My DS (5) is starting to learn the lesson that objects/toys are really not all that important. He has saved up his money (he has a responsibility chart and gets a dime for each happy face weekly, comes to about $2-3) and has bought a few toys. And, he has tired of these toys after a very short time. I have been talking to him about the fact that toys and objects are not what is important in life, that people, our families, our friends, and love is what is important. I told him that what helps us feel good is when we are able to help others.
Now he is interested in doing something to test this idea. I have thought of some options, like going to a nursing home and visiting the residents there (I mentioned singing songs), going to the children's hospital and bringing the children books or playing with them, and contributing things for animals at an animal shelter (not people obviously, but still helping out). He was not interested in helping animals, and he didn't seem thrilled about the nursing home idea, but he kindof got into the idea of helping other children.
Does anyone have ideas of something that would be very tangible to a 5 year old, that we could do in an afternoon or something? I'm not sure how feasible it is to just go hang out at the children's hospital, but I am sure there are groups out there that we could participate in. Maybe some kind of habitat for humanity project? Or contributing something for children with special needs? I would absolutely love to hear your ideas.
DS1 (6) , DS2 (3) , DD is here!
coming up with something tangible at 5 is a hard one. there are not that many opportunities for children to do things and see the end result.
dd would go with me wherever i was volunteering. she had a blast and a ball - not necessarily helping others per se.
for insteance she took part in many protests, social and political. i was involved with a local conservation group so dd did a lot of planting and weeding and laying irrigation lines.
we've filled stockings for the homeless. volunteered at a farm.
i dont think i really talked much about any of this. i did and dd joined me.
once in a little while i'd remind dd how much simple things make a difference. like smiling at a stranger. or chatting with a stranger. she was a natural at that and did those without thinking. i wanted her to know she was doing the best thing.
I do a lot of volunteering, about 10 hours a week, always with my boys in tow. In part because I like to help keep our community organizations running but also simply for interesting things to do. I have found lots of volunteer jobs that I can do with my kids (now 2.5 and 4.5 and we've been volunteering since my first was born) and most of the time opportunities arise through child/family activities and services that we go to already. For example, we do lots of work to run our Toy Library and local playgroups, and also for my DS1's preschool. We visit our SPCA often as volunteer cat cuddlers (this started almost by accident when we went to donate leftover food after our dog died). We will help out at a nearby CSA farm this summer (I'll weed and they'll probably run around in the field but that's ok!). I canvased for a health-related charity, a door-to-door type fundraiser that I could take my kids along for. Whenever there is a local festival or fair, I take a shift doing something to help run it and my kids come along - many fairs and charity events have family activity tents that need volunteers. We have also gone to serve snacks with my aunt on the picket line when her teachers' union was on strike. That seems like a lot when I write it all down but really it just feels like our usual activities.
I talk a little bit about volunteering and giving back with my kids but not a lot, it's just always been something we do and I think it's cool that they are growing up with that. It sounds like your DS is giving you some great opportunities for conversation about these issues. As for what exactly to do, I would start by looking at the places you already go. Are there aspects of your library or a local museum that are run by volunteers, for example? Is spring revealing lots of litter along your road that you could clean up? Would a neighbour benefit from a few frozen meals delivered? There are so many ways to work community service into your daily life - and I think that kids really do see the tangible results, though it may be subtle at first. I would advise against the nursing home or hospital idea unless these are places that you are already familiar with, or would recommend asking them for names of established organizations there that can guide you to where your interests best meet their need. Just showing up somewhere or starting a project from scratch can be awkward and deflating. Lots of volunteer efforts don't provide immediate satisfaction for the donor (though you may still be doing lots for the recipients without even knowing it!), and can be frustrating at first. In my experience, a long-term commitment where you take the time to find your place within the organization will provide the most tangible result, but it can take time to really "feel it." If you and your DS are looking for a single afternoon activity, I'd recommend finding a well-defined one-time job (such as at a special event) with an established organization. One example would be manning a water table at a charity run - there are lots of those coming up this time of year! - your son will have direct contact with the people he is helping, and you can talk about what it takes to raise money for cancer research (or whatever it is) while you are there. Habitat for Humanity also sounds wonderful and I've been meaning to look into it myself. Even if a 5-year old can't help out with the actual building (I'm guessing that they probably have safety rules regarding age), you might be able make supply runs or serve lunch, etc. Or what about contacting your nearest March of Dimes office? They run dozens of programs and you might find your fit through them.
I also totally agree with pp that simply sharing a smile or a chat with a stranger who looks like they could use it is a wonderful way to start the habit of giving - and little acts like that often have immediate results that your DS will see.
Good luck finding the right fit and have fun!
Happy mumma to my boys Henny Tom (Nov 30, 2008), Arlo Odie (Oct 5, 2010), and baby SISTER! due mid-Dec 2014.
dissertating mom to three
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