Ultimate Guide to Service Projects for Kids: Part 1
Welcome to part 1 of my 3-part blog series: The Ultimate Guide to Service Projects for Kids!
Part 1: Why Children Should Volunteer
In my recent post about New Year’s Resolutions, I mentioned being incredibly inspired by Newsela’s list of the most amazing kids of 2017. These children are innovative, brilliant, resourceful, and unbelievably motivated by their desire to do good and make the world a better place. After reading these worldview changing stories, I determined that my number one goal in 2018 is to participate in as many community service projects with my kids as possible.
As I began compiling a list of service projects to do with my kids, I came across article after article regarding the amazing benefits of volunteering, not only for the community but for the individual doing the service. It gave me a greater understanding of the far-reaching implications of community service. You may be surprised by many of the positive effects of volunteering that extend beyond our typical intended benefits to the recipients.
Doing community service…
- helps children make positive and healthy lifestyle choices. Research reviewed on ServiceLeader.org stated that children who volunteered at least one hour per week were less likely to use alcohol and also less likely to skip school. 9 One study showed that boys who participated in a school-based helper program were less likely to engage in problem behaviors. 7
- enhances children’s self-esteem. 7,8
- appears to make people healthier. In another study, they found that adolescents who volunteered once a week had lower risk factors for cardiovascular disease than the children who did not volunteer.5 It has also been suggested that there is a correlation between lower blood pressure and volunteering in adults over 50. 6 Additionally, people who volunteer for truly altruistic reasons tend to live longer. 3
- improves psychological well-being. One study showed that adolescents had fewer depressive symptoms when participating in a volunteering program. 7 Another report demonstrated that volunteer work in the community enhances people’s happiness, life satisfaction, sense of control over life, and reduces depression. 8 Being involved in volunteer work gives kids a supportive social network, purpose, and a deeper connection to their communities. The result is greater contentment in their lives.
- encourages prosocial behaviors such as compassion and altruism. It teaches kids to feel a sense of duty for social welfare and to recognize the ways in which they can take action.
- gives children the opportunity for experiential learning. Children need to make the connection between the service project and the overall social issue. This is important so that children can understand why they are doing the work and what they can do to solve the problem. 10 Children can learn about issues directly at the source and be exposed to the multiple perspectives of people involved, which is very powerful!
- allows children to experience and appreciate diversity. Volunteering gives children the opportunity to meet people who are very different from themselves. They can learn to accept, love, and help people from a variety of backgrounds from a very young age.
- teaches life skills. Service work teaches skills necessary to survive in the workforce such as punctuality, hard work, dressing appropriately for the job, problem-solving, and social skills.
- provides children with perspective and is one way to teach children to feel gratitude. Read my post on how to teach our children to be grateful here.
- reinforces, supports, encourages, and utilizes the innate helpfulness of our kids. Children are naturally altruistic and want to help others, so we should absolutely make an effort to foster this! Our goal should be to keep them from losing their desire to be kind.
- improves local and global communities. Children have the ability to improve the quality of life of others, to fight for social justice, to spread happiness, to make life better for animals, and to protect their environment.
How much better would the world be, and how much happier would we all be, if everyone was a little kinder, a little more compassionate, and did a little more to help others?
Both of my boys absolutely love doing little “jobs” around the house. They have their own vacuum cleaners, their own aprons and spatulas for when they help in the kitchen, their own gardening gloves and shovels, and I can’t remember a day when they didn’t ask to help me with something. I never want them to lose that love of helping others. That’s why I suppress the Type-A in me and allow them to help make breakfast, help fold the laundry, help work in the yard, no matter how messy it may be!
Even though they are little, they have the power to make the world a kinder, more livable place.
I don’t know about you, but I can’t see any drawbacks to encouraging community service as early as possible! Feel free to continue on to Part 2: How to Inspire a Love of Service from Toddlerhood On. Enjoy making the world a better place with those little helpers!
- Brown, Laura L. Tips for Volunteering with Kids.
- Charity Republic. (2015, July). Is Forcing People to Volunteer a Good Idea?
- Konrath, S., Fuhrel-Forbis, A., Lou, A., & Brown, S. (2012). Motives for volunteering are associated with mortality risk in older adults. Health Psychology, 31(1), 87-96.
- Raposa, E.B., Law, H.B., & Ansell, E.B. (2015). Prosocial Behavior Mitigates the Negative Effects of Stress in Everyday Life. Clinical Psychological Science 4(4) 691-698.
- Schreier, H. M. C., Schonert-Reichl, K. A., & Chen, E. (2013). Effect of Volunteering on Risk Factors for Cardiovascular Disease in Adolescents -A Randomized Controlled Trial. Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics. 167(4), 327-332.
- Sneed, R. S., & Cohen, S. (2013). A prospective study of volunteerism and hypertension risk in older adults. Psychology and Aging, 28(2), 578-586.
- Switzer GE, Simmons RG, Dew MA, Regalski JM, Wang C. (1995). The effect of a school-based helper program on adolescent self-image, attitudes, and behavior. J Early Adolescence 15(4):429-455.
- Thoits PA, Hewitt LN. (2001). Volunteer work and well-being. J Health Soc Behav. 42(2):115-131.
- Torres, Gabina (2003, December). The Future of Volunteering: Children under the age of 14 as volunteers.
- Tugend, Alina (2010, July). The Benefits of Volunteerism, if the Service Is Real.