are in the mood.
Service projects for families with young children.
1. Read curiously.
We've created a new book list specifically for our youngest audience. While they may not be ready to diagram sentences, these captivating stories are sure to spark big ideas.
2. Create birdseed cookies for feathered friends.
Simple, though messy, this project is especially fun when you hang your creations for a neighbor's enjoyment.
Adding cheer to simple paper lunch bags is fun for any child old enough to finger paint. If you have a free day, consider making deliveries for your local Meals on Wheels program. Your child might enjoy delivering their creations, and Meals on Wheels recipients love to see the smiles of young children at the door.
4. Create greeting cards or cheerful drawings.
Help your child create hand-print art, colorful paintings, or cheerful drawings to send to children in the hospital or folks in a nursing home. You may even want to visit the a nursing home and deliver your creations yourselves. Your child's smiling face may be the best gift of all!
5. Set up a Magic Mail Center.
Does your little one like arts and crafts? Share smiles with others and set up a space in your home to make it simpler to mail their creations.
6. Bake together and share with a neighbor.
Sharing homemade treats is so much fun for young children. Consider crafting a giving plate to share as well.
7. Give an award to someone you admire.
Our printable award template makes this craft easy. And even very young children like to talk about people they love and why (even if they focus on Grandpa and his stash of jelly beans).
This family project can become part of your household routine. Encourage your child to help you choose a food item to add to your food shelf box each time you visit the store. And don't forget to bring your child when you drop your box off at the local food shelf!
Does your family enjoy gardening? Dedicate a portion of your harvest to the food panty. Small children delight in the whole process, from tucking seedlings into the dirt, to watering, to harvest. While it's best to leave them out of weeding (I learned that the hard way), the rest of this task pairs nicely with your effort to adopt a food shelf.
10. Create a giving box, and collect cash for a cause.
One part craft project, one part scavenger hunt (for change in the sofa), this effort is a great charity 101 lesson.
Support a cause you care about and get fit as a family by signing up for a charity race near you. Look for an event that accommodates your child's age, whether they ride along in a stroller, speed around on a balance bike, or sign up for a race of their own.
12. Bake and share dog treats with a shelter or canine neighbor.
Is your young one a dog lover? Bake and share healthy dog treats!
13. Try our collection of 24 quick acts of kindness.
Go on a quest to share compliments, telephone relatives, leave popcorn outside a Redbox, and so much more. These simple acts of kindness are full of little learning opportunities about how others are feeling.
Pack a garbage bag and a set of gardening gloves each time you take a walk. Collect litter and talk about why it's important to take care of your neighborhood.
14. Celebrate patriotism and send cards to soldiers.
Spread good cheer to soldiers with this star-studded craft project.
15. Share May Day Baskets with neighbors.
My kids have been enjoying this project since they were two years old! Help me bring back this old-fashioned tradition.
Revisit this blog post for tips and tools for meditation with a young family.
17. Strengthen empathy muscles with our Feelings Flashcards.
Expand you child's emotional intelligence using our printable flashcards and simple games.
18. Practice being grateful with our Gratitude Garden craft.
Take notice of the many everyday things that make life special. Gratitude sets a wonderful foundation for a lifetime of kindness.
19. Create an artful Family Mission Statement with little hands and feet.
Craft a daily reminder of how you'd like your little one to engage with the world.
20. Remind your child that inside, we are all very much the same with our Good Egg project.
Celebrating the diversity in our communities can begin with this simple lesson: beneath all of our differences, we are the same within.
21. Talk, talk, talk.
Whatever project you choose, make time to talk about what you are doing. Here are some discussion talking points.
Describe who you are helping, how it makes a difference, and why you want to try the project.
Tell them how completing this project makes you feel.
Tell them about a time when you need help.
Ask you child to think about a time when they needed help (often earlier that day).
Be prepared to repeat yourself.
And of course, answer all their lovely, maddening little questions.
With persistence, a little luck, and these solid roots of kindness, our little ones will grow into compassionate, helpful, curious, and empowered school kids, then teens... then adults who we'll delight in knowing.
Watch for an upcoming collection of projects for big kids, coming soon. Until then, enjoy these related blog posts.
Browse our collection of big-hearted picture books today!
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The recommendations we offer are based solely on our mission to empower parents to raise children who care and contribute.