This year, create a new holiday tradition with your family — get involved in a charitable activity. It's an ideal way to teach your child values such as generosity, compassion, and gratitude, and prevent her from coming down with an annual case of "the gimmes." The months of November and December are a great time to get involved, as there are a plethora of opportunities to suit your family's interests and availability. It's also a chance to try out several different types of activities and find one your family can get involved in all year round. We've got a number of ideas to get you started, but to find more options and specific opportunities in your neighborhood, visit volunteermatch.org.
Host a Coat or Food Party
Drumming up donations is a great way to start a tradition that not only helps your community but also strengthens bonds within it. It's great to give some canned goods or your family's old coats to a charity, but making it a party takes it up a notch. For a coat party, have guests bring coats that are used but still in good condition. If you want to have a food party, ask for canned and dried food and have kids help pack it up for food banks and shelters.
Sing and Dance for Joy
If your child is the type to surprise you with impromptu puppet shows or sing from dawn to dusk, consider harnessing that energy to put on a play (or other performance) at a nursing home or community center. Involve everyone in the family in making costumes and sets, and recruit other families and friends to play parts.
Help Furry Friends
For animal lovers, helping out at a pet shelter is an easy choice. Donate a few days or just an afternoon to give the regular staff a break and fill in for vacationers. Even during the holidays, dogs need to be walked, cats need petting, and all animals need to be played with, fed, and have their cages cleaned. If you have young or sensitive children, a no-kill shelter is a good option (especially if you don't want to come home with a new pet!).
Serve a Senior Citizen
If your child is unable to spend time with his grandparents this season, consider reaching out to an elderly person. The winter and holiday months are often the hardest on the elderly and a little help will be much appreciated. Help your child connect with past generations by visiting with seniors in a retirement community or nursing home. Your child can give manicures or makeovers, deck the halls with boughs of holly jolly décor, help wrap gifts, or read to the hard-of-sight.
Feed the Needy
The most familiar way to volunteer is still a perfect one: help out at a soup kitchen or food bank. The holidays are the busiest time at shelters, and they need help setting up, serving, and cleaning up. If your older child is interested in cooking, he can don an apron and help prepare food in the kitchen.