Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Inexpensive Ways for Children to Serve This Summer

It's the fourth weekday of summer in my school district, and I'm sure there are already mommas hearing, "Mom, I'm bored!" out of the mouths of their babes.  And the mommas are probably wondering if it's August yet.

Most cities have tons of free and cheap things to do with kids to encourage family bonding-take advantage!  But, why not make intentional time to serve others this summer too?  You'll combat the boredom, teach them that it's not always about them (or you!) as they're stretched outside of their comfort zone, and you'll show them that families can have fun together while being Jesus' hands and feet.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

At a nursing home:

Call up your local nursing home.  They are always so welcoming of volunteers of all ages!  This could easily become a once weekly routine for the summer.  Relationships are easily built

Ask if they have a weekly craft or game time, and see if you and your kids can come help.  Take things like puzzles, coloring books, and water paint books.  Cheapo from the dollar store!  Keep in mind that the bigger puzzle pieces and wide crayons used by your littles will also be delightful for arthritic hands and fingers-win win for everyone!

For young readers, take along some treasured stories to be read to the residents.  The residents might just want to read back!

For older loves, take some nail polish, and let them paint the residents' fingers.  It's a treat!  Also bring a deck of cards.  Go Fish, Old Maid, War, and Hearts are fun games for all ages. 

Ask if your children can hang their art work on the residents' doors.  Many homes allow this, and it adds some flair to a sometimes plain hallway.  It might help you clean out their art from this school year too!

Before arriving, talk to your littles about what to expect.  Sometimes a room full of the elderly can be a bit overwhelming.  I take 5 and 6 year olds routinely though, and they sometimes are the best about striking up conversations while they create masterpieces.  School, pets, hobbies, and sports are awesome topics for all generations.

In the neighborhood:

You know that neighbor that hasn't been out for awhile due to old age, illness, pregnancy, or caring for an ill relative?  Find a morning to go pull the weeds in that yard.  Don't make a big fuss, just grab the kids and some empty grocery sacks, and go pull!  And a cold popsicle afterward will be a nice treat for everyone!  It'll be even better if you ask that neighbor to join you for the popsicle. 

All kids like helping Mom in the kitchen.  Let them help whip up a batch of cookies, brownies, muffins, or other goodies, and wrap them up with a handmade (by the kids!) tag that says "Thanks for being a star in our community!".  Have the kids walk them into the local fire station, police station, library, and your church office.  The smiles and hugs will be endless! (Often a bonus: an impromptu tour of the fire truck, etc!).

Call up the local food pantry, and see if they accept volunteers as young as your kiddos are.  I know the Houston Food Bank has family nights where littles as young as four are welcome to come help.  Many small food pantries are so desperate for extra hands that they don't care how little those hands are!  From sorting beans and rice to bagging groceries to sorting cans based on content, there is so much to be done!  If you aren't sure where a local pantry is, ask your church-they will know!
Learning what our jobs will be at the local food pantry

Clean out the toy room and closets!  Take the things no longer needed to a local shelter or the local crisis pregnancy center.  This guarantees that the items won't end up being resold in 3rd world countries at profit (yes, this is REAL and why I don't use those donation bins in the grocery store parking lot), and it lets the little loves see exactly who their outgrown things will be helping!

Get some friends together and make goodie bags for the homeless.   Take the kids to Sams, and let them help pick out things like toothbrushes, toothpaste, individually wrapped handi-wipes, mints, granola bars (chocolate free so they don't melt), raisins, peanut butter crackers, napkins, water bottles, and trail mix (again, chocolate free).  Let the kids decorate lunch sacks with Bible verses and encouragement, and then stuff those bags with the goodies.  Make enough for each kid to keep 3 or 4 in their car.  Meet back a week later to let the kids share their stories of how it went when they pointed out someone to Mom or Dad to give the bag to. 

At Church:

Call the secretary and ask if anyone needs help stuffing envelopes, folding bulletins, or making food for an upcoming event.  I'm sure that overworked secretary will have ways for the family to pitch in and will be so grateful you asked!

Ask if you can give the custodians a break, and take the kids to dust the pews one week.  While you're in there dusting, pray over the pews and all who will be coming and hearing the Word of God this summer.  

The church staff works hard over the summer!  Find a week when most of them are actually in town and not off at camp/mission trip, and take a happy hour Sonic slush up for each staff member.  Don't forget custodians and secretaries!

At Home:

Make a prayer calendar.  For each day, have the kids pick one friend, ministry, missionary, or community helper to pray for.  Incorporate those prayers during dinner or morning quiet times.  

Who else has ideas for helping little learn the joyous art of serving during the free days of summer?  I'd love to hear the ideas!!

Linking up with Kristen and Works for Me Wednesday.

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