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Never too young to volunteer



Take advantage of children’s desire to help

Take advantage of childrens desire to help


Anyone who’s been around toddlers will recall their adorable and heartwarming impulse to put their toys in your hands. Or, during feeding time, when they’re learning to use utensils, the common situation of a child feeding a parent. Generally, impulses for selfishness do not come until preschool, where they can quite quickly reach epic proportions. But it’s never too late (see Scrooge) to introduce a person to the satisfactions of giving, of your time, your stuff, and your efforts.

According to Kaitlin Lowe at Parents.com, “No child is too young to volunteer. In fact, during the toddler and preschool years, being a helper shapes a child’s developing sense of morality.” She offers three individual lists of suggestions for ways you can encourage and help broaden and deepen your child’s innate altruism.

Before you begin, it’s advisable to pick an activity that suits your child’s unique personality:

For ages two to four, Lowe suggests picking a wildflower bouquet “for a friend, a family member, or a neighbor who could use cheering up.” Also, “pick nonperishables from your cabinets together and pack a box for your local food bank.“

In our house, we started volunteering for local charities with our son not long after we moved to the area. Our boy was four. We sang at retirement communities, sang and served at Family of Woodstock on Christmas Day, and took canned goods to the food bank, or to the drop-off at the supermarket. Our son and his friends trick-or-treated for UNICEF, too.

READ MORE: 5 ways to support your community

For ages five to seven, Lowe advises looking into locks of love, which several of my son’s peers did. Lowe explains: “Before a big haircut, ask your child if she’d like to donate to Locks of Love an organization that makes free wigs for people who have lost their hair due to an illness. She’ll need at least 10 inches of extra length secured in a ponytail holder and a donation form.”

Among other things, Lowe also advises looking into KidsCanGiveToo.com , which facilitates young people giving to a favorite charity.

For ages 8 and up, Lowe suggests visiting the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s website to learn about endangered species in NY. Your child can choose an animal to draw, and can write congressional leaders, asking them to please support conservation policies that protect this species.

Political rallies can be excellent teaching moments, too, and an opportunity for your child to see many elements of a functioning democracy in action, like freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and protest. “Discuss why a cause is worth your advocacy,” Lowe advises, “then make a sign and attend the event together.”



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