For the past few years we have been doing the Reverse Advent Calendar from Passionate Penny Pincher. This project is a WONDERFUL way to help your kids focus on others during the busy holiday season. My kids like to decorate cardboard boxes for their items and it is fun to watch the boxes fill up during the month of December. My best advice is to buy the food ahead of time. Store the food some place where it will not be consumed and each day have your children “go shopping” to retrieve the item for that day.
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This year I was inspired to create two new giving calendar’s to encourage EVERYONE to participate in Season’s Giving. I created a Solstice Givingcalendar and an 8 Days of Givingcalendar that you can download and print out.
Last year in November, I gave my children the Reverse Advent Calendar list and a grocery budget. They logged on to our local grocery store’s website and worked together to purchase the groceries online. Many grocery store chains and Walmart offer curbside pick up or delivery, so that your kids can do this activity from the safety of home. Not only did they learn about giving, they also learned about budgeting and the cost of food.
So many are in need during this holiday season. If your family is able to give back, I hope you will consider participating in Season’s Giving. This is a wonderful lesson for your children and it will benefit so many people.
Some of these activities may not be safe due to COVID-19. Please use your best judgement.
1. “Jingle” People
Once again we will be working on some good deeds for friends and family members and leaving THIS NOTE that they’ve been “Jingled”. My kids love leaving some treats on the doorstep of the people we care about without them knowing. It is hard to be stealth and last year all but one of the recipients ended up finding out it was us. This year the kids are working on ways to be sneakier!
2. Kindness Calendar
This FREE Kindness Calendar from Action for Happiness gives you a daily suggestion for how to spread Kindness in December. My kids and I have used this for the last two years as inspiration for good deeds to do throughout the holiday season. We do NOT do every task, December is too busy for that. We merely read the prompt for the day and if it something that we can easily accomplish in the next few days, we will do so. This calendar is meant to be fun and not cause extra stress!
3. Donate Food and Hygiene Items
Food banks and shelters depend on people’s generosity at this time of year and hope for lots of donations to fill their shelves. Make sure all of the food that you donate is non-perishable and has not expired. They are always in need of hygiene items too (soap, shampoo, toothpaste, feminine products, diapers, toothpaste etc.) . This Reverse Advent Calendar from Passionate Penny Pincher is a hands-on way for kids to be mindful about donating food this holiday season. Kids in Service has created a Solstice Giving and an 8 Days of Giving calendar to encourage EVERYONE to participate in this important project. Check them out HERE.
4. Feast for the Animals
One of our favorite traditions this time of year is to decorate an outdoor tree with edible treats for the birds, squirrels, deer and chipmunks that live in and around our backyard. We usually do this on Winter Solstice and read the book Night Tree by Eve Bunting before we head out to decorate. Some years we have taken a lot of time with this project and made our own suet and bird seed ornaments. Other years we buy suet, sunflower seeds and hang an extra bird feeder. This is also a great opportunity to clean out your vegetable drawer. Bring out old carrots, celery and other greens for the animals to enjoy.
5.Make Holiday Cards for those in Need
Grab the paper, markers and other art supplies for this family project. Work together as a family to make holiday cards that you can pass on to people who need a little bit of cheer and encouragement this season. Do you know someone who lost a loved one or someone who is battling an illness? I am sure they would appreciate a homemade card from your family. Send the cards to the local soup kitchen or homeless shelter to be passed out to their guests. Cheer up seniors at the nursing home or a send the cards to Meals on Wheels.
6. Spread Seeds of Kindness–Holiday Edition
This has to be our family’s FAVORITE way to spread kindness during the holidays (and all year long) and it is soooo EASY. We go out and buy a bunch of $1 scratch tickets or $5 gift cards (for coffee shops or fast food restaurants) and hand then out throughout the holiday season. Was the cashier extra friendly at checkout? Hand them a gift card and say “Happy Holidays and thanks for being YOU!” You can spread seeds of kindness to the person working at the tollbooth (we still have people who work the tolls in New England), the person who works at your transfer station, your dry cleaner, the mom who looks stressed in the store, a homeless person…anybody is game for a little kindness this holiday. A nice touch is wrapping the gift card or scratch tickets in a drawing from your children. Click HERE for more information about Seeds of Kindness.
7. Donate Toys and Gifts
There are lots of worthy charities that will accept brand new toy and gift donations at this time of year. Our library has a giving tree where you can take a mitten off the tree and buy a present for a boy or girl in need. Contact your local school nurse or guidance counselor to see if there is a family who needs help during the holidays. Contact the local Foster Child Agency and see if they are in need of toys for the children they serve.
