Holiday, Kindness

Counting Down to Christmas

Advent is a season of waiting.  This season can be so much more meaningful for families when you focus on kindness, love and the true meaning of Christmas.  I wanted to share with you a few ideas/resources that we have put into place for over the years during Advent and would love to hear any ideas or traditions that you may have as well.

1.  Reverse Advent Calendar

We participated in the Reverse Advent Calendar, from  Passionate Penny Pincher, last December for the first time.  The idea is simple and a great visual for young kids.  Find a big box and each day of advent put in the assigned food item.  Once your box is filled with 24 items, donate them that to your local food bank.  Food banks receive so much help in November and December and often struggle in January and February.  This will box will be a much needed donation and something you can drop off as a family.
My kids each had a box last year and took a lot of time and care decorating their cardboard boxes.  We shopped as a family for the entire list before December 1st and stored all of the food in the basement.  Each day the kids would head to the basement and “shop” for the item of the day.  They were so excited when the boxes were filled and we took them to the local food bank.  This is a wonderful way to help your kids focus on others this holiday season.
Click HERE for your copy of the Reverse Advent Calendar.
This FREE Kindness Calendar from Action for Happiness gives you a daily suggestion for how to spread Kindness.  My kids and I have used this for the last two years as inspiration for good deeds to do throughout the holiday season.
This is my FAVORITE gift of Christmas and makes my December mornings so special.  You can read about the sweet Advent Calendar I request from my children each year HERE.
4.  Book Count Down
This was one of my favorite ways to count down to Christmas when my children were little.  For this countdown, you wrap up 24 holiday books and place them in a basket.  These books can be books you own mixed in with library books and maybe a new book here or there.  Label each book with a number and then each day, your kids open up a book and you read it together as a family.
I know 24 books can seem daunting but you can add in Winter books, Hanukkah books or anything that would be fun to read during the holidays.  If you are wrapping library books, make sure you put those early in the count so that you don’t get into trouble with overdo fines!
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I wish these little guys were around when my oldest was young.  If your children are planning to ask Santa for some elves to visit you this Holiday Season, you may want to consider these cuties.  The Kindness Elves spread joy and happiness and leave your children daily notes with suggestions of Acts of Kindness that they can partake in.  Such a sweet way to encourage your children to spend the Advent Season doing kind deeds.
6.  Sparkle Stories Audio Advent Calendar
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We have been a sparkle family since the beginning in 2010.  David Sewell McCann has a tremendous gift for story telling and the Sparkle Stories are WONDERFUL for children ages 3 and up (although my daughter has been listening since she was one).  They have stories for every season, stories that teach valuable lessons, stories for grief….they are an incredible resource.
 The holiday season is a very special time at Sparkle Stories and they now have 3 audio Advent Calendars.  We LOVE the Martin and Sylvia Advent Calendar that follow a brother and sister through the 24 days leading up to Christmas and their search for yellow Advent Cards.  The Junkyard Advent is a precious story about a community of animals that live in a junkyard trying to make a wonderful Christmas for the Warden of the junkyard.  This year they have a new Advent Audio Calendar called Libby and Dish’s Good-Deed-a-Day Club and we are soooooo excited.
I highly recommend you check out the magic that is Sparkle Stories.  You can sign up for a 7 day trial to try them out for FREE (this is not an ad, we just love Sparkle Stories that much). It is fun to listen to them in the car as you are driving around or you can snuggle up on the couch and listen together.  Sparkle stories are a great way to remember to slow down for 20 minutes each day and listen to a beautiful and inspirational story together.
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I wish this had been around when my kids were little.  I do know other families that do a version of this without this kit.  The kit is adorable and a great visual for younger children to watch their kind deeds build up a sweet bed for Baby Jesus.  It is a nice way to help younger children focus on the spirit of giving, kindness, love and the meaning of the season.
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I did this for a few years with my children when they were small and we LOVED it.  It was a great way to teach the story of the birth of Jesus in language that is easy for children to understand.  There is a simple craft to make for each day or you can get the printable ornaments to color instead.   I recommend it for children 3-6 but older children would enjoy doing it along with their younger siblings.  It is another great Advent resource for little ears to get them ready for the coming of the baby Jesus.
What are your Advent Traditions?  Please share in the comments below.
Empathy, Kindness

Project Seeds of Kindness

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A few years ago my Kids in Service group made Seeds of Kindness.  After reading the book, Ordinary Mary’s Extraordinary Deed by Emily Pearson, I was inspired to find a simple way for the kids in my group to start their own Pay it Forward project.  

