As adults, we (hopefully) all know how to give back to our community. We bag up canned goods and send them to school for a food drive, we add an unwrapped toy to the collection bin at church, hang a pair of new mittens onto the mitten tree at our local shopping center, and perhaps write out a check or two to support our favorite local charities. But the holidays are also a perfect time to show our children ways to give back to your community too.
#1 Clean up a local nature trail
A great thing to do after a big holiday meal is to take a nice walk outdoors as a family. And since you are out there anyway… it's not hard to bring along a few plastic bags to gather trash that you find on the trail.
Bigger kids can hike on ahead and move any dead branches that have fallen onto the trail and make it more accessible for local hikers to enjoy!
#2 Create toiletry kits and diapers to a local food bank
Donating canned goods to a food bank is always a good thing to do. But this holiday season, stop by o give them a call first to ask about what specific needs they have this season.
Our family recently spent some time at our local food bank to understand the service they provide to our own community to help out those who need access to donated food, toiletries, and clothing. We created small toiletry kits of shampoo, washcloths, soap, combs, and lotion that the food bank could give to their clients.
They also told us that what they needed were larger-sized diapers- for toddlers. It was something we would never have even thought of- and we were happy to collect diapers from friends and others in our community and take them to the food bank!
#3 Volunteer at an animal shelter
My daughters and I recently had the chance to visit our local animal shelter and learn about ways that kids can help train the dogs to be more “family ready” through clicker training. Our shelter even offers a class so that the girls can become “clicker certified” and work with the dogs on a regular basis.
In our case, the dogs remain inside of their enclosures, but the kids can teach them to calm down when a person approaches, as well as basic commands such as “sit” and “down”. The pups are rewarded with treats as well as clicks, and my kids have a hand in helping these dogs learn behaviors that will make them ready for their future families.
And you never know- you might get a chance to cuddle a kitten or two while you are there!
#4 Donate a meal or sweet treats
Think of all of the people who will be working in your community on Christmas Day. The police department, the fire department, the hospital staff, even the folks at the 24/7 pharmacy. How much would they like to receive a warm casserole or a plate of homemade cookies while they are working and away from their own families?
This is a great thing to do as a family on Christmas Day- especially if you can drop them off on your way to Grandma's house!
#5 Start a family scholarship
For many years our extended family would do a gift exchange by drawing names so that each adult had the chance to purchase a holiday gift for another adult member of the family. We set a limit on spending to try to keep it fair- but the reality was that everyone was ending up with an extra sweater or piece of costume jewelry that we didn't really need.
Until we came up with the idea that instead of buying gifts for one another- we would rather pool our money together and create a scholarship at the local high school in our family's name!
It's easy to get started, just contact your local high school's guidance department and ask them for their scholarship application and guidelines.
How does your family find ways to give back to your community during the holidays?