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.
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).
Winter is now one of my favorite seasons. I use to dread the cold and long winter months but now that I have found the concept of hygge, I come to crave this time each year. I love this chance to slow down, get cozy and spend time with family and friends.
If you are looking for some cozy service projects this winter, we have a few suggestions for you and your family. These are projects that you can do from the comfort of your home.
Project Linus-–Click HERE to learn all about this cozy and important service project. No sewing skills required!!
2. Thank You Notes–Have you thanked your loved ones for the thoughtful gifts they gave you over the holidays? 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? 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 drawing and/or writing).
3. 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 Mission of Appreciation.
4. Project Dollar Store–This is such a fun project and can be easily prepared while sitting in front of a cozy fire. Click HERE to learn more about this SECRET MISSION OF LOVE!
5. Project Feeder Watch–This is a project of love for the birds in your backyard (and maybe the squirrels too). Place a feeder in your yard in a place that you can easily see from a window in your home. Keep the feeder up from early November-the beginning of April and enjoy the birds that come to your yard each day. Watching birds from the window is a very relaxing activity and a great learning experience for the whole family. Grab a few bird books from you library to learn the names of the birds in your yard. If you sign up for Project Feeder Watch through Cornell, you will be sent a poster of the birds in your area. Project Feeder Watch asks its members to count the birds for a period of time over two days a week (10 min is all you need) and submit the data online to their website. This data is used for their scientific study about the birds in different areas and the migration patterns. We LOVE this project and love to take care of the birds in our yard all winter long.
If you missed our other hygge posts you can click on the images below to check them out.
“On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me….” I won’t torture you with the entire song but I will encourage you to SERIOUSLY consider celebrating the full 12 days of Christmas. We started celebrating them a few years ago and it has stopped the “After Christmas Blues” from coming to town. Each night we add a candle to our window sill until there are 12 candles lit for Twelfth Night. It is beautiful.
One of our favorite parts of the 12 Day Celebration is listening to a new Tullyport Story each day. Sparkle Stories puts out this LOVELY audio series for the 12 days of Christmas. Throughout the series Martin and Sylvia (siblings) “explore what it means to celebrate the traditional ‘Twelve Days of Christmas’ inspired by twelve delightful stories from 18th century Maine.” (Sparkle Stories Website). You can CLICK HERE to learn more. If you are short on time each day, they also have a series with the just the 18th Century Stories from Tullyport Maine (a fictional coastal town). These stories are truly magical, CLICK HERE for that series.
We have been a Sparkle family since they began and this is our FAVORITE series. You can get a free 10 day trial which would get you through most of the 12 days of Christmas and you’d be able to see all that Sparkle Stories has to offer. This is not an advertisement, I am just a true fan.
What else do we love to do during the 12 days of Christmas?? Here is a little glimpse into all we have planned this year.
Day 1–Christmas Day-This will be a quiet day for us this year. We plan to stay in our jammies all day, hang by the tree and enjoy a wonderful dinner made by dad.
Day 2–Boxing Day (Kwanzaa Day 1)–We will be having a family Christmas party this day.
Day 3–Hibernation Day–This is the day we do NOTHING. We play games, read books and just chill. I love to hibernate and this is one of my favorite days of the week.
Day 4–The Forgotten Gift–Every year one of the gifts gets “forgotten” under the tree. The kids open it on this day. It is usually a book to share or a board game to play. They love having this fun surprise.
Day 7–New Years Eve-This year we have plans for a family game night out with friends. New Years Eve is usually very low key for us and we like to celebrate at home. We usually make a nice dinner and do an 8 o’midnight celebration with the kids with a live ball drop from our upstairs. Having 8 o’midnight means we are always in bed by 10, which I LOVE. We will see how leaving the house works for us this year 😉
Day 8–New Year’s Day–Every year we have a BIG New Years Day fancy breakfast. After the meal, we complete our New Years Day Interviews. You can read all about the Interviews and get your own copy by clicking HERE. We’ve been doing these interviews for years and it is always fun to go back and see how we have grown and changed.
Day 9–Plan out Service Projects for the Year--This year during the 12 days I want to have a family meeting where we map out the organizations that we would like to volunteer with this year. 2018 was a big year of service for us but we were flying by the seat of our pants and it felt like we were saying “YES” to everything. This year I want to be more intentional about our volunteer hours and the money we donate.
Day 10–Family Game Night–On the 10th night we are hoping to break out the new games the kids got for Christmas and a few old favorites and have a big family game night.
Day 11–Family Movie Night–We are hoping to pop the popcorn and find one last holiday movie to watch. There are a bunch we have not watched yet this year, so I am sure there will be lots to choose from.
Day 12–Family Twelfth Night Celebration--This year Twelfth Night falls on a weekend night and so we can do more than our traditional candlelit dinner. We are hoping to do a bonfire with s’mores, write some wishes on pieces of paper and send them into the new year by burning them in the fire. We will also bake a Kings Cake and the person who finds the bean will be the wish keeper for the celebration. They will hold everyones wishes for the new year in their heart.
Epiphany or Three Kings Day–3 Little presents arrive on this day. One for each child and one to share. They are not big presents, just a small item of fun to open and my kids are sooooo excited for this day EVERY Year. This is also the day we pack away our Christmas decorations and give thanks for all of the fun and magic we had throughout the season.
