10 Kid-friendly Places to Volunteer

By: Alia Hoyt  | 

teen boy shoveling snow
A simple gesture like shoveling snow for a senior neighbor is a wonderful way your teen can volunteer their time. mooremedia/Shutterstock

A lot of kids today are unbelievably lucky, and half the time they don't even realize it. Many have hundreds of toys, affordable health care, plenty of food and loving families. Too often, both children and grownups take these blessings for granted.

One way to ensure that everyone is appreciative is by volunteering regularly as a family. Engaging in philanthropic activities promotes a good work ethic and sense of selflessness, and it will also allow everyone to connect in a larger and deeper way with the local community.

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The COVID-19 pandemic has changed many things, including the volunteer landscape. Bear in mind that service might look and function a little differently now than in years past, so don't forget to take a mask and know all the rules and requirements ahead of time.

Fortunately, there are still plenty of volunteer opportunities out there for every family, no matter what your ages or interests. Keep reading for our list of suggestions to find the right one for your kids and family.

10: Virtual Tutoring

virtual tutor
Virtual tutoring is more common now because of COVID-19. If you have a teen who excels in a subject, why not have them tutor a child who needs help? Edwin Tan/Getty Images

So many children really fell behind educationally during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially those in underserved communities. High school kids and older can volunteer as virtual tutors via organizations like Learn To Be, which connects children with one-on-one tutoring opportunities. Each tutor fills out an application. Once approved, they can see who needs tutoring services that they offer, then connect with the child and family to schedule a virtual session. Or, volunteer with UPchieve, which accepts "coaches" who are 13 and up (as long as they pass the certification quiz)! The organization even offers training.

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9: Lend a Paw

foster dog
Fostering a cat or dog is a wonderful learning experience. And it can help the shelters that are in dire need during this time. Os Tartarouchos/Getty Images

Are you a family of animal lovers? There's never been more need for people like you, because the pandemic rocked the animal rescue community to the nth degree. Many rescues were forced to abandon or temporarily shutter on-site facilities, leaving them to rely solely on in-home fosters to care for homeless cats and dogs. Although an adult will need to be the primary foster and make sure all needs are met, children can easily assist as you feed, bathe, walk and play with your temporary cats and dogs.

Sure, it'll be difficult to say goodbye to furry friends when they find permanent homes, but your kids can be comforted by the fact that they helped an animal in need. Plus, there's usually another fluffy squatter around the corner to take the sting away.

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8: Help Feed the Hungry

Meals on Wheels
Delivering food to seniors through organizations like Meals on Wheels can be done safely, and it provides them with nutritious food they would otherwise go without. Ben Hasty/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images

Hopefully your family has enough food on the table, but many others aren't so lucky. And there are some that have limited mobility and rely on the kindness of strangers for nutritious food. Food pantries have been stretched thin helping feed those in need during coronavirus. Organizations like Meals on Wheels have rolled with the COVID-19-related punches, fortunately and offer safe, contactless meal drop-off opportunities for people in need.

Or, it might be more appropriate for small children to assist by shopping for food to donate to the local food pantry. Allow your child to have some input and discuss menu selections, all while explaining the reasons you're making the effort for people you don't know. Then, when you drop off the goods, ask an employee to briefly describe how families in need will benefit from your generous donation.

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7: Archive Museum Documents

National Archives transcribers
The National Archives is desperate for transcribers of incredible documents like these, which show the military records for Albert Bush who served in the 115th U.S. Colored Infantry during the Civil War. National Archives

Older kids who are also history buffs will really enjoy this unique volunteer opportunity. The National Archives needs people to tag and transcribe documents its already uploaded. Basically, the volunteer types out the content of a particular historical document, which has already been scanned by the experts. Example documents can include notes from a court case, or even Nazi file memorandums. Keywords are then tagged to make the files more searchable for those who need them. This volunteer op is best suited to older kids who are proficient with typing and computer skills, obviously. Also, mom or dad probably needs to give the document a glance before pressing "submit." What a way to preserve history and bring it into the modern era.

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6: Set Up a Library

Little Free Library
Establishing and maintaining a Little Free Library in your neighborhood is a great learning experience for the little ones. LifestyleVisuals/Getty Images

Libraries really had to pivot to keep functioning during the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, volunteer opportunities at many locations are limited, especially for the kiddos. You can still foster a love of reading through volunteerism, however, by setting up or maintaining a Little Free Library in your neighborhood. Billed as the "world's largest book sharing movement," these Little Free Libraries are easy to build and install. Encourage the kids to curate a book selection for people of all ages, and promote the library to neighbors using flyers, text messages or word-of-mouth.

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5: Beautify the Park

cleaning park
One cool thing about cleaning up your local park is kids can see the immediate results from their efforts. Ariel Skelley/Getty Images

Public parks often require much more attention than they actually receive. Volunteer opportunities at the park can be as simple as picking up trash and pulling weeds when you visit, or you can organize a larger-scale cleanup and rejuvenation effort with the rest of the community. Just make sure to consult the local parks and recreation council — or whatever entity oversees your particular facility — to gain permission before launching an event. This is a great choice because your kids will be able to see how their efforts directly benefit the community.

