How to Volunteer with Small Children

-practical advice from a mother of two toddler daughters


volunteering with children, how to introduce kids to volunteering, teaching kids to give back,
The Sheaffers family pledge

Stephanie and Tim took a year off in 2011 to travel around the country in a RV with the intent purpose of helping people. During the year they volunteered with more than 40 non-profits organisations – all with their two little daughters in tow (aged 2 and 4 at that time) and without any childcare.

Stephanie in her blog shares some very practical tips, from her experience, for parents who want to introduce their little children to volunteering. We love how she sums up the essence of volunteering in:

“Volunteering is much more than just completing small projects. It’s awareness as you talk about the experience to friends. It’s encouragement for the staff as they see young ones at work. And let us not forget the impact that service has on a child’s mind and heart. Your child may not remember the details, but the impression is sure to last a lifetime.”

Below are excerpts from her 3-part series on how to volunteer with children.

  1. Take a tour first.  Call an organization in your town and say that you are a potential volunteer that would like to take a tour to learn more. Be sure to mention that you will have your children with you for the tour. As you listen and ask questions, you’ll get a better idea about what the organization does, how they respond to children, and if there are service opportunities available that work with your schedule, your interests, and your children’s ages.
  2. Sign up – on trial. If you find an organization that you are passionate about, pick a commitment that works for you. Choose once a week, twice a month, or once a quarter. Most organizations will be happy to have you – regardless of the frequency.
  3. Expect imperfection. There will sometimes be potty training pauses, declarations of boredom, and fights over who-gets-to-sort-the-GIRL-clothes. But you’ll probably find that on MOST days, your children will be excited to serve. They will enjoy being in a new environment. They will know, from somewhere deep inside, that they are making a difference – even at under three feet tall!
  4. Try your best to schedule volunteer projects when your kids are freshly fed and rested. After breakfast tends to be a good time for our young ones, but take your own child(ren)’s temperament and nap schedule into consideration.
  5. Bring a backpack. Include diapers, wipes, extra clothes, extra underwear, a wet/dry bag, a snack, and/or a bottle of water. It’s also a good idea to bring along a few coloring books and crayons in case you end up waiting for a project coordinator or instructions.
  6. If possible, include your spouse or another adult (grandpa, grandma, your sister, etc). It’s much easier if volunteering involves the entire family. The more adult hands, the more peaceful the project will be.

The complete blog posts are here at Stephanie’s blog: Part 1, Part2 and Part3.

Read how the Sheaffer’s family gave back everyday at Tim’s blog: Give Every Day


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