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Teaching Children to Give Back

teaching children to give back volunteer random acts kindness memphis moms blog

Do small things with great love.
-Mother Teresa-

My son, Theo, is at the age where he is starting to become very aware of things in the world that surrounds him. As most three-year-olds do, he is often aware of what others have vs. what others do not have. Be it a fellow friend or a person on the street. What he isn’t aware of quite yet is how fortunate he is with the life he has been given. Some of it will be instinctive as he matures, but most of it will be taught by us, his parents. Like the majority of parents, I have my worries (most of the time these are induced after a trip to Target), that I am turning him into a spoiled brat. Lately, it seems like we don’t get out of there without another superhero or dinosaur to add to his ever-growing collection of toys. Queue visions of future bratastic meltdowns and a child standing in the middle of a playroom full of toys screaming he’s bored and needs more. THAT is my fear.

I mentioned this topic to a close friend of mine who shared a story about when she was riding in the car with her 2-year-old daughter one day. Her daughter pointed out to her a homeless man who was standing on a street corner. She mistakenly referred to the man as her “Daddy” which is basically her general description for any man - again, she’s 2.  It got my friend thinking, “how do I explain this to her in the future? How do I teach her how to show compassion in situations like this?” She got on Pinterest and found pins for "blessing bags." Together, they made a couple of these kits to put in the car to give to someone in need the next time they see them. Awesome idea, right? But what else can we do to encourage our children to give back? Do not fret, for I have compiled a list of ideas to help get you and your family motivated to give back!

Local Volunteer Opportunities for Kids:

  • Humane Society of Memphis and Shelby County - Children of any age can collect items needed to donate to the dogs and cats living at the Humane Society. Most kids are naturally animal lovers, so this is a great idea for families.
  • Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital - Collect and donate new toys/books for their gifts in-kind program for patients. We actually did this for my son’s first birthday party. He had so many toys already that we asked everyone to bring at least one new toy/book to donate to Le Bonheur. All of our guests were happy to oblige.
  • Little Helpers -  Open to all ages. As described on their Facebook page, "Little Helpers has been helping children help others since December 2010. The family volunteer group holds monthly service projects for children of all ages. The program is designed to help young people understand the value of volunteering, recognize the blessings in their lives, broaden their community perspective and feel the sense of accomplishment received from lending a helping hand. The ultimate goal of the program is to raise confident children who see giving back to the community as a normal aspect of their lives."
    • I have a very good friend of mine who particpates in these service projects with her almost-5-year-old daughter. She said there are no words to describe how happy it makes her daughter to know she is doing something for children that are less fortunate than her. For more information on their next event, join their Facebook group here.
  • Memphis Kids Against Hunger -  Children 3 and up can participate in this event put on by Engage Church and Kids Against Hunger. They will be packing 40,000 meals in 2 hours to give out to Memphis area schools and backpack programs for children in need.
    •  This event will take place Saturday, April 23.
  • Ronald McDonald House Charities of Memphis - A fun and easy way to give back to the sweet patients of St. Jude is to collect the pop-tabs off your soda cans and canned goods. Every fall, RMHCM holds a “Pop-Tab-Palooza” were they have a contest to collect the most pop-tabs to recycle. Individuals, schools, and businesses can participate. I’ll be putting a jar out tomorrow to collect our La Croix tabs ASAP!
  • Salvation Army Memphis - Angel Tree Program - Adopt a child from the annual Angel Tree Program during the Christmas season to sponsor and make their Christmas wants and needs come true.
  • Shelby Farms Park Conservancy - Register your family to volunteer at Shelby Farms to help clean the trails. Most kids LOVE to help clean/pickup things PLUS it’s outdoors, so it’s a win/win. Participant ages not specified.
  • St. Mary’s Soup Kitchen - Sign your family up to serve meals or prepare clothing at one of the daily shifts (Monday-Saturday). Serve and minister to those in need. Participant ages not specified.

Random Acts of Kindness Ideas:

  • Bake treats and/or write thank you notes to take to your community fire station or police station.
  • Have your child go through their old toys with you and choose items that they don’t use anymore to donate to Catholic Charities or the Dorothy Day House.  I usually do this right before Christmas and right after birthdays. It helps us stay in control of the clutter and it’s for a good cause.
  • Find a Little Free Library near you and donate new or used books to spread literacy in your community. The libraries are adorable and your child will want to help fill it up.
  • Grab your little one(s), gloves, and a trash bag and head to your neighborhood park to pick up trash.
  • Have your child(ren) write a thank you note accompanied with a gift card in your mailbox for your favorite mail carrier twice a year. For example, Starbucks for winter warmth and a gas station giftcard for soft drinks/water to keep them cool in the summer.
  • Get on Pinterest and search for blessing bags/homeless care packages. Make this a family activity. To make these more applicable for Memphis weather, alternate winter & summer items, i.e. for winter: knit hat, scarf, gloves; for summer: rain poncho, breathable baseball cap, sunscreen.
  • For more great ideas, search for random acts of kindness ideas for kids.

I hope these ideas are more inspiring than overwhelming. I know we are all busy with our day-to-day lives, but nothing beats taking the time to do for others. That feeling cannot be described, it can only be taught. How wonderful would that be to experience that with your child for the first time?

Be kind, y'all!

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