Children, by nature, are the center of their own worlds. They may think about school, their friends, their families, and their hobbies. But, it can be difficult for them to imagine what life is like for other people. Problems in the world, or in the community, can be very abstract for kids, especially if the biggest problem they've had to deal with so far is how to beat the next level in a video game.
Service projects for kids can not only help them learn to empathize with others but can help them find their own place in the world and realize how their actions can make a difference. In this article, we give you ten ideas for service projects for kids.
What Is a Service Project?
A service project is a project that helps others, and that is not done in exchange for money or other tokens.
Do Kids Learn from Service Projects?
There are many things kids learn from service projects. First of all, they can learn a new skill. This can be especially helpful for older kids who are thinking about what career they want to pursue. Through service projects, they may figure out what they enjoy doing, and what they'd like to learn more of. They can also develop a sense of respect for the community. For example, they may not take their local playground for granted if they realize that people work hard to clean it up each week.
They can learn empathy for others around them and find out what life is like for people who are less privileged. They can meet other people, both who are volunteering alongside them or who are receiving volunteer services, and learn from their experiences and stories. They can learn leadership skills, as they go from taking part in service projects to supervising others or even starting their own projects.
10 Great Service Projects for Kids
Here are ten ideas to get you and your family started on service projects.
It is great to find service projects for kids where the whole family can participate, even toddlers. A handmade card can brighten up someone's day. Make it more fun for kids by providing different colors and patterns of paper, crayons or markers, scrapbooking scissors, and stickers.
Children who are too young to write on their own can dictate a message to include on the inside of their card. Donate these to a local senior center or nursing home to give out, send them to deployed soldiers, or bring them to a drop-in center for veterans. If you need more ideas for where to mail your cards. check out this webpage.
Visit a Nursing Home
Not every senior citizen living in a nursing home has family members who can come visit them regularly. Volunteer as a friendly visitor at a local nursing home. Older kids and teens may be able to volunteer on their own, but younger children will need their parents or guardians along for supervision. It is fun to bring something to do with the seniors.
For instance, if you have an older kid who loves to give manicures, they can go door to door in a nursing home and offer their services. Or, bring a simple game or craft to do, or a book of short stories to read aloud. Some nursing homes might give you the option of "adopting" a particular senior to visit on a regular basis, while other places might ask you to visit with as many seniors as possible.
Collect School Supplies
Many service projects for kids involve collecting items. Here is one that kids can do over the summer, while back to school sales are going on. Kids can create signs or fliers asking their friends, family members, and neighbors to buy a few extra school supplies.
At the end of the summer, you can either donate the whole slew of supplies to a local school or social service agency or sort the supplies into backpacks that can be given out to kids. If you're hoping to donate to a school, the school social worker, counselor or nurse might be the best point of contact to help the supplies get to the children who need them the most.
Help at an Animal Shelter
The best service projects for kids incorporate something that they care about. This one is for kids who have been begging for a pet. Let them learn first hand about the animal they want to have as a pet and the work that is involved in caring for one. They can also see what happens to animals who end up with no homes because people weren't able to, or no longer wanted to, care for them. Kids can learn that having a pet is a big responsibility, and they can feel good about helping animals in the process.
Pick Up Litter
Some service projects for kids are about cleaning up or beautifying the world around them. If your family has a favorite park or nature trail, this is a great service project to help care for it. Put on gloves, get some trash bags, and walk around picking up garbage. Remind kids that there are some things they should let adults handle, such as needles or broken glass. See how much litter you can collect and talk about how much nicer the place looks without all that garbage lying around.
Give a Happy Birthday
Service projects for kids should help kids to think about others in need. Here is one for kids to do around their own birthdays. Explain that some children's families might not have enough money to celebrate birthdays. You can create a birthday in a box to donate to a child in need. Your child can pick out a box of cake mix, some frosting, candles, and party decorations, such as balloons and streamers.
It is also suggested that you include a wrapped, new or gently used children's book, and maybe a small gift worth $10 to $15. Put the items in a box, decorate the box, and include a birthday card if you'd like. Bring it to a homeless shelter, foster care organization, or other social service agency, and ask them to pass it on to a child who is having a birthday. Your child can choose if they want to create the birthday box for someone of the same age as them or someone older or younger.
Have a Lemonade Stand
Many service projects for kids involve raising money. This one works best in the summer or for those that live in warm areas. Kids can have a lemonade stand and donate the proceeds to an organization or cause that is important to them. If your kids want to raise money for pediatric cancer, they can work directly with Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation. (https://www.alexslemonade.org)
The organization will even provide them with some signs and other materials. Or, let them choose the organization they want to donate to. It can be helpful to let neighbors and others know ahead of time that the lemonade stand will be happening, and proceeds will go to charity.
Host a Shoe Cutting Party
Hands-on, crafty, service projects for kids are often fun. This is a service project for kids who are old enough to safely use sharp scissors. An organization called Sole Hope always needs people willing to make shoes for kids in Uganda, who often get injuries and infections from walking barefoot. You will need to pay $115 to get a Shoe Party Kit, but you could offset this cost by asking each guest to contribute $5.
The kit includes instructions, a pattern, and some information to hand out. Ask each guest to bring a pair of old blue jeans. Supply them with sharpies and sharp scissors. Participants will be following the pattern to cut pieces out of blue jeans. Later, you'll send the cut pieces back to the organization, where shoemakers will use them to create shoes for kids.
Host a Bear Making Party
Many service projects for kids can be done in groups. Another service project party idea involves working with Build-A-Bear. If you host a service project party through the store, they will give you a discount on Lil' Cub teddy bears. Each guest can choose one to stuff. (You'll have to pay the regular price if you want to add clothing or accessories.) Then, donate the bears to an organization of your choice, such as a domestic violence shelter.
Some service projects for kids can teach them a new skill. If your kids want to find out if they have green thumbs, they can buy some flower seeds or seedlings and beautify a drab area of the community. This could be anyplace from a street corner to the front of a nursing home. It is a good idea to ask whoever owns the property before you plant the flowers. Or, plant a tree so that you can watch it grow. Remember to go back on a regular basis to weed and care for your plants.
There are many great possibilities for service projects for kids, and this list is just a beginning. The best ideas may come from your children, themselves. Explain to them what a service project is. Ask them to look around for the next few days and try to notice where there is a need.
They might say something like, "Some kids at my school don't always have lunch money," or "I see a lot of graffiti on the sidewalk in front of my school." Then ask them, "What could you do about that?" or "How can we help?" You may be surprised by what you hear! There is so much to be gained when kids do service projects, and in the end, everyone wins!