8. Volunteer Time
Do you have some free time this month to volunteer? Our family likes to spend one Saturday morning in December volunteering in the Food Bank. We dress in festive clothing, sing carols on our way and go out to breakfast when we are all finished. It is a nice tradition that we look forward to each year. If you have time to volunteer, contact your local food bank, pet shelter, hospice house, soup kitchen, nursing home or homeless shelter to see if they are looking for volunteers this season. The Salvation Army is always in need of volunteers for their Red Kettle drive during November and December. Many places will accept the help of younger children (ages 5 and up) if there is an adult present.
9. Go Caroling at a Nursing Home
Make some simple song books (most holiday lyrics can be found on the internet), gather together some family and friends and schedule a time to visit your local nursing home. Dress in festive clothing and wander the halls singing carols for all to hear. Perhaps you might bring along some holiday cards or homemade ornaments to pass out to the seniors as you wander. This activity will be one that you will always remember.
It is hard not to smile when you look at the children’s artwork on this page. In January, our Kids in Service NH group painted cheerful paintings for the patients at a hospice house. Volunteers visit the residents and ask if they would like to choose one of our paintings to cheer up their room. The painting of their choice gets hung on their bulletin board and it is our hope that everyone who visits their room is brought a little joy in a very difficult situation.
This spring, we partnered with the hospice house again and painted small terra cotta pots. I sealed each one with glaze and then we planted a flower in each pot. The 20 pots were delivered to the patients staying at the hospice house and other hospice patients around the community.
Creating artwork to cheer up hospice patients is a WONDERFUL service project for all ages. You could paint uplifting paintings, make blank greeting cards with the children’s drawings on the front or paint pots like we did. I recommend that you reach out to the volunteer coordinator at your local hospice house and see if they would like children’s art donations.
Hospice is a very difficult and sad concept for young children. I suggest that you tell your children that you are painting happy art for people who are sick in the hospital. That is all they need to know to be invested in this project. I am sure that their art donation will not only bring a little joy into the patient’s heart but the hearts of their family as well.
The books below are meant to inspire your children to make a difference in their community. These books are filled with characters (many of them real) who looked at problems in their own homes, communities and in the greater world and decided to take action and serve. We hope that you will enjoy these stories and that they will lead you to your own service projects this month (this post contains affiliate links, see info below).
CLICK HERE for our FREE Kids in Service Printable Booklist. Happy Reading!
Grandpa’s Corner Store by Dyanne DiSalvo-Ryan is a story about the struggle that small businesses have with larger box stores coming in to town. The box stores have cheaper prices and more variety and this makes it hard for the smaller stores to compete. In this story, Lucy is determined to help her grandpa’s store to survive once the big new grocery store comes to town. She rallies the neighborhood in this feel-good story. This book would be great for ages 5 and up.
Last Stop on Market Street by Matt De La Pena is one of my favorite stories! The little boy is not happy about having to make the long weekly journey on the bus with his grandmother and spends his time looking out the window thinking about all of the things that he doesn’t have. Grandma helps him to see all that he does have during there ride. In the end he is grateful that they made the long journey to to the soup kitchen to help others! This book would be great for ages 5 and up.
Can a Cookie Change the World? by Rhonda Boiling –This is a new book to me and I absolutely LOVED it. What a great message for children that they CAN make a big difference in their community (and the world). Tessa at age 7, wanted to help the local homeless population and decided to raise money at the local Christmas Bazaar by baking cookies. This small idea turned into a cause that the community has rallied behind and Kids Cookie’s for a Cause has raised thousands of dollars for many different charities and causes. Tessa is an INCREDIBLE kid! This book would be perfect or ages 5 and up and 70% of the proceeds of this book, go to charity!
Shaking Things Up by Susan Hood–This book of poems highlights 14 women of history who shook things up and helped to make a difference in this world. Each page has a beautiful illustration, a different type of poem about a little blurb of history about the woman’s contribution to our world. This book would be great for ages 5 and up.
The reading of this book really begins at the 1 minute 51 second mark 🙂
Marvelous Cornelius by Phil Bildner is the story of a real-life hero, Cornelius Washington. Cornelius was a street sweeper in New Orleans and was always spreading joy wherever he worked with his fun tricks and large smile. When Hurricane Katrina hit, Cornelius was determined to clean up his beautiful city. He quickly became overwhelmed by the amount of work that needed to be done. That is when the neighborhood rallies together and volunteers come from around the globe to help him clean up New Orleans. This book is a heartwarming story about a man who made the world a better place by not only keeping the streets clean but also with his loving heart and kind soul. I would recommend this book to ages 4 and up.
A Chair for My Mother by Vera Williams is a great example that you can make a BIG difference right in your own home if you work hard and make sacrifices. The main character does come home with her mother to a house fire. This may be scary for some young children but is done in a gentle way and shows the love of the community and neighborhood and how they rallied around the family after they lost everything. This book is about family, love, kindness and hard work. I would recommend this book to ages 5 and up.
