(BPT) - November 30th marks Giving Tuesday, a global movement to encourage people to do good and help their communities following Thanksgiving festivities.
It’s also a great time to show your kids the importance of getting involved through volunteering. In fact, research suggests kids can benefit from volunteering at a young age by learning about gratitude, becoming more generous and gaining an appreciation for sacrifice.
Volunteerism builds empathy and compassion, and it’s a great bonding activity for the whole family. There’s also the added benefit of skills development. Whether gaining people skills through conversations at a fundraiser, or by reading aloud to others and naturally improving their own comprehension, there’s a great deal to gain.
To get started, think about local organizations or topics and causes your family’s passionate about. Whatever your child’s age, skillset or passion, getting your kids involved in volunteerism as early as possible benefits us all.
At Delta Dental of California, service is a core value of ours, and this year we are sharing a few fun ideas that can help teach kids the joy of giving back:
Get Involved with Local Food Banks
Food insecurity gets a lot of attention around the holidays, yet the need is great all year. There are lots of ways to involve kids, and it’s a chance to directly connect children to a big gap they might not be aware of. Feeding America estimates approximately one in six kids face hunger. Helping out can literally happen at home, as some organizations suggest planting a family garden and donating the produce. Or you can go with your kids to the local food bank and pack backpacks with food items for kids in need. That way they receive snacks for school and a new backpack which they otherwise wouldn’t have.
Get Hands-on with Community Cleanups
Our earth often needs a little help. Parks, lakes, rivers — you name it — can almost always use an extra hand. And when it comes to a community cleanup, small hands are very welcome. This is another area kids can make a direct connection. Do your kids love being out in nature already? Maybe they play on this playground or explore this local park? Zoos get in on the volunteer cleanup action as well. The idea of making sure the place they enjoy stays beautiful is a great starting point.
Spend Quality Time with Seniors
Not everybody has somebody to love or to love them back — and many elderly adults have faced increased isolation during the pandemic. The Administration for Community Living says the population of those age 65 and older increased by 35 percent over the past 10 years. This group is projected to reach 94.7 million in 2060. While it may be challenging to imagine needing help years away, this is another connection point where kids might consider their grandparents, elderly neighbors or seniors in their communities. There are fun ways to get involved including baking cookies for a neighbor or going to the nearest assisted living home to play a game or have a great conversation.
Have Fun While Giving Back at Animal Shelters
Dogs and cats and bears (not quite), but oh my! Is your child an animal lover? Whether there’s a critter in your home already, this is a great way for your kids to surround themselves with furry fun. American Humane Association projects nearly 8 million animals enter shelters each year. Shelters need help walking dogs, brushing kittens or just petting and playing with the animals. Your family might also consider fostering. It’s hard to say goodbye, but so rewarding. Kids can also collect newspapers to line cages or make blankets to keep the animals cozy.
Participate in “Kids Tutoring Kids” Programs
Becoming a tutor not only serves the child in need of help, but also reinforces learning for your child through the process of explaining. Opportunities exist virtually, as well as via programs your child’s school may have in place. There are several benefits in peer tutoring and cross-age tutoring. Your child can gain leadership skills by becoming a role model to a struggling student.
Organize or Join FUNdraisers
And to put it all together, every type of organization can benefit from extra funds. But you can make it about more than just giving money by working with your kids to set up fundraisers. Do your kids love the kitchen? They might organize a bake sale. There’s also the time-honored lemonade stand, but with an added caveat that the money is for a charity. Kids can join a sponsored walk or run — or make fun signs for it to encourage others.
At Delta Dental, giving back is important to us and this year we’re hosting a “Pantry Challenge” where we are asking everyone to go through their pantries and look for good items to donate or to make a fun, new recipe from the items you have to help reduce food waste. We encourage you to host a “Pantry Challenge” of your own, especially following Thanksgiving when we all may have more food than we can eat.
Wherever you are, whatever your kids love, there’s a way to embrace giving as the gift you give your family.