It’s so important to give back to our community, and this is one of the biggest lessons we try to teach our kids. But sometimes volunteering with the kiddos can be tricky to say the least. That’s why we’ve found 10 cool ways to help others, right from your own home. They’re kid-friendly and parent-approved, too. Read on to get inspired.

photo: Adobe Stock

1. Gather the old toys and donate them to an organization.
Are your kids already making their holiday wish list and checking it twice? This year, why not teach your littles ones about the power of giving and receiving. Have your kids go through their toys and books, and encourage them to donate to others in need. You can try a “one-for-one” holiday wish list idea; for every item on your kid’s wish list, have them donate one of their items. Then, take those items to the places you may not think of for donations. For example, hospitals and pediatrician’s waiting rooms may be glad to receive a box of gently used toys and books (check with them first just to make sure). Daycare centers and churches/synagogues may use them, as well as police and fire departments for helping to calm a distraught kiddo.

photo: Leah Singer

2. Donate non-perishable foods in decorated paper bags.
Food pantries always need non-perishable food donations. Have your kiddos look through the cupboards and pull out canned goods, cereal, and other items. Then, have your little ones decorate the paper bags that you’ll use to contain the donation items. Kids love getting creative, so have them draw a picture and write a message of goodwill on the paper. You can find a local drop-off center through this Feeding America food bank locator.

photo: Leah Singer

3. Give your DVDs a new home.
If you’re like most families, Netflix has more than likely turned your DVD collection into a dust catcher. Work with your kids to pick out the discs you don’t watch anymore, and give them a new home (Really, is your five-year-old going to watch Baby Einstein anymore?). Children’s hospitals, libraries, and daycare centers would welcome your donations. Elementary schools may also take some of those G-rated gems.

alex-lemonadephoto: Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation

4. Sell lemonade for Alex’s Lemonade Stand.
What kiddo doesn’t want to set up a lemonade stand? Teach your little ones a humanitarian lesson by encouraging them to donate proceeds from their summer stand through Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, and fight childhood cancer “one cup at a time.” The foundation was started by Alexandra “Alex” Scott, who was battling cancer and vowed to raise money to fight the illness. By the time Alex died in 2004, she raised $1 million and has inspired kids across the country to sell lemonade for a great cause. Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation makes it easy to get started. All you need to do is register your lemonade stand’s location, date and time. You’ll receive a free fundraising kit in the mail and a personal fundraising coach to assist you with any questions.

thank-you-letterphoto: A Million Thanks

5. Write a letter to the troops.
Kiddos can get artsy and practice writing, all while doing an act of community service. Men and women serving overseas in the armed forces love notes of thanks from folks back home. Encourage your kids to write “thank you” letters or draw colorful pictures. Organizations like A Million Thanks has helped kids send more than 7.6 million letters! They tell you exactly where to send the notes, provide drop-off locations and have suggestions about what to write if kids are stumped.

sophie-bakes-2photo: Leah Singer

6. Host a bake sale to end child hunger.
No Kid Hungry is committed to making sure kids never go hungry. One of the ways they meet this goal is through the Bake Sale to End Child Hunger. This national fundraising initiative is simple: you hold a bake sale in your community, and the proceeds are donated back to the organization. Getting started is easy, and bake sales can be held any time of the year. Simply fill out the Start a Bake Sale online form and enter the dates, locations and times. You can download bake sale flyers, handouts and donation request letters right on the website. The hardest part is deciding what you’ll bake and sell.

project-linusphoto: Project Linus Facebook page

7. Make a homemade comfy blanket.
Linus from the Peanuts comic isn’t the only person who knows the value a comfy blanket can bring. Project Linus understands too, and they make it their mission to provide homemade security blankets to kids in hospitals, shelters or wherever they need a bit of comfort in their lives. You and your family can become “blanketeers” by creating a handmade blanket or afghan for a kiddo in need. Not a sewing pro? No problem! Project Linus provides a no-sew pattern. Once you’re finished, you drop it off at one of the donation centers in your closest city.

blessing-bag-2photo: The Larson Lingo Blog

8. Create blessing bags.
Mel from The Larson Lingo makes blessing bags for homeless individuals during the holiday season. But there’s no reason your family can’t participate any time of the year. Mel fills individual large Ziplock bags with items such as toiletries, snacks, new socks, deodorant, toothbrush and toothpaste, a bottle of water, and many other things (she provides a list on her website with suggested items). Mel encourages families to shop for the items together and have the kiddos draw cards to go inside. Families can then distribute the bags on their own or bring them to a local shelter.

photo: Kyla Goodell via Flickr

9. Send some love to your local animal shelter.
If you’re an animal lover with the time and space to spare, you can look into fostering a new furry friend. But even if you’re not able to take that on, you can still find ways to help your local animal shelter. Shelters often accept gently used water and food bowls, leashes, collars and pet beds, as well as cleaning supplies and other basic necessities—check with your local shelter to find out what they need. You can also get the little ones involved making your own no-sew dog toys. Visit Imagine Our Life to get the instructions.

photo: JD Lasica via Flickr

10. Quiz your kids for a good cause.
Kids love playing computer games, and with they can give back while they play. The site asks a variety of questions (English vocabulary is the best bet for kids); for every question you get right, 10 grains of rice are donated to the United Nations World Food Program. You can also create an account on the site so you can see the total amount you’ve contributed. Helping others and learning new words? Sign us up!

How do you get your kids involved in giving back? Tell us your ideas in the comments.

—Leah R. Singer & Susie Foresman