Five-year-old Josie Barnabee, of Libertyville, Illinois, and her 3-year-old brother, Ben, have more “honorary” grandparents than they can count. Since they were babies, they’ve spent one morning a week at Winchester House, a local nursing home, where they exchange hugs, sing songs, play games, and talk with the elderly residents. “When they walk out of the elevator, the residents come to life,” says their mom, Jenny.

The Barnabees aren’t alone in their commitment to reach out and help others. Parents with young children are increasingly making volunteering a regular part of their routine, whether it’s delivering meals to the homebound, planting flowers at a local park, or spending time with people with disabilities. For busy parents who want to spend time with their kids while still contributing to their community, volunteering as a family is an ideal activity.

The benefits are enormous. Volunteering teaches even toddlers and preschoolers about compassion, empathy, tolerance, gratitude, and community responsibility. And children who volunteer are more likely to continue doing so as adults. “It sounds clich?d, but my kids realize that small things they do can make a big difference,” says Tara Whalen, of Norwalk, Connecticut, who’s volunteered at AmeriCares with her family since her oldest child, now 11, was a baby. “My four kids have become much more appreciative of what they have because they realize there are others who aren’t as fortunate as they are.”

 When Marce and Steve Piller, of Minneapolis, realized that the families of other children at their kids’ schools couldn’t afford to pay for class pictures or field trips, they started their own “charity” called Little Bitz with their three children. They save all their loose change in a large jar and hold fund-raising events such as bake sales and garage sales.

10 Ways Kids Can Help:

  1. Donate food to a food pantry. Have your child pick out one item each time you go to the store. When you get a bagful, take it to a local food pantry.
  2. Walk to fight disease. Many organizations use walks to increase awareness and raise funds. Kids 5 and up can walk a few miles, and you can push little ones in a stroller.
  3. Put together activity boxes. If your child is a preschooler, decorate shoe boxes and fill them with a deck of cards, small games, and puzzle books for kids at the local hospital.
  4. Visit a nursing home. Your family can be matched with one person to call on regularly.

– Jenny Friedman


Read More: Helping Others is the Best Way for Children to Build Strong Morals; Volunteer With Your Kids

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