Each family was given this cute little smile bag that I found on Oriental Trading and some emoji magnets (also from Oriental Trading).  The kids made happy pictures with uplifting messages on them, “You are Special!”Thanks for Being YOU!” and enclosed the magnet inside of their folded up picture.  They were then encouraged to pass out their Seeds of Kindness to the people that they encountered over the summer.

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Will you and your family accept this mission of KINDNESS?

Your Mission:  Create simple Seeds of Kindness to help brighten the day of the people you meet when you are out and about in the world.

Supplies:  paper, drawing materials, a bag to hold the Seeds of Kindness so you can take them on the go (a ziplock works great).

Optional Supplies: fun magnets, a dollar scratch ticket, single stemmed flowers, a happy eraser, a pretty stone, $5 gift card for a coffee (the possibilities are endless).

Procedure: Work as a family to create happy and uplifting drawings.  Everyone who can hold a crayon without eating it can participate in this part! Write uplifting messages on the drawings (You are Special, You are One of a Kind, Thanks for Being You, You are going a Great Job, Thanks for Being a Light in this World, Thanks for your Smiles etc.).  Fold up the drawings into small squares (“seeds”) and put them in a bag of your choice so you can take them with you on the go.

Optional:  Add a fun magnet, a dollar scratch ticket, a flower a happy eraser, a pretty stone or a $5 gift card for coffee or lunch to the seeds.

Keep the Seeds of Kindness with you in the car or while you are on the go and when you see someone who has gone above and beyond or someone who looks like they could use a pick me up, give them a Seed of Kindness.  Perhaps the mailman looks a little blue, the woman at the checkout was extra friendly or a mom with screaming children looks like she could use some kindness.  These Seeds of Kindness are meant to be spread around and given to EVERYONE.  My family loves to give them to the toll attendants (along with a $5 gift card at the Holidays) and their reactions are alway priceless.

featured, Kindness, Making a Difference, Pay it Forward Summer, Service Projects for Families

Art for Hospice

Make a Difference May

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.

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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.

Make a Difference May-11

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.

Kindness, Making a Difference, Service Projects for Families

The Brown Bag Project

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Kids in Service NH partnered with Shepherd’s Food Pantry and St. Matthew’s Church for a once a month service project called, the Brown Bag Delivery Project.  Once a month, it is our job to help deliver the food that is collected on Brown Bag Sunday at St. Matthew’s and deliver it to Shepherd’s Food Pantry.  This project is PERFECT for ALL AGES and it is one that helps so many people in the community.

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Here is what Kids in Service Mom Kristen had to say about their experience:

Justin and I went to St. Mathew’s church on Sunday evening. He thought it was pretty cool because he got to wear pajamas (since it was so close to bed time). While we waited for the church service to end, we sat in the car and talked about what we were going to do. Justin was excited to bring the food to people who need some extra help. When people started to leave the church, we went to work! Justin liked using his “strong muscles” to bring the bags to the car. Justin and I made 4 trips back and forth to the car before 2 women noticed what we were doing and asked if they could help.  The two of them were able to pick up the big bin of food and make it to the car in one trip. Justin was very impressed and happy that they helped us out. We thanked them and took the food back to our house (leaving it in the car overnight).

In the morning we drove the food to Shepherd’s Pantry in the POURING rain. I have to admit I was not looking forward to unloading all of the food and getting soaked. But it turns out I didn’t need to even think about getting soaked. As soon as I drove up, three volunteers came to my car with shopping carriages and unloaded all of the food in just a couple of minutes! The volunteers were so grateful and kind to both of my children in the car. On the ride home Justin asked a few questions about why people needed extra help with food. It ended up being a great discussion and I believe it was a great learning experience for both of us! 

