It’s important for children to take part in charitable efforts; it teaches them empathy, responsibility, and teamwork. Better yet, as kids volunteer their time and grow as people, they’re aiding others who need assistance. Whether your family’s big into pets or wants to save the planet, these NYC-based charities are a great start for giving back together.
If your child loves animals…
Most animal shelters have age limits for their volunteers—generally between 16-18 years—especially when it comes to walking and feeding animals. Best Friends (ny.bestfriends.org) allows for slightly younger helpers; kids 12 and up can come in to help out (ages 12-15 must be accompanied by a guardian). Whether they’re feeding newborn kittens in the nursery or assisting at adoption days, kids are sure to love helping out with furry friends. Younger kids can volunteer in other ways, whether it’s adopting or fostering a pet as a family, holding a bake sale, or receiving birthday gifts in the form of donations.
If your child loves art…
Every fam has a budding little artist in their ranks. What’s great is that they can combine that skill with a meaningful outcome. Doing Good Together
(doinggoodtogether.org) suggests that artistic kids make greeting cards for hospitalized children through organizations like Color A Smile (colorasmileorg.presencehost.net), which they accept year-round. They may also want to volunteer with CITYarts (cityarts.org), which offers local programs that include mural-painting inside schools across the city. As the holidays approach, keep your eyes open for crafts that they can make to help those less fortunate and programs designed for the giving holiday season, whether it’s crafts, cards, or drawings!
If your child loves spending time in nature…
Got a mini environmentalist on your hands? It’s no secret that we need to take care of the planet we live on, and volunteering for Big Reuse (bigreuse.org) is a great start. They offer a number of volunteer opportunities, including aiding with compost stations and sorting and stacking material donations. If your kid wants to use their green thumb, you might want to head over to HSBC Children’s Garden (queensbotanicalgarden.org) within the Queens Botanical Garden, where little hands get the chance to plant, harvest, and even cook using their own produce! That takes farm-to-table to a whole new level; plus, it teaches them about sustainability as well as how to nourish plant life.
If your child is a big reader…
Any kid looking to spread a love of reading should get involved with New York–founded Books for Kids (booksforkids.org) by either donating books from their personal library or asking for partygoers to donate books in lieu of giving presents. Kids 14 and up can take it a step further and sign up with Reading Partners (readingpartners.org) as a mentor. They would get to work one-on-one with a younger child, reading and then building a relationship in the process.
If your child is a budding foodie…
Most kids take meals for granted, and there are so many ways you can show your children that they can help those who are hungry. Work with them to coordinate a food drive to benefit City Harvest (cityharvest.org) or join Citymeals On Wheels (citymeals.org) in food preparation, kitchen work, and even delivering the food to seniors and disabled people who otherwise might go hungry. Food Bank For New York City (foodbanknyc.org) offers similar opportunities for family involvement. There are also plenty of food banks you can donate to, often based in churches and synagogues, as a family: And why not make it a tradition around the holidays?
How To Get Kids Involved
by Jean Shafiroff
Children follow by example, and if they are taught to give and then see those around them involved in the giving process, they will follow these positive role models.
1. Teach children to be kind to others. Parents and teachers are great role models. When parents and teachers share and are kind, children will follow.
2. Explain that there are people and animals that are less fortunate and that we have a responsibility to help them. Next, get your children involved in projects that help the less fortunate by engaging together. For example, instead of going into a pet shop to buy a pet, go to an animal shelter and adopt a pet.
3. Volunteer with your child whenever possible. Let your child see that helping others is a priority to you—and do volunteer work together. Perhaps you can volunteer at a soup kitchen or an animal shelter together. (Note that there are age requirements and training requirements that must be followed when volunteering.)
4. Engage in bake sales and other efforts to raise money for charity. A mother/father could bake brownies with their children for a local bake sale for charity. Children should never be asked to ask others for large sums of money (collecting pennies for a penny drive is fine. Selling Girl Scout cookies or raising money for little league uniforms is also fine).
5. Teach your children to respect all other beings. Children who learn to respect others, the environment, and all beings will also want to help them.
6. Do everything you can to develop compassion in your children. A person who looks outside of himself/herself and is able to show compassion towards those less fortunate will be able to start the journey toward philanthropy.
Jean Shafiroff is an NYC mother, philanthropist, and the author of Successful Philanthropy: How to Make a Life By What You Give.