Serving others is best learned at an early age. Students who serve are generally happier, healthier, make better grades and are more compassionate. It can be a challenge to find opportunities for young kids to serve in the community, but it’s easy for young kids to pitch in and help right where they are.

Volunteer at school. Every teacher, administrator, librarian and custodian loves help! Serving their school gives kids ownership and pride for their school and helps them foster relationships with caring adults. There are many jobs that kids can do around a school: cleaning white boards, desks, etc., vacuuming, sorting books/toys, planting flowers on campus, picking up litter, collecting recycling, spreading pinestraw, making copies and more! Check with your child’s teacher or principal for opportunities that are a good fit for your child.

Look around your neighborhood. Maybe there’s an elderly neighbor who needs help taking their garbage cans to/from the street, collecting mail, caring for pets, mowing or weeding the lawn, washing windows, etc. Perhaps a new neighbor has moved in and would benefit from a welcome basket of homemade muffins. Maybe the front entrance or common areas need some TLC from planting flowers, picking up litter or spreading pine straw. Your HOA will have some ideas and can also direct you to people who might need help. As always, children should be accompanied by an adult, so enjoy some family time serving together!

Donate some time wherever your family gathers to worship. There is no shortage of opportunities to serve at your church, synagogue, mosque, etc. From special events to regular worship services, there are always chairs to be stacked, things to be cleaned or stored, tables to be put away, food to be served, garbage to be disposed of, and so much more. There may even be places for kids to serve on volunteer teams. Ask the leaders for guidance in finding the right place for your child to serve.

Have a fundraiser. Non-profit organizations in your community need many things to do the important work that they do. Animal shelters need food, beds, brushes, medicines and blankets. Food pantries need food, toiletries and hygiene items (my local food pantry gives out “birthday bags” to kids filled with cake mix and icing, candles, birthday supplies and a small gift). Even firefighters need stuffed animals to give to kids who have experienced the loss of their home to a fire. Your child may be too young to serve at one of these places, but they can certainly have a lemonade stand, baked goods sale, or car wash to raise funds for these items. Check with a local non-profit to determine what they need and how your child may be able to help.

It’s never too early to instill a love of serving others in your child! No matter their age, kids can and should help wherever they can. They will grow in ways that nothing else can teach them.