There are so many different types of philanthropic efforts children can and should participate in, and with Thanksgiving right around the corner, now is the perfect time to let your kids know about the importance of giving. It’s a good practice for the mind, body, and soul! Philanthropic efforts aid children in developing their social and emotional skills such as inclusivity, compassion, gratitude, empathy, and acceptance.

A child’s world is naturally very small. They’re most familiar and comfortable with what they know, which is usually reflected in their own immediate families. Broadening their understanding of the world is crucial to creating, what we call at The Little Gym, Citizen Kids. Citizen Kids are well-rounded children who can appreciate the differences they see in others and learn to contribute to the world in a positive way.

Developing a philanthropic mindset and instilling a service heart in children begins at home, with their parents and loved ones. Children are influenced not only by the words of their loved ones but even more so, their actions. Volunteering as a family is a fun way to spend quality time together and to show them how far kindness and compassion can reach. And kindness is contagious!

Here are some ideas to get you and your family started!

For Children 3 Years or Older

1. Build homeless packs and have them in your car. In a large Ziploc baggie include small personal hygiene products, feminine products, socks, granola bars, fruit snacks, and a bandana. As a family, you can make it a monthly activity to put these together and have them on hand to pass out to the homeless in your community when the opportunity arises. It showcases thoughtfulness and kindness to your child. Simply roll down your window and hand them out, no need to get out of the car.

2. Set-up a lemonade or popsicle stand to raise donations for a children’s charity or not-for-profit that you and your children can connect with. There are many local organizations right in your backyard that need your support, as well as, more widespread organizations across the country.

3. Get moving with your children for a good cause! There are awareness walks all around the United States that you and your family can get involved in. Choose one, raise the money and walk as a family in support of a local or regional non-for-profit. Whichever walk you choose, be sure to educate your children on the “why” this is so important. You can even make the walk a “family tradition” of sorts!

4. Organize a “Travel Bag Drive” in your driveway! Encourage your friends and neighbors to donate new or gently used backpacks, duffle bags, etc. to a box on your front porch and donate them to your local CASA organization. Court Appointed Special Advocates is a national association in the United States that supports and promotes court-appointed advocates for abused or neglected children in order to provide children with a safe and healthy environment in permanent homes. These children are often only given a black trash bags to carry the few personal items they have. By collecting these bags and donating them, you are providing a child with a sense of identity in a time of difficulty. Allow your children to write notes or draw pictures and place them in the bags as an additional act of kindness.

5. Create “self-appointed” Park Protector badges! When you take your kids to the park, have them wear their badge and spend the first 10 minutes combing the park for trash. Simply make it part of your park routine! This really showcases how “we all play a part” in protecting our planet and hopefully developing a life-long respect for mother nature!

For 5 Years Old or Older

1. Got a young performer on your hands who is looking for an audience?! Why not reach out to a local nursing home or assisted living center to see if they’d be interested in “showcasing” your child’s talents. What a beautiful way to spread positivity and joy to others. If you don’t have, or aren’t a performer yourself, you could simply volunteer to stop in and play board games or simply listen to their stories. This is a great way to expose your younger children to the older population and showcasing that each person, no matter age, can develop positive and respectful relationships. This is an important service opportunity that can bring light and joy to the residents of these communities.

2. Create a “Family Service Calendar”  where you choose one service opportunity per month for you and your family. Don’t overwhelm yourself with feeling like you have to do grandiose projects each and every month. Try picking 4 months out of the year for the bigger ideas and then sprinkle the smaller ones into the remaining months.

Remember, no act of service is ever too small and it will only further develop your bond with your children and their social and emotional intelligence, leading to a well-rounded “Citizen Kid.”