Nov 132012
 

Involving Kids in Service - Alldonemonkey.comWelcome to the November 2012 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Family Service Projects

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have written about what service means in their families.

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Every parent hopes to raise children who will be compassionate and contribute to the world around them.  For me, this is a significant part of raising my children to be global citizens and a core element of my spiritual foundation as a Baha’i, so I am always thinking of how to foster a passion for service in my son.

But how to do this?  My son is not quite three years old, so the types of service projects we can do are limited, and he is not yet old enough to have detailed discussions about why service is so important.

Yet this is the perfect age to begin teaching compassion and to ensure that service is a natural part of life for him.  This is the time when children can start to learn to say “please” and “thank you” and to do smallInvolving Kids in Service - Alldonemonkey.com tasks around the house, for example.

And larger service projects are not out of the question for young children.  My little Monkey and I recently dedicated a day to performing Random Acts of Kindness.  As I planned our day, I was careful to choose activities that were fun and easy for him to understand, such as making cards and baking cookies for others.

Reflecting on this experience, I have come up with several points to keep in mind when encouraging young children to do service.  I would love to hear your ideas as well!

Involving Little Ones in Service

1. Be a model

It is one thing to talk the good talk, but children are very attuned to our actions.  If we model compassion and helping others, this behavior will have a powerful effect on our children and set the tone for family life.

Children should come to see service as just a natural part of the life of the household, rather than as something special we do at particular times of year.  And experience is a great teacher for us as well.  The more we are involved in serving others, the more experience will we have to draw on when teaching our children.

Involving Kids in Service - Alldonemonkey.com

2. Be age appropriate in your activities

Take care to choose activities that will hold your child’s interest, keeping it on a level they can relate to.  Some volunteer projects, though wonderful, may be a little too abstract for these concrete thinkers.  Try to choose projects that will have very real, tangible results that your child can easily understand, such as donating clothes or toys, or sharing a meal with someone in need.

It is also helpful to tie activities to something important to them.  So if they love to read, donate books.  If they love animals, volunteer at an animal shelter.  For our Random Acts of Kindness Day, I chose delivering treats to places that are important to my Monkey, such as the library, his doctor’s office, and the fire station.

3. Be age appropriate in your explanations

For very young children, it is important not to overwhelm them with concepts that are too mature or scary for them.  We don’t want to frighten them about the reality of disease and poverty in the world, for example, but we can talk about people being sick or kids who don’t have a lot of toys or who may need something to eat.

This is a fine balance, because while we want them to understand the importance of the service we are doing, we also want it to be based in joy rather than fear.  Each child is different, so work to find the balance that is right for yours.  Here is an example about how one mother explained hunger to her preschooler.Involving Kids in Service - Alldonemonkey.com

4. Keep it fun

Especially at this age, it is important to emphasize the joy of service.  Kids should learn to see helping others as not just another obligation but rather as something that makes them happy.  It is important to choose activities that they will enjoy and to keep the mood light.

5. Don’t force it

If they really don’t want to participate in something, this is not an age to obligate them.  Again, try to encourage their natural sense of compassion through emphasizing the joy of service, rather than making it into a duty.

6. Don’t forget the small things

Little ones are just learning how to do so many things, and service is just one of them.  Don’t feel like you have to conquer the world; be content with the small things, knowing that you are doing the important work of planting seeds that will blossom in the future.

You don’t have to tackle ambitious service projects.  You can encourage small acts, such as saying please and thank you, giving a card to a grandparent, sharing toys with friends, or helping carrying one’s plate to the sink.  As any parent of a toddler will tell you, having a child who willingly does any of these things is a huge step!Involving Kids in Service - Alldonemonkey.com

How do you teach compassion to your child?

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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be live and updated by afternoon November 13 with all the carnival links.)

