Community Service Ideas for Kids of All Ages (for the Holiday Season and Beyond)

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by: Colleen Hughes
The holidays are a great time to get into the spirit of giving, and it's never too early to encourage an appreciation for volunteering in your kids. Here are some community service ideas for kids of all ages, from toddlers to teens.
teens volunteering in soup kitchen

Preschoolers

Even your littlest ones can get involved with their community with your help. When you teach your preschoolers the importance of helping others, you're getting them started on the road to kind habits that will last a lifetime. Here are some community service ideas that you and your youngsters can do together this holiday season:

  • Collect new or gently worn winter coats and donate them to One Warm Coat, which provides winter coats to those in need. Go through your own closets and ask family and neighbors if they have coats to donate.
  • Volunteer to deliver meals to seniors with Meals on Wheels. Your child will get to see first hand who his work is helping.
  • Create "busy books" for a children's hospital. Teaching to Give shows how you and your child can assemble fun coloring and activity books to entertain children who are facing long hospital stays. Let your preschooler help pick out the coloring books and put together the crayons for each book.

Ages 5–7

Your school-age child is ready to start taking a more active role in your volunteer activities together. Think about where your child's interests lie and how she can use those talents to help others.

Your school-age child is ready to start taking a more active role in your volunteer activities. Think about your child's interests and how she can use her talents to help others.

children making holiday cards

Your kids can make card and crafts to send to soldiers overseas. Photo source: Flickr/woodleywonderworks

  • Does your child love animals? Help her gather pet toys, supplies, and gently used towels to donate to a local animal shelter.
  • Is he particularly crafty? Make holiday cards for veterans or members of the military through the American Red Cross's Holidays for Heroes.
  • Does she love toys? Shop for holiday gifts for a child or family in need. Many local charities provide lists of specific children you can shop for, or you can donate toys to a national organization like Toys for Tots.

Ages 8–10

Does your tween have a big group of friends? Encourage them to work on a project together! Getting a group of kids involved in a bigger project helps them learn the power of working together to accomplish a shared goal (plus it's fun!).

children baking holiday treats

Make some holiday treats for a local senior center. Photo Source: Flickr/Franklin Park Library

  • Make a batch of holiday treats together and deliver them to a local senior center. (Hint: You may want to call ahead to ask about special dietary or allergy concerns.)
  • Get a group together and spend the afternoon cleaning up a local park. There's strength in numbers. Check out what this "trashmob" from Zero Litter in Baltimore was able to accomplish in just 30 minutes!
  • Start a community book drive together, and donate the books you've collected to a local shelter.

Tweens

Your preteen can start taking on even more individual responsibility in his community service projects. Think of ways he can get more directly involved with helping others.

  • Make a blanket to donate to Project Linus, which provides homemade blankets to children in need. You and your tween can make a no-sew blanket following the pattern on their website, or go all out and knit or crochet one if you know how!
  • Encourage your preteen to offer to do yard work or shovel snow for elderly neighbors. Especially in the cold winter months, he will be doing a great service to neighbors in need.
  • See if your local senior center has a senior pen pals or buddies program, and encourage your preteen to sign up. She can write letters or visit her "grand-friend" throughout the year.

Teens

Your teen is ready to volunteer without your help, on her own or with friends. In fact, many high schools require some form of community service for graduation. Provide encouragement and guidance, but let her interests guide her involvement. If your teen needs some help, here are a few community service ideas that are great for your independent teenager.

  • Is he a math whiz or a grammar expert? Encourage him to volunteer as a tutor in a subject he's passionate about.
  • Is she on the track team? She could volunteer her time at a charity race or walk, like the Relay for Life or Race for a Cure.
  • Does he want to give back to those in need? He may enjoy working in a local soup kitchen or food pantry.

There are so many ways for you and your child to get involved this holiday season. But the spirit of giving doesn't have to end when the holidays are over. Helping others through community service is a great way to bond with your child all year long. What are some ways that you and your children have given back to your community? Please leave a comment!