Come with Me by Holly M. McGhee–The world can be a scary place and the news is filled with sad and upsetting stories. This simple book is about how one family chooses to put aside their fears, live their life and spread kindness along the way. This book would be good for children ages 5 and up.
As I have said before, we are HUGE Brad Meltzer fans in our house. We love the Ordinary People series and we have read almost all of them. I am Jane Goodallis a kid friendly biography of scientist and environmental activist Jane Goodall. Jane did not follow a straight and narrow path to becoming a scientist. She followed her passion and love of animals and learned so much about the importance of patience and perseverance in her work with chimpanzees. Jane has made a big difference in this world and she continues to inspire generations to take care of our planet and the creatures that share the earth with us. I recommend this book to children ages 5+.
The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind picture book by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer is the true story of 14 year old William Kamkwamba and his effort to help his village during a terrible drought. William spent all of his free time trying to figure out how to bring electricity to his village and using junk scraps, built a windmill. This book would be great for ages 6 and up.
One Plastic Bag by Miranda Paul is the true story of a woman named Isatou Ceesay who took on the growing problem of trash in her village in Gambia. The trash littering the streets was killing goats (who ate plastic bags), caused malaria outbreaks and created a terrible smell. Isatou decided she could no longer ignore this problem and gathered a group of women to recycle the trash and turn it into treasure. I love the beautiful illustrations in this book and the powerful message is one that all people over age 3 should hear. You can learn how to make your own plastic bag purse by clicking HERE.
Love by Matt De La Pena—This BEAUTIFUL book is on my list of FAVORITE CHILDREN’S BOOKS OF ALL TIME. This story illustrates the many versions of love found through out this world. Love knows no boundaries and can be found all around us. The beautiful text and illustrations in this book show just that. This would be a great book for ages 3 and up.
If You’re Going to a March by Martha Freeman is a sweet and simple book to introduce young children to the idea of being part of a march/protest. This book will not only explain what it means to protest peacefully but will answer any questions they may have about the process (where do we park? where do we go to the bathroom etc.). Best of all this book will put aside any worries or fears that they may have about being part of the event. I would recommend this book to budding activists age 5 and up 🙂
March is one of my family’s favorite months of the year. This is because we LOVE to follow theIditarod. What is the Iditarod you ask? The Iditarod is a 938 mile, Alaskan sled dog race from Anchorage to Nome. Mushers take teams of 16 dogs on an 8-15 day race through the Alaskan wilderness. This race commemorates Balto and the great Serum Race that happened in 1925. The Great Serum Race involved many mushers and dog teams in a relay to deliver medicine to Nome to battle a diphtheria outbreak.
The Iditarod started in 1973 to keep the sport of sled dog racing alive. Dogs and mushers all test their strength and ability during the race and try to be the first to cross through the arch in Nome. Animal safety is of the utmost importance during the Iditarod and all animals are checked carefully at each checkpoint by veterinarians. Mushers develop such tight bonds with their teams of dogs and most of them treat their dogs like family.
This year over 50 teams will leave on the first Saturday in March for the Ceremonial Start from Anchorage. This part of the race is broadcast for FREE on the Iditarod website. The official start happens the next day and my children and I will be glued to the GPS tracker on the Iditarod website, as we follow our favorite Mushers through the race.
In honor of the Iditarod, we wanted to share some of our favorite Animal Service Projects (click on the picture above) and our family’s favorite Iditarod books. Click on the book pictures below to learn more.
This is my FAVORITE Iditarod book of all time. I have read this book so many times and still cry at the end. This book is about a teamwork, determination and the love and trust between animals and humans. This story is sure to have you cheering on Akiak and would be perfect for children ages 3 and up.
This book was written by Libby Riddles, the first woman to win the Iditarod in 1985. This book is the true, historic story of that race and includes photographs and beautiful illustrations. Storm Run is an inspirational story of a determined woman and her beloved dog team, who fought their way to victory. I would recommend this book for anyone ages 4 and up.
This is another great Iditarod story that puts you on the trail with the dogs and musher. This book was written by Shelly Gill, who was the fifth woman to ever complete the Iditarod. This book is based off of her experience and is filled with the action that these teams face on the trail. This book would be great for children ages 3 and up.
The Iditarod race commemorates the Great Serum Race from 1925 where mushers and dog teams set up a relay to get medicine to Nome for a diphtheria outbreak. The hero of the Great Race is Balto. You can learn more about his brave story and of the Great Serum Race is in this book. This book would be great for ages 5 and up.
Jack and Annie fans will love this tale of Balto, the famous sled dog. We are BIG Magic Treehouse fans in this house and this book was exciting from start to end. Magic Treehouse books are fun and engaging ways for children to learn about historic times. This book and the rest of the series would be great for children ages 5 and up.
