It’s no secret: volunteering is one of the best ways for kids to gain leadership skills and build character. But hey, it’s also a fun way for them to meet new friends. Here are four volunteer opportunities for kids to make new connections while making a difference.
Color Outside the Lines
When your teen wants to meet new people, her first thought probably isn’t making friends with younger kids. But it may be just what they need. Most children’s hospitals recruit volunteers to encourage and interact with their patients. Having someone come in to read, color, or just be silly can go a long way towards lifting spirits.
While teens may feel like they’re the ones making the difference, there’s plenty for them to learn too. Supporting young patients as a children’s hospital volunteer lets teens discover a lot about courage, tenacity, and joy in the face of adversity. Check with your local children’s hospital or rehab center to see what programs and opportunities they have.
Make the First Move
Friendship shouldn’t be a luxury, but for children with disabilities, finding friends can be tough. Why not have your children reach out and start the connection? Friendship Circle is an organization that connects teens and kids with disabilities together to form meaningful relationships. Opportunities vary from hanging out with kids at home to helping them with life skills or participating in holiday events.
If your kids love sports, have them check out their local Special Olympics chapter. This organization has year-round opportunities in every state, so you won’t have to wait for an event to jump in. Your kids can get involved with the young athletes or support fundraising efforts. The Special Olympics has volunteer opportunities for kids of all ages but an adult must accompany those under the age of 15.
Walk It Out
Participating in a charity walk is a great way for kids to meet new faces while helping others. Plus, there’s the extra benefit of getting them outside for some exercise. The March of Dimes is known for their commitment to the health of babies and mothers. Children as young as six can participate in their Wonder Walk as well as other fundraisers. Older kids can take even take on some measured responsibility by becoming youth volunteer leaders and encouraging their peers to get involved.
Autism Speaks provides another walking opportunity for kids to support other children. The parent organization delivers education and support to families with children on the autism spectrum. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in 68 children have autism, so it’s likely your child knows a classmate who’s been diagnosed. Kids can start their own walk team and help raise money for affected families. Walks are held in many states around the county; check out the Autism Speaks site to find a walk near you.
Play to Your Strengths
If your child hasn’t found any locally established volunteer opportunities for kids, help them create one! Here are a few ideas to get started:
- Come up with an antibullying campaign at your school.
- Start a friendship bench on your local playground.
- Host an “Everyone’s Birthday Party” to collect gifts for homeless kids or teens.
- Check with your local children’s hospital to see if you can sing carols for Christmas.
- Run a dress drive to help ensure every girl has a beautiful dress for prom.
- Create a positive Facebook group for your school where students can encourage each other, ask for help, and lend a hand.
- Hold your own coat drive specifically for kids’ coats.
There are plenty of places for kids to help out in their community. Starting them young not only teaches them compassion, but it helps them make new friends too.
Have you seen your child enjoy kid-oriented volunteer gigs more than conventional philanthropy? If so, share your story with us on social media!
Image sources: Bethany Johnson | Flickr
This article was brought to you by Tom’s of Maine. The views and opinions expressed by the author do not reflect the position of Tom’s of Maine.