The kids’ summer vacation may be going by all too quickly for them, but it is sometimes hard for parents to keep up a string of activities to entertain them.
You may have already taken a family vacation or are simply unable to continue often expensive day camps or trips to the amusement park.
We’ve got you covered with five great ideas that will not only teach the kids a great life lesson but are virtually free – a bonus for parents.
Summertime is a relaxing break from homework and after-school activities, but it is easy for kids to become bored and overdo activities like television and video games.
It can also become stressful for parents when we are running out of ideas but want to find activities that will teach and enrich their summer break.
How about giving your kids the experience of helping others this summer? With these ideas, they can brighten someone else’s day and learn the value of giving their time and talents to those who need it most.
Visit a retirement community or senior care center
Nothing brightens a senior’s day like a visit from a child. Call your local senior care center and see what programs they offer for volunteers. Many have visiting hours where your child can read aloud to a resident or participate in a board game or craft session.
Your kids may not have grandparents living close by – or these seniors may not have family near enough to make frequent visits. This is a wonderful opportunity for kids to sit and talk with someone who may be lonely missing their own family and hear the stories of someone who has many years of life experience to share.
When you call to set up a visit, you can also ask if your family can bring treats to share with the residents (be sure to ask about dietary restrictions). They can bake cookies and deliver them to each room or make some trays of yummy treats to set out in a common area.
A similar experience can also be found by visiting a local hospital. Many have volunteer programs that allow older children to read to a patient or make a special delivery of some old books you have collected from home that you no longer need.
Kids can visit other children in the hospital who may be scared or anxious. Although kids are likely to have family with them in the hospital, it is always fun to have someone their own age visit and talk about shared interests and make a new friend in the process.
Volunteer at an animal shelter
Animal shelters are often in desperate need for volunteers to spend an hour or two walking dogs or even simply sitting with an animal who needs a little TLC. Kids love animals, and vice-versa, and they will be eager to spend the afternoon with a cute and cuddly pal in need of companionship.
These shelters are also always in need of old towels, blankets, and pet supplies to care for an ever-increasing amount of animals up for adoption. Let the kiddos collect some of your worn-out linens or allow them to pick up a few treats or a small toy at the dollar store to brighten a lonely animal’s day.
The only drawback may be that they will want to take all of these loving animals home – and you will likely fall in love with them too!
Put together bags for a homeless shelter
Almost all homeless shelters are in need of simple items like socks, toiletries like soap and toothbrushes, and items like Bibles or books of crossword puzzles.
With a trip to the dollar store and a budget for each child, allow them to pick up several of each of these items to make a kit for someone staying in a homeless shelter. Mom or Dad can call ahead to make sure what is or is not allowed and also find a time where you and your kids can deliver these items.
This is also a valuable life lesson for the kids. We often take for granted simple pleasures like a warm pair of socks or a fresh bar of soap, but these are luxuries to people who are going through a tough time.
Make it a teachable moment by discussing your family’s blessings and how fortunate you are to have a safe place to live and family to share it with. They will likely see other kids their age during their visit, and this experience may make a significant impact on them and leave a lasting reminder to practice gratitude and thankfulness every day.
Most homeless shelters also ask for volunteers to serve meals, especially on holidays like Thanksgiving, and this can be a wonderful way to finish out your family’s holiday celebration.
Make a meal and deliver it to an elderly (or lonely) neighbor
There are many seniors who are still able to live at home but are not able to get out as much as they’d like.
Or there may be a widow or widower in your neighborhood who has become a bit isolated in their home and doesn’t seem to ever have any visitors.
Have the kids plan a meal, go to the grocery store to pick out ingredients, and help prepare food to take to the neighbor. It can be as simple as a casserole or as elaborate as a complete meal with a salad, bread, and dessert.
You can either deliver it to the neighbor as a surprise when you know they’re home or call ahead and ask if your family can come by for a visit. You can bring the meal over, but also provide some company by enjoying it with them. Make it even more special by bringing a bouquet of flowers.
Your family and the neighbor may enjoy this so much that it becomes a regular occurrence. You may learn about someone that you’ve lived near but never got to know well and make a new friend – and the kids may find a new mentor who loves to spend time with them.
There is perhaps no greater gift than that of our time, and teaching this to our kids early on will have a lasting impact.
Do a random act of kindness
Although all of the above ideas are acts of kindness, they require a little planning and may come with some limitations according to the rules and regulations of where you plan to visit.
But getting your kids into the habit of doing small, random acts of kindness every day will give them a sense of how a small gesture can make a huge impact on someone’s day.
If you are running through a fast-food drive-through or in line buying an ice cream cone over the summer, tell the employee at the counter that you’d like to pay for the person behind you.
Or have the kids pick out a bouquet of flowers, some muffins or donuts, or a small basket of fruit and leave it on your neighbor’s doorstep anonymously.
Leave a drawing or card in the mailbox for your mail carrier wishing them a good day or buy a few gift cards in small denominations (like five dollars) to a coffee shop or bakery and hand them to sales associates, servers at restaurants, or anyone else you encounter while running errands who needs a little pick-me-up.
Let the kids get creative on this one – the possibilities are endless. They can even use a certain percentage of their allowance each week to purchase small items to brighten someone’s day or you can set aside an hour a week for the family to make cards or drawings to give out (these can be given at any of the above places you are visiting or simply put on a neighbor’s door).
Teaching our kids to show kindness is an important value that they will spread to others. Helping others and seeing what others who are less fortunate are going through builds compassion, understanding, and other positive character traits.
And not only will these activities keep them busy and bring a smile to someone who is down, the kids will have fun doing them and will develop a sense of pride and responsibility that they will likely want to continue on a regular basis.
(h/t Mommy Underground)