Teaching Kids to Give Back: 5 Easy Ways to Volunteer from Home with Toddlers and Kids

11/1/13 - By heather

So it begins: the season of giving. Whether giving thanks or giving presents, many of us are lucky to be able to do both. Sure, video games and gadgets are on the top of their lists, but why not give your kids the gift of giving? It’s hard to take your four-year-old to a soup kitchen, but here are a few easy and fun ideas to remind them (and you) how good it feels to do something for others.

And if your kids are ready to volunteer out in the world, check out our round up of kid-appropriate places to help out during the holidays.


Write a Letter, Draw A Picture Break out the crayons! Even little kids can draw a picture (or 10) for our troops. The men and women in the military who are overseas love getting mail from us folks back home. Talk with your kiddos as they draw, paint and practice writing T-H-A-N-K-Y-O-U. If they can’t write yet, ask them what they would like to say and write it for them. A Million Thanks has guidelines on how to get your letters and pictures to the troops. Meanwhile, Operation Stars and Stripes has info on sending stocking stuffers, including leftover Halloween candy, to soldiers. The site also has a list of critically-needed items like Ziploc Bags, unscented Wet Wipes stamps and Twizzlers.

Everyone Needs a Lovie I admit it: I had a blankie. My kiddo snuggles with three blankies every night. With chapters in all 50 states, Project Linus provides homemade security blankets to children in hospitals, shelters or wherever kids are in need of comfort. No sewing skills needed: The site has a no-sew pattern that you and your crew can do together. Head to a fabric store and have the kids pick a few they think other children would like. When you get home, brew some cocoa, cut out the pattern and hone the little ones’ fine motor skills by having them pull the fringe through the holes.

Raid the Closet Face it: You haven’t worn that suit in five years, and those handbags under the bed have become condos for dust bunnies. Time for them to move on. Bottomless Closet helps disadvantaged women in the NYC area get back on their feet by providing all kinds of services and items, including business attire. The organization accepts jewelry, handbags, clothing and even shoes. Have your kids play dress-up with some of your old things, and let them see you go through your old stuff. It's a great way to show your kids how easy it is to give. If they get inspired to go through their clothes and things, Room to Grow accepts used toys and kids' clothes up to size 4, while Baby Buggy takes clothing up to size 14.

Warm Toes, Clean Teeth Even a four-year-old can relate to putting on a clean pair of socks and brushing their teeth, which is why Socks’n Undies is the perfect charity to introduce your kids to. Started by local mom Jennifer Maulsby, the organization doles out clean socks, underwear and toiletries to homeless men, women and children in NYC. See a list of what's needed on the website and add a few items to your shopping list. The next time you and the tots are picking up toilet paper at Duane Reade, put a few toothbrushes or a couple of packs of socks in your cart. An afternoon of gathering items, packaging them up and mailing them off is a great way to spend time together doing something good for others.

A Yummy Thank You Does your doorman always bring a smile to your daughter’s face? How about that elderly lady in 22B who reminds you of your Aunt Nancy with her funny hats and quick wit? There’s nothing better than a plate of warm cookies or brownies to say thanks for making our days brighter. Baking is an easy and fun activity for the whole family to do together. Have the kids count the eggs you need and help pour the water into the mix. While the goodies are baking, grab some markers and decorate a paper plate on which to deliver the treats.

Find other great things to do this season in our Holiday Fun Guide, and gift ideas in our NYC Shopping Local Gift Guide.

Originally posted on November 24, 2010