  • Acts of Service: The Great Neighborhood Clean Up — Sarah at Firmly Planted shares how her daughter’s irritation with litter led to weekly cleanups.
  • Running for Charity — Find out how Jenn at Monkey Butt Junction uses her love of running and a great new app to help feed the hungry.
  • 50 Family Friendly Community Service Project Ideas — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama shares a list of 50 family-friendly community service project ideas that are easy to incorporate to your daily, weekly, monthly, or seasonal rhythmn.
  • Volunteering with a Child — Volunteer work does not need to be put on hold while we raise our children. Jenn of Monkey Butt Junction discusses some creative options for volunteering with a child at Natural Parents Network.
  • Family Service Project: Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina — Erika at Cinco de Mommy volunteers with her children at the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina, where 29% of the recipients are children.
  • Family Service Learning: Advent Calendar — Lyndsay at ourfeminist{play}school offers her family’s approach to some holiday-related community service by sharing their community focused Advent Calendar. She includes so tips and suggestions for making your own in time for this year’s holidays.
  • How to make street crossing flags as a family service project — Lauren at Hobo Mama offers a tutorial for an easy and relatively kid-friendly project that will engage young pedestrians.
  • Pieces of the Puzzle — Because of an experience Laura from Pug in the Kitchen had as a child, she’s excited to show her children how they can reach out to others and be a blessing.
  • Appalachian Bear Rescue — Erica at ChildOrganics shares how saving pennies, acorns and hickory nuts go a long way in helping rescue orphaned and injured black bears.
  • Volunteering to Burnout and Back — Jorje of Momma Jorje has volunteered to the point of burnout and back again… but how to involve little ones in giving back?
  • How to Help Your Kids Develop Compassion through Service Projects — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares service projects her family has done along with links to lots of resources for service projects you can do with your children.
  • Involving Young Children in Service — Leanna at All Done Monkey, the mother of a toddler, reflects on how to make service a joyful experience for young children.
  • A Letter to My Mama — Dionna at Code Name: Mama has dedicated her life to service, just like her own mama. Today Dionna is thanking her mother for so richly blessing her.
  • 5 Ways to Serve Others When You Have Small Children — It can be tough to volunteer with young children. Jennifer at Our Muddy Boots shares how her family looks for opportunities to serve in every day life.
  • When Giving It Away Is Too Hard for Mommy — Jade at Looking Through Jade Glass But Dimly lets her children choose the charity for the family but struggles when her children’s generosity extends to giving away treasured keepsakes.
  • Community Service Through Everyday Compassion — Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children calls us to Community Service Through Everyday Compassion; sometimes it is the small things we can do everyday that make the greater impacts.
  • School Bags and Glad RagsAlt Family are trying to spread a little love this Christmas time by involving the kids in a bit of charity giving.
  • Children in (Volunteering) Service — Luschka at Diary of a First Child reminisces on her own experiences of volunteering as a child, reflects on what she thinks volunteering teaches children and how she hopes voluntary service will impact on her own children.

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  23 Responses to “Involving Young Children in Service”

  1. I adore this! Our kiddos are about the same age. I really appreciate the gentle approach of encouraging service and not forcing it.

    • Thank you! Especially with children this young it seems like the important thing is for them to enjoy the process rather than worrying about specific acts of service.

  2. […] Involving Young Children in Service — Leanna at All Done Monkey, the mother of a toddler, reflects on how to make service a joyful experience for young children. […]

  3. A great list of gentle ways to encourage acts of service in our young ones. I do agree making it a way of life will help our children grow up to be giving, caring adults. I really enjoyed your post, thank you.

  4. Such great tips! My 5-year-old and I are doing a kids’ race this month that includes performing 13 “do-rights” before the race date. I had to let go of my expectations that these good deeds be big things and instead realize that setting the stage for small, age-appropriate nice things (sharing food with his little brother, picking up a piece of litter, cleaning the sink) is just as important as doing some flashier project.

  5. […] Involving Young Children in Service — Leanna at All Done Monkey, the mother of a toddler, reflects on how to make service a joyful experience for young children. […]

  6. […] Involving Young Children in Service — Leanna at All Done Monkey, the mother of a toddler, reflects on how to make service a joyful experience for young children. […]

  7. Lovely post Leanna. I agree that modeling behavior is so important at this age as is keeping everything age appropriate. I do believe kids have a natural desire to see other people happy so, as you mention, encouraging and complimenting any behavior that shows compassion goes a long way.

  8. How wonderful that you’re involving your son in service projects already, Leanna! Great suggestions, too! I pinned your post to my Make a Difference Board at http://pinterest.com/debchitwood/make-a-difference/

  9. I just love all done monkey. The blogger has really inspired me to do so many good things in my life and on my birthday this month I’m going to do 41 good deeds. What an inspiration this mamma is!

  10. I think these are all excellent tips! On a related note to the activities – Kieran enjoys doing things that he can see the benefit of or he can see the need for. For example, we see homeless people fairly often, and Kieran wanted to do something to help, so we made care packages. He was happy to help buy the items to put in the packages, and he was also happy that we invited friends over to help us put them together 🙂
    ~Dionna @ CodeNameMama.com

  11. Why didn’t I think of these things?! I used to run a Homeschool Scout program and we took food to a Fire Station (mostly fruit, rather than “treats”) since they have to buy their own groceries. We took a tour of the station while we were there, so it was all kinds of educational. We did it as part of a series where we also had them come show us a fire truck and the kids got to shoot the hose!

  12. Thiis is exactly what families should be focusing on:)- community service as a family to encourage compassion and empathy. I love these posts!!!!

  13. […] was so proud of Monkey for being such a great host, which to me is an important part of learning to be of service.  He shouted “Happy Naw Rúz!” to all of our guests when they arrived, and when they […]

  14. […] Involving Young Children in Service — Leanna at All Done Monkey, the mother of a toddler, reflects on how to make service a joyful experience for young children. […]

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