Ever search for a volunteer opportunity for a kid, age 10 and under? It’s not easy. But it’s oh-so-important for tomorrow’s nonprofiteers.
Common suggestions for kids include visiting a senior living home or cleaning up a local park. Worthy endeavors. But if Little Johnny is afraid of old people or he won’t pick up his own toys (let alone garbage), a parent can get stuck.
Skeptics may ask: Seriously, what can a 2-year-old do to help?
I had the same reservations, but that was before I saw these kid-friendly options in action:
- Special Delivery - Through Humanitarian Service Project, families can deliver groceries to seniors one Saturday each month. Great for kids of all ages. It’s especially fun to watch a toddler carry a few light items in to a smiling senior.
- Art with Heart - Is your child an artist? Get out the glitter, and decorate cards for soldiers. Through its Holiday Mail for Heroes program, the American Red Cross will send the cards to men and women serving our country. The deadline usually falls in early December.
- Super Crayons – A creative recycling program from SCARCE melts down broken crayons to make new large crayons for kids with disabilities. Little ones can help collect and sort crayons — especially fun when kids are cleaning out old school supplies.
- Meal Pack - Feed My Starving Children invites kids age 5 and up to hand-pack meals for malnourished children in nearly 70 countries around the world. It fills up fast, but online registration makes it easy to check available dates and times.
Young children sometimes help nonprofits raise money by selling gift-wrap, candy bars or by jumping rope. While early fundraiser training is fine, it can be a little abstract for kids. I like projects that are hands-on and make it simple for kids to understand how they are helping others.
Is the hassle worth it?
No question, pint-sized helpers present certain challenges. Attention spans are short. Tasks must be simple and engaging. Kids require more safety considerations. I love ‘em, but they can be unpredictable, loud and downright messy.
They’re dependent on adults to plan, schedule, drive and supervise. Volunteer coordinators and parents — for whom time is a precious resource — will spend more time to include children than they would with teens and adults. And they’ll probably get less done.
But the upside is too big to ignore. Kids are enthusiastic about helping, and they have more free time to do it in. They can be creative, sweet, energetic and downright fun. Invest a little time now, and we’ll all reap tremendous rewards as they mature into volunteering teens and adults.
Thanks to nonprofits who welcome children as volunteers. And kudos to parents who harness kids’ energy for great causes. You are grooming tomorrow’s nonprofiteers.
If you’d like to see what’s available in your area, try using VolunteerMatch, which enables you to pick “kids” as a search criteria.
What other kid-friendly volunteer opportunities would you share?