What are some volunteer opportunities for a 5 year old?

Susan - posted on 10/30/2012 ( 4 moms have responded )

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I am wanting to start a volunteering tradition in my family. I want to teach my daughter about the less fortunate. She is 5. What would be an age appropriate volunteer opportunity?

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[deleted account]

Here are some of the things we did when J was 5:



Meals-on-Wheels: They deliver meals to people who cannot leave their homes. They have an office in almost every county in the US. Give them a call, and they will set you up with a route close to your home. J & I loved this and it meant SO MUCH to those we visited. It's not just a meal to them, it is an opportunity to speak to another person and connect with the world outside their doors. Many of these shut ins do not have friends or family nearby to come visit.



Retirement Home: We have an "Adopt a Grandparent" type program here, where you go in to visit an elderly person who has no friends or family left. It is very easy, you just go listen to them talk and tell them what you are up to in your own life. J loved this--they have some fascinating stories!!! Some are affected with mental illness and will not make much sense, they may think you are their child or other loved one, which can be a little scary at first, so let the coordinator know if you are new to this.



Another great way to help out in the retirement home is to volunteer with holiday celebrations. We started doing this one year because I accidentally bought a Christmas tree that was too big for our home. We donated it to the retirement home, but they had no decorations, so we threw a big ornament creation party. Friends and family were all invited and we sat around big tables listening to stories about Christmastimes past. We now do this every year. A lot goes into the planning that your little one may still be too young for, but there is still plenty she can do, especially at the actual party!



My son is 7 now, and I am a very active volunteer for my local homeless shelter (my family was homeless for 9 years during my childhood, so this holds a BIG place in my heart). Many opportunities at the homeless shelter might not be appropriate until she is older, but you and she can definitely help coordinate and organize fund raisers. We have a "Walk for the Homeless" every year where we collect supplies and donations for our shelters, then have everyone walk the path a homeless person would take to get the help they need--it is a 4 mile walk in our town. This year we had over 9,000 walkers and J was a huge part of it! He helped distribute fliers, he ran a collection booth, he worked on the tee shirt design (donate $45 and you get a free tee!), and afterwards, he helped us organize and sort through all the donations collected at the walk.



Depending on your area, she might could help out in the kitchen or food pantry. I haven't let J do this yet because a lot of our population is mentally unstable (NOT BAD, they are not bad people! But they may be prone to outbursts that would scare a small child).

He is helping out in our children's center now, reading books to the smaller kids while their moms participate in job training, interviews, or educational classes. It is inspiring for these kids to see a child reading, it lets them know that it is something they will be able to do to. It seems like a little thing, but I can assure you it is HUGE to these kids.

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Mary - posted on 11/02/2012

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It is never too early to start! However, she may still be a bit young for a lot "hands on" types of volunteer opportunities that are on-site.



My daughter will be 4 next month, but she already knows all about what I do for my local animal shelter, and I do include her when appropriate in any efforts I undertake at home. For example, I make it a point to take her with me when we buy food at the pet store for the shelter. We have two dogs of our own, so I make a point to talk about the dogs that don't have homes, and need our help. We go right from the pet store to the shelter, and she goes with me to bring in the food, and to see all of the dogs in the kennels. This past week, when Sandy caused the shelter to be without power for 3 days, she went with me to pick up 8 loads of laundry to take home with us. These bags were really gross, so while she couldn't help initially, once they were out of the dryer, she did help me fold and bag the clean stuff, and went with me to return it.



At this age, I think the most valuable tool in teaching a child about helping others is to let them see their parent doing it. Not only do I talk to my daughter about what I am doing, but she sees me doing it on a regular basis. I involve her when I can, but I also talk to her about what I am going to do when she cannot be a part of it. If I am going to the shelter to exercise some of the dogs, clean kennels, or work an event while she is in preschool or home with my husband, I tell her where I am going and what I am doing. When I return, she is always full of questions about what I did, and which dogs I "helped". At her age, she is very interested in knowing that Brutus, Shadow, Willow, or whoever was happy to see me, had a fun walk, played with the toys we brought him, or got me all wet when I gave her a bath. On a regular basis, I am reinforcing the idea that helping those in need (for us it is animals, but it could just as easily be people) is not just important and needed, but that it makes both the helper and the recipient "happy".

Melissa - posted on 11/01/2012

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Bring her with you when you offer to help a neighbor who needs a ride or something from the store. She can help with things like that too, at her age it is important for her to learn you help others however you can when you can.

[deleted account]

Btw, Thanks so much for considering volunteering!! I'm sure you will find any place you offer your services will be very pleased and excited to have you and your daughter!

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