4 Year Old Plays With Play Animals All The Time Teaching Our Children About Community Service

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Teaching Our Children About Community Service

I’m so tired of getting the same toys in my house day after day. Now, I realize my kids are young (5, 3, and 1), but picking up their toys after a day of play isn’t too much to ask of them. We often make it a family affair to clean out the toy room (aka the bombed out room). Honestly though, how many times can you get the same toys without getting a little disgusted with them all. You know that Febreeze commercial where the lady picks up all the toys and then sprays the carpet? She turns her back on the toy box for just a moment, and when she does, all the toys have been thrown out again and are lying on the floor. Yes, that’s how I feel.

So, I decided to give the two older kids 15 minutes to clean up their toys without helping them realize that is enough time for them to make a strong start, if not finish, cleaning. Let me tell you that for 5 nights in a row not a single toy was taken. On the sixth night I took out a garbage bag and started loading it. My 5 year old asked, “Mommy, what are you doing?” My response was, “Since you both don’t seem to care about these toys, we’ll give them to someone who does.” That’s how we started teaching our children about community service.

I’ve taken more bags of toys to Goodwill shelters and battered women’s shelters than I can shake a stick at. I have realized 3 things in my battle with my children. 1) They have a lot of things 2) They don’t appreciate what they have because they have a lot of things and 3) They haven’t lost a bit of it after it was gone.

Our family is now committed to 2 community fundraisers each year. In November we are partnering with Toys for Tots (http://www.ToysforTots.org) and start a toy car that lasts 6 weeks. My kids go with me to a local store where they pick out a toy they would like to have and put the donation in the box. They would like to have it the first day it is in our house and then it would be abandoned. So instead, we lovingly give it to someone who will appreciate it. My 5 year old gets it and enjoys knowing that it will give a child a happier Christmas. My 3 year old has a hard time giving the toy away, but we explain why and he gives it up. I know that with age there will be much more understanding.

In the spring we work with our local food bank to collect food for them. This is usually a slow time of year for food banks, but they still need to serve the same amount of people. So, once again, we are calling on people in our community, businesses that are connected to the website, my children’s preschool, and family and friends. Buying an extra $20 worth of food when I go grocery shopping will make a big difference for the food bank. This is the challenge we send to others in the community.

Being involved in my community makes me feel good. I want my children to be proud of where they live and to serve the community because it serves them every day. The stronger our community, the stronger our children will be. The stronger our children, the stronger our families will be. Make time as a family to serve your community!!

If young families had the opportunity to get involved in helping their community, I know they would be more inclined to do so. There are organizations that need volunteers, but there are also things that we can do all by ourselves. Some community service opportunities won’t be ideal for toddlers and preschoolers, but there are things they can get involved with, too.

ORGANIZED SERVICE:

1. Adopt a grandparent – Many senior care facilities have programs for families to come to the center to visit with residents. Nothing will make an old man smile more than seeing a child. You won’t have to do anything more than show up for a visit as often as you can. If your child’s grandparents don’t live nearby, this would give them a surrogate grandparent.

2. Help at a homeless shelter – There are so many people who need a place to live and eat. By allowing our children to participate in the service of these people, we can teach them compassion and love. Most children live in a “bubble” not realizing that many people are much less fortunate than them. They will soon see that they are blessed and by their service they are lightening the burden of someone else and hopefully brightening their day.

3. Exercise for a Cause – I’ve seen a huge increase in our community for walks, runs and swims for all kinds of causes. Many of them are related to cancer, but we’ve also had them on hunger, protecting battered women, child abuse, and pet safety. Find a cause you believe in, so get some sponsors and then get to it. You’ll feel good about exercising and spending time as a family. (If you have little ones, pack them in the stroller.) You’ll feel good because your family is making a difference in people’s lives.

4. Military Care Packages – As a family you can create a care package and write letters to the men and women serving overseas for your country. You can connect with an organization like http://www.operationmilitarypride.org to make and ship your packages. Either way, getting our kids involved in supporting the troops is so important. This country is free because there are people who leave their families to fight for it. Thanks to them!!

5. Christmas boxes – There is a wonderful program called Operation Christmas Child (samaritanspurse.org) that collects shoeboxes to send to children in need all over the world. Many churches are involved in this effort, but you can also do it with a business or play group or even on a personal level. I let my kids pack a box each (with recommended items) and we had a blast. They wanted to know why we were doing this and where the boxes were going. We looked at a map and talked about how much the kids in those countries would love the things in the box. It was a special time for me and my 5 and 3 year old children.

OUR FAMILY SERVICE:

1. Clean up the park – When we get to whatever local park we’re going to, we put on our latex gloves and take out a small trash bag. We spend the first 15 minutes in the park picking up trash. It’s not much, but we use the park and so we have to take care of it.

2. Make a phone call – I don’t have the TV on very much in my house, but if I catch a telethon happening for a cause I believe in, then I will donate $10 in each of my children’s names. So many people get caught up in how much they think they need to donate to make a difference. You make a difference just by picking up the phone at all. When my kids are older, I’ll have them make the calls themselves. Maybe they will even want to donate some of their own money.

3. Have a lemonade stand – What kid hasn’t asked to have his own lemonade stand? Let your kids make one, but talk about donating some or all of the money to a charity. Create some signs with the price, but include “all money raised will be donated to charity”. They may find they have a busy J lemonade stand.

4. Children’s Hospital St. Jewish – I am very grateful to have been blessed with 3 healthy children. There are so many people who have had to deal with very serious and life-threatening illnesses with their children. I can’t imagine what those families go through. Every now and then I get a letter in the mail from St. Jude’s Hospital. With the letter are a bunch of address labels with my name and address on them. The letter asks for a donation (of any amount) for the hospital’s research. Once again, it’s not about the amount, it’s about the fact that anything you can give helps. While you write the check, have your children write a letter or color a picture for a patient. Encourage them to get involved in the process, and who knows, maybe they’ll make a pen pal they can keep in touch with.

5. Help at a local animal shelter – Most children love animals and allowing them the opportunity to be a whole bunch of them as often as possible is often a dream come true. J The animals will be grateful for the love and attention!! In a shelter, a child can learn about different animals and how to care for them. So volunteering is also done to teach our children life skills.

It seems like with each passing day our lives get busier and busier. We should take time to spend quality time with our families. We want to make our community a great place to live and we want to make our family a strong and supportive unit to live in.

I hope my children will always be compassionate, caring, generous and thoughtful. I want them to know that their individual actions make a difference and they should strive to make a positive difference. I believe my role as a parent is to help them achieve those traits. By teaching them about community service, setting an example for them, and offering them opportunities to get involved, I hope they will learn to be (humbly) proud of their contributions as well as be grateful for family and their “stuff”. I just hope it won’t be all over the floor yet!

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