This project is flexible and you do not need a mini-van or a large SUV to participate.  With a little creativity, I know we could fit all of the food in my husband’s Toyota Corolla.  Most of the food is in shopping bags, which makes it perfect for little hands to help carry food to the car.  This project is a great opportunity to discuss all of the blessings that you have in your life and how important it is to share those blessings with others.  This is a very simple, family service experience that is FREE, does not take a lot of time and best of all it helps serve the community!!

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We were away Mother’s Day weekend, so I made arrangements with St. Matthew’s to come and get the food on Monday morning and we brought it straight to Shepherd’s Food pantry (this is an EASY option).  We left our house at 8:09am and were back by 8:40am!!  We have done this project two times now and it is always so much fun working together on a common goal.

If you and your family live in Southern, NH and you would like to participate in the Kids in Service Brown Bag Delivery Project, please email us at communityserviceforkids@gmail.com.

Food pick up can be done at St. Matthew’s on either Sunday at 7pm after the last mass or between 7:30-10:00am on Monday (you need to make arrangements if it is before 9am). Food drop off at Shepherd’s Pantry is on Monday between 6:30-10:30am. 

 

Incredible Kids, Kindness, Making a Difference, Quick Service Projects

Bags for the Homeless

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Recently our Kids in Service NH group came together to make Homeless Bags and Dignity Bags for a local homeless shelter.  All of the bags included necessary items to help with hygiene and comfort.  The children made cards with uplifting messages and drawings for each bag so that the recipient would know that they are special.

The Dignity Bags that we packed (I did this project with older children) were so appreciated. I spoke with one woman who said that being homeless is tough enough but being a homeless woman is really challenging.  Homeless shelters do not always have feminine products available.  These are not items that are donated often and there is such a demand for them.

Making bags for the homeless is one of my favorite service projects to do with a group.  We were able to make 32 bags when we did this project.  Each family was in charge of bringing a group of items (32 granola bars etc.) and we split up the more expensive items.  Below you will find some suggestions for items for your bags.  Many of these items can be collected on hotel stays (shampoo, soap, lotion etc.).  You need not include all of the items below, these are just some ideas.

Item Ideas for a Homeless Bag

large plastic bag (gallon size)

pair of socks

bar of soap (with a small plastic bag so they can store the used soap for future showers)

travel bottle of shampoo

toothbrush and toothpaste

granola or cereal bars

chapstick

wash cloth

hand wipes

travel bottle of hand lotion

comb

a sweet treat (be careful to include items that won’t melt if it is summer)

A Note or Drawing of Encouragement

 

Item Ideas for a Dignity Bag

All of the Items Above

women’s underwear

feminine products

razor and shaving cream

 

Things not to Include

Anything that Includes Alcohol (hand sanitizer, mouthwash, perfume etc.)

Anything that is expired or that will spoil quickly

Make a Difference May-4

Makayla Waters (age 12) and Lily Levesque (age 11) of Salem, NH spent one evening putting together dignity bags for homeless women in Lawrence, MA.  They were inspired after reading an article called, The Homeless Period.  Many homeless women have to choose between sanitary products and food each month with the little money that they have.  These INCREDIBLE pre-teens decided to take action and put together dozens of bags during a weekend sleepover.  Makayla and Lily, thank you so much for being such thoughtful and INCREDIBLE kids!!

Incredible Kids, Kindness, Making a Difference, Service Projects for Families

Kid Knits-Started by a 9 Year-Old!

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“You’re never too young to change a life on the other side of the world”–www.kidknits.org

My daughter discovered Kid Knits a few years ago and we have purchased many of their hat making kits and yarn since.  Kid Knits was started by Ellie when she was just nine years old.  She wanted to help people on the other side of the world by using the yarn that they made to knit hats.  With family support, Ellie started a non-profit organization.  Kid Knits now supports woman in Chile, Rwanda and Kenya by giving them a channel to sell their yarn.

