Believe it not, sharing comes naturally to children. A study from the University of British Columbia argues that altruism is an innate quality in humans that can be observed even in toddlers. Giving to others makes us happy and encourages us to continue doing good deeds.
Although this kindness has proven to be inherent, it is still a quality that needs to be nurtured. As previously suggested here on the Activity Rocket blog, volunteering is an activity that the entire family can participate in. It not only brings the family together, but it also teaches children and adults to give back to their community.
Set an example at home
Even before they get to school, children already pick up more than a few lessons at home. Parents, guardians, and even older siblings are their first teachers, so generosity practiced at home is definitely something that they will emulate outside. The Corporation for National and Community Service found that young family members are twice as likely to volunteer if one of their parents volunteer as well. Start by demonstrating kindness to your neighbors by giving them a casserole. Then, you can teach your kids to share what they have with other children to show that simple acts of generosity can already go a long way.
Cater to their interests
While children may be kind-hearted in nature, they also have shorter attention spans. Very Well Family advises considering the child’s personality, interests, and abilities when choosing an activity. If they have hobbies like baking, then having a bake sale for a cause might interest them more. Don’t force them to do something that they won’t enjoy because they might associate volunteering with the feeling of dissatisfaction. For instance, the Sydney-based organization Kids Giving Back organizes different activities in order to cater to different interests — from kitchen aid to adventure runs.
Get their buddies involved
Aside from family, you might also want to involve other kids in the community. Maybe the children can pick a sport that they like to play and turn it into a charitable activity. If your children are shy, the activity might help them get out of their shell a little and learn how to socialize with others. Being able to talk to other people is an important part of volunteering because it’s how you understand what others are going through on a much deeper level.
Change it up
Because it’s easy for children to lose interest, varying their volunteering experiences is also important. For instance, letting them give out fliers for a charity event may become monotonous and may lead them to abandon the cause. Aside from helping in community projects, the globally active NGO Save the Children explains that you may also volunteer as a speaker, reader, or shop helper, among other things. And when doing so, you can bring your children along with you. Wearing different hats also helps them develop skills and explore their interests until they find what it is they’re particularly good at or enjoy doing.
Let the children take charge
Lastly, kids also have brilliant ideas of their own, so it’s important that they are heard. Involve them in the process or let them take the lead. They might have heard of a community abroad that they might want to visit with the family instead of going on a luxury vacation. Countries like Indonesia and the Philippines are prone to natural disasters, and organizations such as Habitat for Humanity are always in need of volunteers who can help build houses there.
Teaching your kids the value of volunteering is something that they definitely carry on into adulthood. Start your kids young with volunteering, and the world might just be a brighter place.