I loved this graphic from the Art of Simple. You may incorporate some of these things into your 12 days. They have a great post about the tradition and history of the 12 days that you can find HERE.
Kwanzaa is the 7 day festival that begins on December 26th and goes until New Years Day. Kwanzaa was founded in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga and is a beautiful celebration of faith, community and creativity. This festival originates from African harvest festivals and was created so that African Americans and Pan Americans could celebrate their heritage and come together in unity.
Each day of Kwanzaa focuses on a different principle and each night a new candle on the kinara is lit. Kinara’s can be expensive so if you wanted to celebrate Kwanzaa with your family, you could always make a paper kinara and add a paper flame to the appropriate candle each night. Some examples of paper kinara’s are HERE and HERE.
The 7 principles or pillars of Kwanzaa are things that EVERYONE can strive for all year long. Below I have included the 7 principles, some ideas for activities that you and your family can do for each and some of our favorite Kwanzaa books.
Umoja or Unity–This pillar is there to remind people of the importance of unity in their families, their communities and their race. The center black candle is lit on this night. To celebrate Umoja, it might be a great time to have a family game night, a special family dinner or go on a Gratitude Walk as a family. Click HERE to learn more.
Kujichagulia or Self-Determination—Kujichagulia is all about defining who you are and what you stand for. The far left red candle is lit on this night. Kujichagulia would be a great day to set some goals with your children. Maybe you could do a New Year Interview or create a vision board together of their hopes and dreams. This could be done with old magazine photos, drawings and you could even make a big family vision board.
Ujima or Collective Work and Responsibility-–Ujima is about working as a community to solve problems. The far right green candle is lit on this night. Ujima would be a great day to volunteer your time. Perhaps you could donate food to the local food bank, visit a nursing home, bring animal supplies to a shelter or clean up a local park.
Ujamaa or Coopertive Economics—Ujamaa is all about supporting local businesses to help them to thrive and grow in your community. The second red candle is lit on this night. Small businesses are vital to our local economies and Ujamaa is a great day to show them your appreciation. Perhaps today you make cards for the local businesses in your community and deliver them with a “Thank You” for all they do.
Nia or Purpose-–Nia is all about building community and remembering our traditions. The second green candle is lit on this night. To celebrate Nia you could visit or call the elders in your family and ask them to share stories of the past (I know they’d love to hear from you). Make sure to record these precious conversations so that you can play them back again and again. It might be fun to look through old photo albums to see how traditions have been passed down in your family from generation to generation.
Kuumba or Creativity-–Kuumba encourages us to do as much as we can to leave our world and surroundings better off than when we came. The last red candle is lit on this night. Kuumba would be a great day to clean up your street, your local park or help a neighbor with an outdoor chore. If your world is covered in snow, perhaps you make hot cocoa for the town plow drivers or give them gift cards to a local coffee shop. You could make some artwork for the local nursing home to brighten up the residents rooms and leave the world a little brighter. The sixth night of Kwanzaa is also time for the Karamu or the big feast of Kwanzaa.
Imani or Faith—Imani is there to remind us to believe in the people around us (parents, teachers and leaders) and to remember the struggle of the African Americans in this nation. The last green candle is lit this night. You can celebrate Imani by thanking all those people in your life who help you out. Maybe you could write thank you notes for the gifts you received during the holidays or call someone special to let them know how much they mean to you.
Favorite Books for Kwanzaa
This book is no longer in print but you may be able to get it at your local library. This is a sweet story of kindness is all about Imani learning about Kwanzaa and her family traditions from her grandmother. In this story it is the sixth night of Kwanzaa and time for the Karamu (the big feast of Kwanzaa) on New Year’s Eve. It is Imani’s turn to light the Kinara on this special night and she is nervous. What will the gift for Imani be?
This is a nice alphabet book that helps to understand all of the Swahili words and customs associated with Kwanzaa. This is a great book for your family if you have never celebrated Kwanzaa before and would like to learn more about this festival of light and family. From the publisher: “A unique alphabet book for children and a wonderful introduction to Kwanzaa, the holiday that celebrates African American heritage. For example:A is for Africa — Africa is the second largest continent. It has many countries. African Americans’ ancestors came from Africa. Kwanzaa is a holiday that celebrates the rich heritage of Africa.”
From the publisher: “Kwanzaa is Kayla’s favorite time of year. But this year, it looks as if a heavy snowstorm will keep her big brother, Khari, from getting home in time for the festivities! Will Khari miss the celebration completely? Or will Kayla and her brother somehow find a way to be together for Kwanzaa? A perfect introduction to Kwanzaa, this book will teach children all about the traditions and practices that make it a special winter holiday.”
From the Publisher: “Li’l Rabbit is not having a very good Kwanzaa. Granna Rabbit is sick, and so his family won’t celebrate his favorite part of Kwanzaa this year: a big feast called Karamu. Li’l Rabbit knows what to do! He’ll find Granna Rabbit a special treat for Karamu so she can celebrate anyway. Inspired by Brer Rabbit, a trickster character from the African-American folklore tradition, the story of Li’l Rabbit captures the true meaning of Kwanzaa—coming together to help others.”