It is often said that the most valuable thing we can do is to give away our time. Volunteering is beneficial not only for those who receive help but for those who give it. Teaching kids to volunteer helps them develop important skills and also sets them up for success in other areas of their lives. According to the Director of the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning at Tufts University, Peter Levine, children who regularly volunteer tend to perform better in school and have higher high school and college graduation rates compared to children who do not volunteer.
For parents and caregivers who want to introduce their kids to the wonderful world of volunteerism, there are a variety of ways to do it. Here, we’ll discuss the main skills that children can learn from volunteering and how parents and caregivers can get younger kids interested in helping others.
It may seem obvious, but volunteering helps children build social skills because it’s typically a group activity. In addition, because volunteering usually involves working with new people we do not see on a regular basis, volunteering allows children to gain a new perspective on the world beyond their usual surroundings. It also allows them to learn how to interact with people who are different from themselves.
Children who regularly volunteer may have better communication skills and maybe more able to work with others to overcome challenges. Volunteers often support each other and figure out solutions to problems together, so it is a good opportunity for parents and caregivers to encourage children to socialize and develop teamwork skills. Children who volunteer get a chance to view the world outside of their home and school environment, and adults get the chance to teach children about being social and helping out in a fun, hands-on way. Moreover, children can also establish friendships through volunteering.
A Sense of Community
Another main benefit of volunteering is that it gives children a sense of community. Children are exposed to a variety of messages about the country and the world as a whole on a daily basis, so seeing what is going on in their own neighborhood is essential to have a grounded view. Don’t forget that children absorb more than you might think of the news, and some of the information and the pictures may be upsetting and scary. By volunteering, children can feel like they are making a real difference in the world and helping others in need. This, in turn, can help them feel less overwhelmed and more empowered.
By volunteering in the surrounding community, children can learn about the people and places that are closest to where they live, and how their community functions. It’s easy for adults, let alone children, to get caught up in the routine of daily life and forget about everyone else in the community. Volunteering gets kids out of the house, away from their screens, and engaged in the real world.
Your child will learn about civic action and the importance of helping out within a community. Parents and teachers can also include children in volunteer activities to help them learn about social causes and to teach them that they have the power to address issues that they are passionate about.
The Power of Gratitude and Empathy
Gratitude is a major benefit of regular volunteering, and it is something that young children can learn about easily. If you are volunteering to help people who are less fortunate than you, gratitude is a worthwhile skill to teach your children. Some may say that gratitude is a spontaneous feeling, but gratitude is something that can be cultivated, too! Volunteering in this capacity, children see firsthand that not everyone is as fortunate as they are. They may gain a new appreciation for the food they eat and the roof over their heads.
Similarly, children can learn about empathy through volunteering. Most children have a natural sense of altruism and a desire to help out, and volunteering is a great way to tap into this.
Bonding Between Parents and Children
Volunteering as a family helps parents develop a bond with their children. At a basic level, volunteering is a fun activity you can do as a whole family that gets everyone out of the house and into a new environment. Just this much can be a breath of fresh air and a good time for everyone. In addition, volunteering reinforces the value of teamwork and the benefits of working together.
New Interests and Abilities
Volunteering can also be a great way to help children find new interests beyond what they are exposed to at home and in school. For example, if your child likes plants and the outdoors, try volunteering on a community farm if there is one in your community, or participating in a creek, beach, or park clean-up event. Kids who love animals may enjoy volunteering at a shelter or rescue. All these experiences can help kids pick up new interests and skills they carry with them throughout life.
Find Kid-Friendly Volunteer Activities in Your Community
Taking the time to volunteer with your kids is important for a variety of reasons, and it does not have to be a chore. Search your local community, look online, and talk to other parents or your child’s school to find age-appropriate volunteer activities for you and your kids. Let your children take an active role in the process by identifying causes or charities that interest them and deciding as a family what to do. This will give them a sense of purpose and help them become more connected to the volunteering experience.
Want to learn more about how Little Sunshine’s students give back and how to introduce your children to community helpers? Check out our resources below: