Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Get Your Family Interested In Volunteering

Now is the time of year when volunteering seems to make the most impact. Though, I think people should volunteer year round. At what age do you feel you should teach your children about volunteering? Callan is almost three, and we talk to him about it already, though he may not quite not understand. We just explain what we are doing, and why we are doing it. And then answer any of his questions. I think it is very important for parents to teach kids the value in volunteering at a young age. Dr. Mary Zurn, Vice President of Education for Primrose has 4 steps to help parents get their kids on the path to meaningful volunteering. Here they are:

Step 1: Clarify your personal goals and motives for wanting to include your child in volunteer activities. Volunteering is a wonderful way to a share your values with your child. Pick a cause that is meaningful to you and your family rather than one that is simply convenient.

Step 2: Explain the importance of volunteerism and the contribution volunteers can make. A child's favorite question is "why?" Keep your answers simple and concrete. For example, if you are going to volunteer at the food bank, tell your child that "The food bank has lots of food for people who need it, and it will be our job to sort the food so that people are able to find what they need."

Step 3: Choose volunteer activities to do with your children that are age-appropriate. Children as young as three can begin volunteering. At this age they begin to enjoy participation in group activities and are better able to follow directions. Remember that a preschooler's concept of the world is not very large and is usually limited primarily to their home, neighborhood and school; therefore, it is important to keep the activity within the realm of what they can imagine. A few examples:
  • Participate in "clean the park" activities. Be sure to have your child wear gloves.
  • Take recyclables to recycling collection centers.
  • Act as a companion to the elderly in retirement or assisted living homes. Simply listening to their stories and relieving their loneliness provides multiple benefits for the senior citizen and your child.
  • Participate in local races and walks that raise money for a charitable cause that you think is important; most races have a shorter race for children.
  • Sort food at a food bank. Be sure to confirm that children are welcome to volunteer and that it will be a safe environment.
Step 4: Find a child-friendly not-for-profit. Ask the following questions to help you select the volunteer opportunity that is right for your family:
  • Does the organization have experience with and a history of successfully working with children and families? Will the organization provide me with a reference from another family who has volunteered with them?
  • Will the organization staff welcome my child's participation?
  • Is there a specific job that my child can do successfully? Who will show my children what to do?
  • Are there special clothes or supplies needed for my child to volunteer with this organization?
  • Does the organization conduct appropriate background screenings on its staff? Does the organization have insurance if there is an accident while your family is volunteering?
  • Can the organization provide a concrete example that will help your child understand how his or her efforts benefit others?
To find these and other great tips for parents, check out Dr. Zurn's blog at For more information on Primrose Schools, visit You can also check them out on Facebook and Twitter!

Disclosure: I was entered for a chance to win a gift card in exchange for this post. No monetary exchange took place.

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