Volunteering with Kids: Confessions of a Work-at-Home Mom
We parents are known for how much we can pack onto our plates. Work, soccer practice, ballet, dinner, errands – and oh, yeah, the actual raising of children – are tasks we tackle day in, day out.
It’s easy to get caught up in serving our kids, our bosses, our spouses. It’s no wonder that, in the face of all of this busy-ness, imagining how to squeeze even a half-hour of service to our community out of our schedules is, in a word, overwhelming.
Plus, for parents whose children are elementary-school age or younger, finding volunteer opportunities that are age-appropriate seems like a chore in and of itself.
The perceived inconvenience factor of community service takes a nosedive when it can double as a family activity. In fact, if you’re clever enough, donating your time to worthy causes in your neighborhood can even be a bonding experience for you, your partner and your kids.
Here are a few of the ways we’ve found to double up on family time and giving back:
Plant a Row for the Hungry.
While taking a toddler along to help out in the local community garden doesn’t sound like most parents’ idea of fun, there’s less to worry about when gardening with kids at home. Not only can planting an extra row in your veggie garden help to feed those in your community who don’t have enough fresh produce to eat, but it can also teach tons to kids about the importance of healthful diets, nature and growth cycles and how to grow their own food – and that’s a skill that keeps on giving. When the time is right, show young children how to harvest food, and allow them to help donate what they grew to your local food bank.
Host a work day.
For neighbors, friends or family members who have trouble getting outdoors to take care of gardens, lawns and household needs, grab your kids and offer to help host a work day on their property. Small kids can help with weeding, watering and planting and older kids can help with basic home repair and lawn care. After, take everyone out for an ice cream sundae. Win, win.
Create a drive for items to donate to a school, children’s organization or homeless shelter.
Kids and parents can work together to build a donation at home, school, work and/or church, and local charities that serve the homeless and families in need are always in need of extra clothing, toys, blankets, hygiene supplies, blankets and more. Book drives are fun, too.
Participate in or volunteer with one of Tulsa’s many walk and run events.
Many of them don’t just allow children to participate, they encourage it. Training with the kids can also be a very rewarding family bonding experience. Plus, running or walking a benefit event promotes exercise and teaches kids valuable lessons about healthful habits, and it gets them started early – one of the keys to lifelong health.
Do you and your kids like to knit? Learn a basic hat pattern together and knit hats for the delivery units of our local hospitals, or for Tulsa’s charities that support families in need. It’s never too late to learn to quilt, either, and it’s hard to beat the healing and peace that comes from wrapping up in a handmade quilt. If you can’t wield a needle, try making fleece tie blankets together.
Help your kids make cards.
Draw pictures or write silly jokes in them and to take them to the local seniors center or nursing home.
Put together a care package for troops overseas.
Adopt a dog! Or a cat.
Look at it this way, parents: You’ll have yet another household member who goes nuts with happiness when you come home, your kids will have a new best friend and you’ll be saving an animal from an uncertain or perilous future. Just be sure you’ve talked with your kids beforehand about pet ownership, that pet care responsibilities have been fairly spoken for and that you have the equipment (leash, food and water bowls, crate, etc.) and the funds for adoption, shots and spaying/neutering on hand and you’ll be good to go.
What are some ways you’ve found to both give back to your community and spend time with your kids?