February 08, 2010

10 Ways to Give Back

from Doing Good Together

An assortment of great ideas for families.

Whether you’ve got five minutes or five hours, you can strengthen your family, help build a better world and teach your children the value of compassion, kindness and community responsibility. It’s hard to imagine a more rewarding way to spend time as a family. Here are ten ways to have fun with your kids while making a positive difference in the lives of others.

Create greeting cards

Make greeting cards to deliver to ill children in need of some cheering up. Two websites, Make a Child Smile and Hugs and Hope,  provide photos and information about sick children who are hoping for some happy mail. Families can make a card together for one of the children. You can also enclose something lightweight with the card, such as stickers, coloring sheets, a postcard or a bookmark. 

Become a Senior Angel

Through once-a-week chatty letters, friendly cards, uplifting notes and an occasional small gift, you can encourage and support an elderly person. It only requires about 30 minutes each week. If your family can reliably dedicate itself to such a schedule, visit Senior Angels for more information.

Participate in the Box Project

This organization matches sponsors with needy families in rural areas of the United States. The sponsoring family sends a box once per month filled with clothing, food, or other needed items and offers encouragement, friendship and support. Visit The Box Project for more information.

Make a blanket

Kids Volunteering Families can make a blanket for a child in need of comfort. Create a simple, no-sew fleece blanket (anyone can do it!) and then donate through Binky Patrol or your local chapter of Project Linus. Watch a video about Project Linus with your children so they will understand the impact these blankets can have in kids’ lives.  

Write a family email to a soldier

It will only take a few minutes, and it will bring joy to men and women who are far from home. Send your message today.

Make cat toys for your local humane society

These toys take only a few minutes to make, but will amuse cats for hours. Call your local animal shelter to see if it can use them.

Supplies needed: Infant- or child-size crew socks (make sure they are new!), Cotton balls or craft stuffing, Dried catnip, Non-toxic permanent markers, Non-toxic washable fabric glue

Instructions: Stuff toe of sock with1 tablespoon of dried catnip. Stuff foot of sock with cotton balls or craft stuffing. Squeeze fabric glue on the inside of the sock’s ribbing to glue sock closed, or knot top of sock. Then decorate with fabric markers.

Assemble birthday bags

Create birthday gift bags for children living in poverty. Invite families over and ask each guest to bring small, new toys for children ages 3-12. Then enjoy assembling the gift bags, placing several items in each. Deliver them to a nearby shelter or food shelf. For more information, visit Cheerful Givers.

Pick up litter

Kids Volunteering Clean up a park, shoreline, mountain, river, beach or wilderness area. Then take digital photos of what you’ve picked up. (If you can’t access a camera, this requirement can be waived.) Together have your family write an essay about your experience and send with your digital photo, your names, age(s) and address to mail@wildernessproject.org. Your essay will be published on the website, your children’s names will appear in the Registry of Apprentice Ecologists, and you will be awarded an official certificate. For tips on conducting the cleanup and writing the story, and to see the efforts of other “apprentice ecologists,” visit the Wilderness Project.

Take a volunteer vacation

Ready for a deeper commitment? Global Citizens Network sends short-term teams of volunteers to communities in other cultures where participants immerse themselves in the daily life of the community. Each volunteer team is partnered with a local grassroots organization active in meeting local needs. If your kids are 7 or older, your family can take one of these life-changing trips together. GCN focuses special attention on including families with children, trains its staff to work with families and offers child-friendly resources to enhance the experience.

Create a Giving Box

Almost all of us give money to causes we believe in. But often we do our charitable giving out of sight of our children – writing checks to charities while the kids are in school or asleep. Creating a “Giving Box” together with your kids offers the perfect opportunity to converse with them about the importance of giving and sharing. Decorate a coffee can, shoebox or other container. Place it in a prominent place in your home. Have each family member donate a certain amount of his or her “allowance” each week. Or simply put in loose change. When it’s full, decide together where to donate the money you’ve collected.

Consider kid-friendly charities, such as Heifer International or Kiva.

Get your family organized and on the same page with Cozi, the free online family organizer.

For more great ideas for how to volunteer with your family, visit Doing Good Together and sign up for our free monthly e-newsletter. Doing Good Together (DGT) is a nonprofit organization that exists to encourage and equip people to raise compassionate and socially conscious children through family volunteerism. It was founded on the belief that when parents engage with their children in community service, they pass on the spirit of giving to their sons and daughters, strengthen families, and breed a new generation of volunteers and philanthropists. Doing Good Together offers the materials and services needed by individual families and organizations to create family volunteering opportunities.


Mary Chapman

I am a grandmother, and I really enjoyed all of this page and this site. I am hoping to utilize some of the items with our grandchildren who live close to us. Thanks for the ideas.

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