In our home we have made adult hats, child hats and doll hats (lots of doll hats).  The kits come with a round loom, directions and beautiful wool yarn in a variety of colors.  Making hats is super easy to do with the loom and the perfect thing to do while watching TV or listening to an audio book.  The kits range in price from $14-$24 or you can buy the yarn separately.  All kits come in beautiful handmade bag from Chile and they make wonderful gifts.

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From my 9 year old daughter: “The kit helps to make knitting hats easier.  The yarn is soft and bright. It is cool that a 9 year old started Kid Knits.”

Ellie is another example that you are never too young to make a difference in this world. From her home in Illinois, she is helping women on the other side of the world to have an income source.  Check out this video about Kid Knits below, Ellie is an INCREDIBLE Kid!!

Incredible Kids, Kindness, Making a Difference, Service Projects for Families

Organizing a Food Drive

Make a Difference May-2

A few years ago, our Kids in Service NH group organized a Food Drive.  Our goal was to collect 1,000 items for the local food bank and the kids worked so hard and surpassed that goal!

The food drive was organized in the spring and many went to door to door collecting food from neighbors.  The children emailed friends and family and asked for donations, many sent money.  My children sent a box with their dad to work and sent out a company wide email.  This experience was hands-on and I was so proud of the kids and all that they accomplished!

You do not need to set such a high goal but organizing a food drive with friends and family is a great way to give back to your local community.  This is a GREAT time of year to organize a food drive.  Food banks get the bulk of their donations in November and December and thus the spring and summer months can be pretty sparse.

Food Banks are looking for items that are non-perishable and that are within expiration date.  The best items to donate to food banks are:

FOOD

Peanut Butter (or Nut FREE versions)

Rice

Beans

Pasta and Sauce

Canned Meat (chicken, tuna, salmon, SPAM, ham)

Applesauce

Cooking Oils

Instant Mashed Potatoes

Canned Vegetables and Fruit

 

Hygiene Items

Soap and Shampoo

toothpaste and toothbrushes

Feminie Products

Diapers and Wipes

Meet Joshua, when he was 4 1/2 he started organizing food drives with the help of his parents in Miami where he is from.  This led to the start of his youth-led foundation, Joshua’s Heart.  Since starting his foundation, he has raised over 1 million dollars, distributed 2.2 million pounds of food, distributed 100 thousand toys, clothes and toiletries and has over 25 thousand youth volunteers.  The video above was filmed 4 years ago when he was just 11, it is both inspiring and heart warming.  Joshua is truly an INCREDIBLE kid!

Kindness, Making a Difference

Fundraising for a Cause

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Hosting a fundraiser for charity is a WONDERFUL way to help your children make a difference in their community or in the greater world.   Lemonade stands and bake sales (or a combination) are great ways for children to work and raise money for a charity they believe in.

The lemonade and cookie stand above was run by my children and their cousins on a hot spring day.  We had permission to set up the stand and all of their ingredients were donated.  They helped to bake the cookies, make the lemonade, create the signs and set up the stand. They had set prices but asked each customer if they would like their change (most said “NO”) and the kids raised over $60 for the NH Food Bank.

Our local animal shelter (Nevins Farm) will allow families to host a lemonade stand on their property, if you sign up for a date and donate all of the funds to their organization.  See if your shelter or another local charity will allow you to do the same.

Tips to have a successful fundraiser:

  1. Get the ingredients donated (have your parents, grandparents or neighbors donate your ingredients so that all money raised can be donated to charity)
  2. Advertise
  3. Make sure to wash your hands when handling all food and drink!!
  4. Post any allergens in your baked goods (nuts, wheat, dairy, eggs etc.)
  5. Make sure your city or town does not require a permit for hosting a charitable lemonade stand or bake sale.
  6. Set up in a high traffic area (but make sure you have permission to be there if it is not private property).
  7. Make sure you have adult supervision!
  8. Have a box with change.
  9. Make signs with your prices and the charity you will be donating to.
  10. Make sure you have plenty of cups, napkins and ice in a cooler to keep your lemonade cold.

 

Tessa Has Changed Her Community Through Baking Cookies

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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 an annual cause that the community has rallied behind.  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!

Children Who Have Made a Difference with Lemonade Stands

There are countless stories on the internet of children organizing successful lemonade stands for charity.  Here are four sweet stories of four INCREDIBLE kids.

