Volunteering With a Child

Written by Jenn on November 13th, 2012

Activism, Balance, Natural Learning

Welcome 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.

child walking dog

When we become parents, our previously plentiful free time is devoured by diaper changes, playdates, and parental exhaustion. Yet, we still have our passions, our causes and our pet projects — they just become dormant while we live day-to-day, doing the best we can for our families. Exhaustion aside, wouldn’t we all love to get back to our passions, or drives? But volunteering with a child in tow seems almost impossible. Or is it?

Why volunteer with a child?

Being a good example is one of the best gifts we can give our children. By showing a child the value of giving of your time and effort to those who need it, without compensation, you are setting the stage for a lifetime of compassion. Volunteer work can be so gratifying, it can lead to wonderful connections and beautiful friendships. Volunteers learn so much about themselves by learning about others in need. These are all gifts that we can give to our children by involving them in our volunteer work.

How do I find opportunities to volunteer with my child?

That is the tough part. Babies and young children have so many needs that it is hard to dedicate your time to a task other than caring for them. It may take some hard work and dedication to find a volunteer opportunity that fits what you can offer, but here are some ideas to get started.

1.  Contact your community’s volunteer center.  Many communities have a centralized volunteer coordinating clearinghouse which helps match up volunteers with opportunities.  Browse the opportunities they have available and see if anything may be a good fit, or even better, contact the volunteer center with a description of what you are looking for, and your reason for wanting to volunteer with your child.  The center likely has a long and ongoing list of opportunities, and can at the very least keep you in mind if something arises that can meet your availability and needs.

2.  Create an opportunity for an organization in need. Many charitable organizations are struggling to find funding and workers to keep their immediate needs met, and consequently have a hard time justifying their expansion into areas that could benefit them, but that may not go to the core of their mission. For example, does your local food pantry have a Facebook page? Imagine how many more people they could reach if they had a Facebook page coordinator posting relevant news about the pantry, interesting articles about hunger in our communities, and presenting opportunities to get involved. Does your library or community center have an event coming up? Perhaps you could involve yourself in flyer distribution. Think of things that you can do with your child, and make your case to an organization that you believe in. Even if they reject your idea at first, you may plant a seed for an idea they can try in the future.

3.  Create your own volunteer project. Is there a project or cause that you hold close to your heart? Consider an independent campaign to raise awareness or online fundraising for a local cause. By thinking a little outside the box, you may be able to create a niche that your time and abilities can fill.

4.  Find a volunteer project that you can do from your home. Plant a Row for the Hungry is an excellent example of this approach. Through PAR, gardeners can donate extra produce and ensure that it gets into the hands of the hungry, or soup kitchens, or local food pantries. While any garden surplus will do, by literally planting extra crops for the sole purpose of donation, you can create a learning opportunity for your children. Even from a very young age children can be involved in planning and caring for a garden. PAR is just one example of a volunteer project you can do from home. Another is…

5.  Get involved with Craft HopeCraft Hope is an ongoing project that coordinates crafting projects for community good. Individuals create small projects at their own pace and send them to a program coordinator who will handle distribution. In the past, Craft Hope participants have created beautiful handmade bags for children battling cancer, wonderful handmade aprons for women in Haiti, and sock monkeys for children in hospitals. Check out Craft Hope’s Facebook page to find out how to get involved in their latest project. Because you can give at your own pace, it is easy to let little ones get involved.

Give it a try


Scheduling volunteer work into an already crunched schedule is no small task, but much like a good workout, one rarely regrets taking some time to help others. As your children get older, not only will they have fond memories of the time they spent with you, they’ll also have gotten to experience the joy of doing something for someone else.

Photo Credit: Lucas Vermeer

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 eekly 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.

About The Author: Jenn

Monkey Butt Junction MBJunction My NPN Posts

Jenn embraced natural parenting as a way to develop a deep bond with her son Jack despite working long hours outside of the home.

5 Responses to Volunteering With a Child

  1. Dionna  

    I love the idea of Craft Hope! And I am a living testament to the impact a parent can have by volunteering with their child – my mom’s service was a tremendous influence on me!

  2. Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama  

    Ohhhh – really good post! I think so many people are intimidated about how to begin volunteering with children. This is a great go-to guide!

  3. Sarah {Firmly Planted}  

    Great post! I’ve been pretty leery of volunteering more with our girls, love these suggestions.

  4. Lauren  

    I love your ideas for getting involved. I particularly now want to think what my “pet” projects might be. There are a few local charities that I think are really cool, and I wonder how my kids and I could get involved in a way that works for our family. Thanks for the nudge!

  5. Susie

    This is a great guide. I used to volunteer but stopped when I had kids. I didn’t know what to do and figured I would get back into it when they were older. Thanks for the ideas–I’m going to see what I can do and what they would be interested in.