Giving Back

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Family-friendly volunteering opportunities

Many parents encourage their youngsters to volunteer in the hopes that their kids will grow up recognizing the importance of helping the less fortunate and giving something back to their communities.

Depending on a youngster's age, he or she may be hesitant to volunteer. Young children may be shy, while older kids may already be burdened with schedules far busier than their parents ever had to contend with. But volunteering can help kids establish a strong connection to their communities and introduce them to new people, the likes of which they may otherwise never get a chance to meet or befriend.

Youngsters hesitant about volunteering may be more likely to embrace it if they are joined by their parents. The following are a handful of family-friendly volunteering opportunities perfect for parents looking to find ways to give back to their communities while instilling the value of volunteering in their kids.

• Nature cleanup: Whether it's working to remove litter from a nearby beach or pitching in to clean up a local park, a volunteering opportunity in the great outdoors is hard for adults and kids to resist. Kids likely will enjoy the idea of spending a weekend morning or afternoon at the park or beach, and parents can get some sun as they teach their kids the value of protecting the planet and pitching in to keep a community looking great.

• Soup kitchen: Many kids may find it hard to relate to people without a home to call their own. Volunteering at a soup kitchen, where youngsters can witness firsthand that not everyone is fortunate enough to enjoy three meals a day and have a roof over their heads, is a great way for parents to instill a sense of compassion for the less fortunate in their children. Youngsters can serve meals alongside their parents or help deliver meals to men and women who have been rendered immobile by medical conditions.

• Nursing home: Nursing homes accept volunteers of all ages, and families can go together to pitch in and brighten the days of elderly men and women. Kids can read to or play cards or other games with nursing home residents while their folks lend a helping hand in other areas around the facility.

• Special Olympics: Volunteering with the Special Olympics is another great way for families to give back together. The Special Olympics is the world's largest sports organization for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, and millions of people volunteer with the Special Olympics across the globe. Families can volunteer to work directly with the athletes or work as event volunteers and fans. Kids who like sports will love the chance to give back in a sporting atmosphere, and parents will love the lessons kids learn about having compassion for those with disabilities.

• Animal shelter: Many kids love animals, so volunteering with a local animal shelter is a great way for families to bond as they give back to their communities. Animal shelters may need help during special adoption events, or may simply need some extra hands to maintain their facilities.