5 ways to encourage your child to volunteer

Here’s how one mom is raising her daughters to help their community.

Child volunteers clean up litter on a beach

Success is important, good grades are important and being captain of the soccer team is important; but so is being kind, being aware of other people and being willing to help when and where we can. 

It’s important to me that my daughters grow up with an attitude of giving back, so as a family we look for ways in which we can be of service to our community. It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture, it can be something small that may help only one person.

The goal is not necessarily to change the world, but to foster an attitude of awareness and willingness to help. Here are a couple of ideas to get your kids involved that have worked for us over the years.


Two children volunteer at animal rescue center

Volunteer at an animal shelter

This is a great one as it ticks lots of ‘good parenting’ boxes. Riley, my 10-year-old, wants to be a vet, so we foster rescue dogs. This not only encourages her love for animals, but also teaches her responsibility (cleaning up after the pups, giving medication, etc), and a little bit about real life (some of the dogs aren’t in great shape when they’re rescued), plus it gives all of us an opportunity to give back to the community. If you can’t look after animals in your home, there are plenty of shelters where you can go to their premises and give the animals some love.


Homework help

My older daughter, Izzy, is in 7th grade and for the most part, does pretty well academically. One of her friends missed a bit of school last year and is struggling to catch up with the work this year. They’ve organized a Monday after-school homework group so that Izzy can help her fill in any gaps. It’s a small thing and easy to do, but it makes a difference. If you have more time to commit, local libraries often have homework sessions you can volunteer at.


Elementary and preschool girl volunteers help mom dish up healthy meals at soup kitchen

School feeding programs

You won’t have to look very hard for a school in your area that has a feeding program. Our local school has a roster where you can sign up to provide lunch for kids who don’t bring from home. When it’s our turn, we usually do something like a ham and cheese sandwich and an apple. The night before, our family gets a production line going, buttering bread, shredding cheese and wrapping them up. 


Party for others

This one can be a bit of a hard sell, but the trick is to find a cause that your kids are passionate about. As I mentioned, Riley is passionate about helping animals, so for her 10th birthday she asked for cash rather than presents, and donated all the money to the shelter where we foster. We’ve also made tie blankets (no sewing involved) to donate to children’s hospitals. They’re easy to make and a group of kids sitting around chatting can make up a few blankets during a two-hour party. 


Community projects

A little while ago we volunteered to be part of the manual labor team for an organization that had developed a fire retardant paint, and we spent a morning painting homes in less fortunate areas. We’ve also repaired and covered library books, and joined a group to help out in the local hospital’s garden. If you keep your eyes open, you’ll easily find community projects that you can get involved in.


Did you know:

Every year, July 18 is Nelson Mandela International Day, in recognition of South African icon, Nelson Mandela, and his struggle for democracy and promotion of peace. On this date, the UN General Assembly calls on people around the world to give back to their communities, inspire change, and pass the gift of giving on to our children. We encourage you to seek out opportunities in your community where you and your family can make a difference, no matter how small. 


Guest post by Samantha van Dijk