5 Ways to Serve Others with Small Children

Welcome to the November 2012 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Family Service Projects

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have written about what service means in their families.


I grew up in a family that serves others.  From the time I was young we were involved in organized community service projects.  When I married Kris, he too learned the importance of sharing our time with others, even when it means sacrificing time from our own lives.

Kris still volunteers when he can, but my time of service has come to a halt.  I have two small children. While we occasionally put bags of toiletries together or send a service person a note, committing to regular volunteering is not in the cards for us right now.

Here are five ways that I  serve others in every day life:

1. Talk to People who are Older

Whenever the kids and I pass a person who is elderly, we stop.  I ask the kids if they would like to say “hello”. Owen usually does.  Sometimes this makes us late, and sometimes I am tired and really want to hurry up the conversation.  Instead, we watch the person to whom we are speaking light up with the joy that children bring.

2.  Offer an Extra Set of Hands

When I see someone who needs another hand, I ask my children if they are up for helping. Sometimes they are and sometimes they are not (mostly they are!).  We might each grab a bag of groceries to bring to a car, or stand outside with a (friendly!) dog while its owner steps inside for a coffee.  It may be as simple as asking a fellow shopper if we can push their cart back for them.

3.  Help A Neighbor

When our neighbors go out of town, they always ask Owen to collect their mail.  He keeps a special bag in a particular place and takes his job seriously.  If there is a day he does not feel like collecting it, I do it for him.  Kids can receive community service too!

4.  Give to the Food Bank

When the kids come grocery shopping with me, we buy a few extra food items; some for people and some for animals. This time of year there is always a collection bin at the exit of our grocery store.  When there is not, we bring it to our Church or the SPCA.

5.  Bring a Trash Bag

I am trying to get more in the habit of this!  When we go for a walk through our local state park, we frequently find trash.  Owen always wants to pick it up “to protect the Earth”.  Bringing a trash bag allows us to enjoy our walk and perform community service at the same time.

Much like the rest of our lives, I want my children to develop an authentic desire to serve others.  I believe that Kris and I modeling this through our own actions is the best way to accomplish this.

In another couple of years we will be able to commit to regular volunteering again, but for now we will look for opportunities in every day life.

How do you find ways to serve others in every day life?


Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be live and updated by afternoon November 13 with all the carnival links.)

  • Acts of Service: The Great Neighborhood Clean Up — Sarah at Firmly Planted shares how her daughter’s irritation with litter led to weekly cleanups.
  • Running for Charity — Find out how Jenn at Monkey Butt Junction uses her love of running and a great new app to help feed the hungry.
  • 50 Family Friendly Community Service Project Ideas — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama shares a list of 50 family-friendly community service project ideas that are easy to incorporate to your daily, weekly, monthly, or seasonal rhythmn.
  • Volunteering with a Child — Volunteer work does not need to be put on hold while we raise our children. Jenn of Monkey Butt Junction discusses some creative options for volunteering with a child at Natural Parents Network.
  • Family Service Project: Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina — Erika at Cinco de Mommy volunteers with her children at the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina, where 29% of the recipients are children.
  • Family Service Learning: Advent Calendar — Lyndsay at ourfeminist{play}school offers her family’s approach to some holiday-related community service by sharing their community focused Advent Calendar. She includes so tips and suggestions for making your own in time for this year’s holidays.
  • How to make street crossing flags as a family service project — Lauren at Hobo Mama offers a tutorial for an easy and relatively kid-friendly project that will engage young pedestrians.
  • Pieces of the Puzzle — Because of an experience Laura from Pug in the Kitchen had as a child, she’s excited to show her children how they can reach out to others and be a blessing.
  • Appalachian Bear Rescue — Erica at ChildOrganics shares how saving pennies, acorns and hickory nuts go a long way in helping rescue orphaned and injured black bears.
  • Volunteering to Burnout and Back — Jorje of Momma Jorje has volunteered to the point of burnout and back again… but how to involve little ones in giving back?
  • How to Help Your Kids Develop Compassion through Service Projects — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares service projects her family has done along with links to lots of resources for service projects you can do with your children.
  • Involving Young Children in Service — Leanna at All Done Monkey, the mother of a toddler, reflects on how to make service a joyful experience for young children.
  • A Letter to My Mama — Dionna at Code Name: Mama has dedicated her life to service, just like her own mama. Today Dionna is thanking her mother for so richly blessing her.
  • 5 Ways to Serve Others When You Have Small Children — It can be tough to volunteer with young children. Jennifer at Our Muddy Boots shares how her family looks for opportunities to serve in every day life.
  • When Giving It Away Is Too Hard for Mommy — Jade at Looking Through Jade Glass But Dimly lets her children choose the charity for the family but struggles when her children’s generosity extends to giving away treasured keepsakes.
  • Community Service Through Everyday Compassion — Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children calls us to Community Service Through Everyday Compassion; sometimes it is the small things we can do everyday that make the greater impacts.
  • School Bags and Glad RagsAlt Family are trying to spread a little love this Christmas time by involving the kids in a bit of charity giving.
  • Children in (Volunteering) Service — Luschka at Diary of a First Child reminisces on her own experiences of volunteering as a child, reflects on what she thinks volunteering teaches children and how she hopes voluntary service will impact on her own children.


8 Replies to “5 Ways to Serve Others with Small Children”

  1. Your suggestion of stopping to talk to the elderly really hit home for me. Last week we went to the library on election day. The library was a polling place, and there were dozens of elderly people in line waiting. The way they interacted with the kids was so sweet – they just lit up when Ailia smiled at them, and at least half a dozen remarked over the Winnie the Pooh book Kieran was reading. I need to remember to start pausing to say hello wherever we are.

    • Dionna,
      I agree! It is always worth it to see the genuine exchange of joy- from the older person who basks in the cuteness of the kids, and from the children, who bask in the feelings of love. My kids have learned a lot from interactions like these. Owen is interested in WW2- we have unexpectedly met some Veterans who were able to talk to him about it. Pretty amazing. I swear Owen has been all around the world, and grounded right where he is, from all of the people we have stopped to “help” ;).

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  5. When I was a kid — pretty much from birth to twelve or so — I always went with my mom to the retirement home every Friday. She was the visitor for our church, so she prayed with the seniors. My brother and I would just hang out in the library, TV room, or beauty parlor and chat up the ladies and gents. They loved us. They would say we were rays of sunshine in their lives, angels in the disguise, and so on, and they would save bananas from their lunches to give to us. It made us feel really special and loved, and it made the seniors’ day. It also gave us some practice learning to talk to people who are hard of hearing, blind, or senile …. with some coaching from my mom to speak up, let them touch our faces, or repeat ourselves.

    Once this winter (and cold season) are over, I want to start this with my own kids. There is a retirement home in walking distance, and I think it would be a special time for both the retirees and my kids.

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