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How Does Volunteering Help Kids?

Volunteering is a great way to teach kids about empathy and compassion. And giving your time to help others feels good. Volunteering with your family can be fun. You might even find that doing an activity together can make your family feel closer. 

Kids and teens who volunteer may:

  • See that they can make a difference. Even young kids can learn the value of helping others. Volunteering shows older kids and teens how they can have an impact beyond themselves. 
  • Meet people with similar values. Working on a volunteer project often brings together people from different races, backgrounds, and abilities. Families can build friendships with others who share common interests and values.
  • Practice life skills. Volunteering helps kids build skills and confidence. Kids learn to show up on time and be a member of a team. They might even take on a leadership role. Teens can talk about their volunteer work at a job interview or in a college application. 
  • Learn about different careers. Volunteering at a nonprofit, a hospital, or a political campaign office may give your child a glimpse of what it’s like to work there.

How Can Families Volunteer?

Volunteer projects come in all sizes. You might want to start small, like spending an hour helping someone you know. Or you can make a bigger commitment, like going to a homeless shelter or animal rescue every week. Some families pick a favorite project and make it a yearly tradition, like filling gift baskets for seniors around the holidays.

Here are some ideas:

  • Help a neighbor. Find a project that matches your neighbor’s needs and your child’s age. Offer to pull weeds. Walk a dog. Cook a meal. Play a game or babysit.
  • Clean a park. This can be as simple as rounding up your family and picking up trash at your local park, playground, or beach.
  • Feed the hungry. There’s always a need to collect and sort food donations for your local food bank or soup kitchen. They may need help handing out food or delivering meals to people who are homebound.
  • Join a letter-writing campaign. Some charities need volunteers to write letters to people who need a boost, like kids in the hospital or veterans. Other nonprofits need help writing postcards to legislators to support a certain cause, like the environment.

How Do We Get Started?

To find a project, search online or call a charity that does work your family cares about. Try a hospital, a community service agency, or your place of worship. Check your state’s website to see if they have an office of volunteerism. Some families choose to help after a disaster in the U.S. or abroad. You also can ask the reference librarian at your local library for ideas.

Medically reviewed by: Lavisha Pelaez, MPH
Date reviewed: April 2022