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4: Help at the Aquarium or Zoo

Zoo Atlanta's J.O.E.Y. Volunteer Program
Zoo Atlanta's J.O.E.Y. Volunteer Program is for youth ages 8 to 13 years old. They assist at events, talk to guests about animals, and have access to specialized training and learning sessions. Zoo Atlanta

Aquariums and zoos are ideal volunteer locations for kids with a passion for furry or finned friends. Typically, volunteers can expect to assist visitors, help out with kiddie programs and perform other day-to-day functions, like sorting recycling. They won't be feeding the tigers or sharks, but they will get a chance to see plenty of exotic and beautiful animals (from a safe distance, of course). Check with your local zoo or aquarium specifically to find out age requirements and any COVID-19 restrictions.

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3: Collect Shelter Supplies

collecting donations
Get your teens to collect donations for your local shelter. They can solicit requests from neighbors and friends and watch the supplies come in. Vladimir Vladimirov/Getty Images

You and your kids probably won't interact with the residents at a homeless or women and children's shelter, but you can still help those in need by donating to such a worthy cause. Call a local shelter and inquire about items they needed that are too often in short supply, like socks, feminine products, toothbrushes and so on. Then, solicit donations from family, friends and neighbors. Children can place a donation box on your front porch and organize and inventory supplies as they come in. Many people are happy to contribute when an opportunity presents itself, they just need someone to organize the effort.

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2: Fundraising Walks and Runs

race for charity
Next time you want to run a race for charity, include the little ones. They'll have a blast joining you, and many races have shorter "fun runs" just for them. steve bridge/Shutterstock

Take your kids along the next time you strap on your sneakers and hit the pavement for a good cause. Find a charity that's close to your family's heart and become involved via a fundraising walk or run. For example, if someone you know and love has an illness like heart disease, breast cancer or Lou Gehrig's disease, find a race and register your family to participate. Little kids can "fundraise" by counting up the contents of their piggy banks and soliciting small contributions from friends and neighbors. They don't have to raise a ton of cash. A quarter here and there will get the point across that they're helping people. Of course, older kids can step it up a bit and do more serious fundraising, like holding a car wash or auctioning off babysitting services in exchange for donations.

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1: Help a Senior Citizen

girls at flowerbox
Planting flowers for a senior neighbor will surely brighten their day. And it will give your teens a sense of purpose and accomplishment. Jupiterimages/Getty Images

COVID-19 severely limited what people can do for nursing homes, but chances are, there's a senior citizen in your neighborhood who could use a helping hand from time to time. Offer your family's elbow grease to help with chores around their house and yard. Just make sure to take proper COVID-19 precautions, as seniors are more susceptible to the illness. Kids can easily arrange to pick up and do their laundry, or dust and vacuum the house.

Or, you can opt to keep it totally contactless by offering to help with yard work. Give the kiddos some weed-pulling gloves, or hit the local nursery and plant some seasonally appropriate flowers. Older kids can even mow the lawn under adult supervision. It's a win/win for everyone involved, as the kids will hone some necessary skills and help a person in need at the same time.

Originally Published: Nov 9, 2011

Kid Volunteering Opportunities FAQ

How can I volunteer with my child?
A few places you could volunteer with your child include a nursing home, animal shelter, soup kitchen, library or a children's hospital.
What is the youngest age you can volunteer?
Children can often volunteer with a parental guardian, but it's best to double-check age requirements before signing up for an opportunity.
What is the value of youth volunteering?
Engaging in philanthropic activities promotes a good work ethic and sense of selflessness, which is important to foster in youth. They may even develop new skills from activities like painting a room or cooking meals.
What age can a child do volunteer work?
Children can often volunteer at any age with a parental guardian, but it's best to double-check the age requirements of your volunteer location before signing up.
How do you find a good volunteer opportunity?
It's important to determine your interests and what causes you're passionate about to find a volunteering opportunity that suits you.

Lots More Information

Related Articles

  • Alex's Lemonade Stand. "About Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation for Childhood Cancer." 2011. (Nov. 11, 2011) http://www.alexslemonade.org/about
  • Friedman, Jenny. "Volunteer With Your Kids." Parents. 2011. (Nov. 11, 2011) http://www.parents.com/parenting/better-parenting/style/volunteer-with-your-kids/
  • Georgia Aquarium. "Beginner Environmental Leadership Program." 2011. (Jan. 7, 2022) https://www.georgiaaquarium.org/booking/beginner-environmental-leadership-program/
  • Learn to Be. "Free, one-on-one, online tutoring." 2022 (Jan. 7, 2022) https://www.learntobe.org/about-us
  • Little Free Library. "Little Free Library." 2022 (Jan. 7, 2022) https://littlefreelibrary.org/
  • Meals on Wheels. "Meals on Wheels America." 2022 (Jan. 7, 2022) https://www.mealsonwheelsamerica.org/
  • National Archives. "Citizen Archivist Dashboard." 2022 (Jan. 7, 2022) https://www.archives.gov/citizen-archivist
  • Upchieve. "Academic Coaches." 2022 (Jan. 7, 2022) https://upchieve.org/volunteer
  • Zoo Atlanta. "The J.O.E.Y. Volunteer Program at Zoo Atlanta." 2021 (Jan. 7, 2022) https://zooatlanta.org/program/family-volunteer-program/

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