Alex’s Lemonade is an organization that was started by Alex Scott while she was fighting childhood cancer.  She hosted a lemonade stand at age 4 in her yard to raise money for childhood cancer research and raised over $2,000.  Before her death in 2004, Alex had raised over $1,000,000 for charity.  Alex’s parents set up a non-profit in her memory and children all over the world hold lemonade stands in the month of June to raise money for Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation.  If you would like to sign up to participate in this fundraiser, please click HERE.  Alex was an INCREDIBLE Kid!

 

Ella, who was born with a cleft lip, raised over $19,000 for the charity Smile Train with her first lemonade stand.  Smile Train provides the funds for children with cleft lips, to have surgery to correct their lips.  Ella had cleft lip surgery when she was a baby and wanted to organize the stand to help children just like her who couldn’t afford the surgery.  She now holds a lemonade stand every year on her birthday and it is believed she has raised over $120,000.

 

This young boy heard that the family of one of his classmates was struggling to put food on the table and he knew he wanted to help.  He set up a local lemonade stand and raised over $500 for his local food bank.  This donation purchased over 2,000 pounds of food for the food bank shelves.  Logan is an INCREDIBLE kid!

 

Meet Mikaila, she was 4 years old and when she was stung by 2 bees in one week.  She decided to take that experience and learn something about the insects that scared her.  After learning all about bees and the danger they face, she started a lemonade stand to raise money to help save the bees.  Fast forward to today and she has turned that little stand into a profitable business with a non-profit organization to help educate and save the honeybees.  She was even on Shark Tank and you can find her Me and the Bees Lemonade at Whole Foods and other small grocery stores!  This little entrepreneur is an INCREDIBLE kid.

Kindness, Making a Difference, Quick Service Projects

Birthday Boxes

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Birthday’s come but once a year and are a great reason to celebrate another trip around the sun.  Unfortunately for some, birthdays are an added expense that can not be afforded.  With a few simple items and a shoebox, you can create a birthday box to bless someone in need with a grand celebration.

What do you need for a birthday box?

1 box of cake mix

1 tub of frosting

birthday candles (no matches)

1-2 decorations (balloons, banner, streamers and/or party hat etc.)

small unisex toys or favors (stickers, crayons, markers, toy ball, small LEGO etc.)

a shoebox or small plastic rectangular box

We donated the birthday boxes we made to our local food bank and they distributed them out to families in need.  This is an easy project for all ages and can make a big difference in the life of a child.  You could even make this a tradition to put birthday boxes together on your children’s birthday.  Everyone deserves the chance to celebrate their birthday.

Meet Bella, a third grader from Kentucky who builds birthday boxes to ensure that the children in her school are all able to celebrate their birthdays!  What an INCREDIBLE kid!!

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“The Birthday Box  is a “party in a box” that is anonymously delivered to children
who may not otherwise have a celebration on their special day.”

Kindness, Quick Service Projects, Seasonal, Service Projects for Families

Celebrate May Day

www.kidsinservice.net

May Day, celebrated on May 1st, is an ancient holiday that welcomes the change of seasons.  In the Northern Hemisphere it marks the return of spring (it takes awhile for spring to get to the Northern United States) and often involves dances around a maypole, the crowning of a May Queen and the creating of May Baskets.  This holiday is still celebrated around the world but it is mostly forgotten in the US.  It is my hope that this will change.

May Baskets are my favorite part of May Day.  For the past few years, the children and I have left May Day Baskets anonymously on the doorsteps of friends and family.  These simple baskets are made out of construction paper and contain spring treasures that we collect (flowers, rocks, pinecones, shells etc.), homemade cards that say, “Happy May Day” and treats that we bake.   The kids love ringing the doorbell and running away before being seen.

May Day is a fun and simple holiday that is all about KINDNESS and celebrating the beauty of spring.  Check out this post from Skip to My Lou for 10 May Day Basket ideas.  If you want to learn more about the history of May Day Baskets, check out this NPR post.

Do you celebrate May Day?  We’d love to see photos of your celebration.