This great book will bring you behind the scenes of the life of an Iditarod sled dog. You will learn about their training, their care, their determined spirits and the love and trust they share with their human mushers. These dogs are some of the most athletic animals in the world and this book is filled with dog facts and beautiful photographs. This book would be great for ages 3 and up. Younger listeners will enjoy the pictures and a brief summary of the text.
(Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. This means if you click on the image of the books above you will be taken to Amazon. 20% of all profits made through this site will be donated to our charity of the season. You can see the current charity on our Book Corner page. Thank you for supporting our site and a very noble charity.)
All of us want to find time in our busy lives for service projects. We know how important it is to teach our children the valuable lessons that go along with serving others (empathy, kindness, gratitude, courage, selflessness etc.) but unfortunately those well meaning service projects are the first thing cut off the to-do list when life gets too hectic.
Here are 10 QUICK service projects that you can do with your kids TODAY, with items you have around the house. All of them can be completed in under an hour. I hope that this list inspires to you start a service project TODAY and learn as a family the valuable lesson of serving others.
Project Dollar Store--This is a family favorite and a project we do at least once a year. A dollar may not seem like much but this simple project can make a big difference in someone’s life. Click HERE to learn more about this SECRET MISSION OF LOVE!
2. Project Appreciation--For this SWEET project you need to gather everyone in the kitchen and think of a community group that you would like to thank. Click HERE for more details about this MISSION OF APPREICATION.
3. Make Placemats for Meals on Wheels–This is a project for all ages (well anyone who can hold a crayon or paint brush). First, click on the Meals on Wheels website and contact your local Meals on Wheels. Ask them if you and your family could make placemats for their clients. We have done this and it is an easy and fun service project. Gather some thicker paper (we used card stock) and some art supplies. My Kids Community Service club has done this a few times and all of the children (ages 2 and up) colored happy pictures to make the seniors smile while they ate their lunch. I mailed in our placemats but Meals on Wheels is always looking for volunteers to help deliver the lunches (and kids are welcome to participate). If you homeschool, have younger kids or are looking for a summer project, contact your local Meals on Wheels about donating your time.
4. Make a Kindness Jar--This is the Kindness Jar that sits near our dining table. My children made it with our kids community service group last winter and it is always out as a constant reminder to think of others and BE KIND. Click HERE to learn how you and your family can make your own Kindness Jar. The post includes a FREE Printable of Kind Deeds to fill your jar with.
5. Collection for the Homeless–People who are homeless are always in need of gently used clothing (especially warm clothing in the cold winter months), new toiletries or toys that are in good shape. Give everyone in your family a bag or a box and challenge them to fill it with as many quality items as they can. Once you fill your bags or boxes drop them off at the local homeless shelter. This service project is not only helping people in need but it is also challenging the family to declutter. This is a win-win in my book!
6. Clean Up Your Neighborhood–Grab a few trash bags, some work gloves and head out in your neighborhood or to your local park. It always SHOCKS me how careless people are with their trash. My husband does a mini clean up of our street with the kids once a month because of all the trash that the passing cars leave behind. This is an easy and important service project for your community.
7. Make a Christmas Jar–This project can be done at ANY TIME of year. We started our third Christmas jar right after Christmas but our first jar was started only a month before the big day. Click HERE to learn about this WONDERFUL family project.
8. Write Letters to Soldiers-This project is so easy to do and younger kids can team up with older kids or parents to make this a family project. If you know someone in the military, consider making writing letters to them a regular activity. If you do not know someone in the military, consider writing letters and sending them through A Million Thanks. This site has drop off locations across the USA for letters and cards. Here is what one solider had to say about this wonderful organization:
“I want to say thank you for what you are doing for all of us, and especially for the men and women overseas that take comfort in knowing people like you are thinking about them.”
9. Project Sticky Note–This is such a fun and simple project. All you need are some sticky notes and writing tools. Write a lot of different uplifting messages on the sticky notes (“You are Special”, “You are Loved”, “You are Beautiful”, etc.). Now comes the fun part, put the sticky notes in places where you think people may need an uplifting message. We have hid them in library books, hung them on mirrors in public restrooms and put them on car windows on a dry day. You can have the kids hang them on school lockers or even hand them out to people who look like they may need a pick me up. My husband often leaves us sticky notes if he is going away on business. It always makes us smile to find the notes of love and encouragement. The key to this project is to make sure that you do not litter and that you are always respectful.
10. Write a Thank You Note--Have you thanked your parent or care giver lately? Have you thanked your teacher, your coach, bus driver or librarian for all they do for you? Did you recently receive a gift? EVERYONE loves mail! Bless one or more people in your life with a card or note thanking them for all they do to help and support you. This is a project for all ages, as the littles can draw and adults can scribe the note of thanks and gratitude. Make writing thank you notes a regular practice in your home. This simple activity will teach an important lesson in gratitude, respect and connection (not to mention it will help them practice their writing).