5 Ways You Can Involve Your Preschooler in Community Service
The older my son gets, the more I become aware of the values I am instilling in him. With the holidays quickly approaching, I have been looking for ways to teach him about helping others. Much like any typical 4-year-old, my son is now in the “I want” stage. I can't watch a TV show without him exclaiming, “I want that toy for Christmas, mommy,” even if he already has that toy! I sometimes wonder if I'm doing this whole parenting thing wrong when I hear him talk about the toys he just has to have. Then I talk to other moms and realize that this “I want” behavior is very typical.
As your child becomes more independent and interested in building relationships, you can start introducing him or her to community service projects.
Instead of telling my son over and over again that he doesn't need that rocket ship because he has three in the playroom, I have to decided to teach him about giving back. I'm hopeful that a hands-on experience will better show him that he can be just as happy giving to others as he can in getting a new toy.
I asked other parents what community service projects they participated in with their preschoolers. Here are just a few of the inspiring ways parents are helping their children learn about giving back.
1. Donating to a Food Bank
While I was spring cleaning this year, I asked Xander to help me pick out his favorite foods that we could donate to other boys and girls who may not have as much food as we do. He gladly went through the pantry with me, choosing foods he thought other kids would enjoy. After we gathered the food, I did some research to locate the nearest food bank. Then he helped me bag the food, put it in the car, and take it to the food bank with me. Now once a month, we make an afternoon out of the project.
2. Operation Christmas Child
Operation Christmas Child is an international relief that delivers shoe box-sized care packages to children in need during the holiday season. Jennifer Harris, a mother of three, participates in this program with her children each year. Last year, her children loved it and “were excited about buying things they knew other kids needed (socks, hats, mittens) and things they wanted (toys, candy etc.).”
3. Volunteering at the Special Olympics
Shaun, who blogs at Living with Peanut, brings her daughter with her when she volunteers at the Special Olympics practices and tournaments.
4. Salvation Army Giving Tree
Jennifer Murphy-Wescott of My Family. My Friends. My Life. teaches her children about giving by picking a Salvation Army Angel Tree each Christmas. Last year was the first year her son Peter, age 4, really got it, and it was something they enjoyed doing together. When Jennifer asked Peter what he enjoys about doing the Angel Giving Tree, he exclaimed, “Presents make me happy, and I like making [the other kids] happy.”
5. Meals on Wheels
The Meals on Wheels program delivers approximately 1 million meals per day to seniors in need. Lauren Savvoy volunteers for the program with her 3- and 4-year-old children. Her children enjoy delivering the meals, and typically, the kids bring a smile to the faces of the seniors they meet.
No matter how small a community project you and your child participate in together, every little bit makes a difference for all involved.
Have you participated in a community service program with your child? If so, what did the two of you learn from the experience?