As Labor Day Weekend has come and gone, it seems so has our Summer. School starts this week for us and, as a result, we have been busily finishing up our 50 Fabulous Summer Bucket List Items. We recently completed our “Day of Service” item. Since I had put a bit of time researching just the right opportunities for my kids (ages 1 through 9) to spread kindness, and it turned out so well, I thought I would share my 8 fun ways for kids to serve! We didn’t have a chance to do all eight of these ideas, but the ones we did do had some surprising results.
Take cards to the assisted living home.
We have done this a few times now and my kids are getting more comfortable at going up to the residents and delivering their handmade cards. Sometimes it is difficult for young kids to feel comfortable walking up to strangers, let alone strangers who may have disabilities or ailments that may make children uncomfortable from their lack of understanding. I admit, when I was a teenager and served in our school Community Service Club, visiting the local retirement home gave me anxiety. I digress, as this post is not about me and my insecurities.
We usually invite other families to join us so that we can have a card making party and be armed with more cards to give out when we arrive at the assisted living home. I’ve learned that the best time to arrive is around lunch or dinner time, to deliver cards while they are all gathered for meals. On times when we have arrived outside of these hours, we have merely placed the cards on the tables for the residents to see when they arrive. Our cards usually include little notes wishing them a nice day with a drawing and some stickers. I think it’s fun to include the ages of the kids who are creating the cards, to personalize the experience a little more for the recipient.
Leave “lucky pennies” for children to find.
When I was a little girl, my Mom used to say, “Heads up, pick it up. Give it away, have luck all day.” I’ve heard variations on that, but the common thread is that a penny with its head facing up is considered good luck. But, let’s be honest, a kid doesn’t care what way a penny is facing. A penny, in their minds, is as good as gold. My friend and I sent our kids out, with pennies in hand, to go place “lucky pennies” along the pathway where we were eating our lunch picnic during this year’s Day of Service. As soon as the kids were done eating their lunches, they all ran off to check the status of the pennies they had placed. Such a fun and simple way to spread joy!
Deliver baked goods to your local fire station.
This one is ALWAYS the highlight of my kids’ Day of Service. It’s probably because the fire fighters in our town are all too willing to give them a tour of their vehicles, particularly their engine. What child doesn’t love getting up in a fire engine? I feel like we’re on the recipient side of this act of service, as they seem to stop everything to teach our children and let them explore. The best part is, as an adult, I actually learn new stuff about their role in our community every time we go.
Attach a bag of coins to a vending machine.
After our assisted living home stop, lunch break, and fire station exploration, we headed over to our local hospital to do two more acts of service. Before heading out for our Day of Service, we had placed a dollar worth of coins into six separate baggies with a note that read, “Spreading random acts of kindness. Enjoy a treat on us!” Upon arriving to the hospital, we sought out the vending machines and taped the baggies to the machines with packing tape. Since we had six bags and there were only two vending machines, we ended up taping four and delivering two to patients waiting in the Emergency Department.
Place coloring books and crayons in hospital waiting areas.
This was our second act of service within the hospital, and the most surprising one to me. Being that we were two women with eight kids between us, I don’t imagine we appeared dangerous, yet some adults and kids were quick to refuse our offer of crayons and coloring sheets. I was shocked by a mom who sharply declined our act of kindness and kids who seemed confused by our offer. In fact, nobody would take any from us. We ended up placing the items on tables near the waiting families and informing them that they were theirs for the taking, should they change their mind. Some kids quickly went for the coloring pages once they were laying out. I suppose many of us have come accustomed to believing that there is always some sort of catch to something being “free.”
The three remaining items for 8 fun ways for kids to serve were not done during our Day of Service, but I had intentions of doing these as well. Unfortunately, we did not get a chance to do them for one reason or another.
Leave positive messages with sidewalk chalk along walkways.
I really wanted to do this one, but I forgot to buy the sidewalk chalk. My hope was to have the kids leave smiley faces along sidewalks or perhaps little messages that just said, “Have a good day,” or “You’re beautiful.” Sidewalk chalk messages and drawings seem to easily catch the attention of others. How fun would it be to know that others might be lifted up by such a simple message for days to follow?
Return shopping carts to their stalls.
This was another way that I thought my kids would have fun serving. However, after further thought, I realized that my kids are a bit too young to be gathering shopping carts and pushing them through busy parking lots. Plus, my kids kept worrying that if we did this task, then we would end up putting the workers who normally do this undertaking out of a job. I imagine once they’re a little older, they’ll understand that the “shopping cart retrievers” have other responsibilities to ensure job security. Perhaps then we can give this act of service a go?
Leave a small present or a note of appreciation in your mailbox for your mail carrier.
My Mom used to give the garbage man, the mail carrier, our dry cleaners’ owners, and our gardeners a box of See’s Candies for Christmas, as a sign of our appreciation. I always thought it such a nice gesture. While I don’t have the ability to give such generous tokens, I thought it might be nice to drop a note of gratitude or perhaps grab a candy bar and leave it in our mailbox for our mail carrier.
::COMMERCIAL BREAK:: You may notice that I am being very PC in referring to our mail carrier. This is because I once addressed a card to my BFF that said, “Dear Mailman, Please deliver this card to the best friend in the whole wide world.” When the card arrived, the mail carrier had left a note on the front of the card, slashing out the word “man” portion of Mailman and putting “woman” instead. Since then, I’ve tried to be more considerate about the gender of a mail carrier. Normally, I’m not very PC, but if I’m going to show my appreciation, I certainly want to be sensitive to their feelings. ::NOW BACK TO YOUR REGULAR PROGRAMMING::
All of these 8 fun ways for kids to serve almost seem too easy. By the time we had done five of these eight acts of kindness, it seemed like we had hardly done anything at all. But who is to say how far these acts may go? They weren’t big at all in the grand scheme of things, but if they changed the outlook of even one person’s day, then I think we’ve had a success. Heck, I even got a little happy when my daughter delivered a card to an elderly gentleman playing the piano at the assisted living home, and he noticed her name on the card and said that it was also his sister’s name. Perhaps just triggering the memory of a loved one brought joy to him? I know remembering my mom can be bittersweet, but each memory is a reminder that she lives on in me.
As parents, we have the responsibility to teach our children so many things; at times it feels overwhelming. However, teaching my children to look beyond themselves is towards the top of my list. As a Christian woman, my focus is to teach my children of Jesus Christ. What better way to teach of Him, than to teach them how to be charitable, which is the pure love of Christ? I hope they remember these days that we set aside every so often to serve, and seek out their own ways to lift others through their daily activities.