For the past 10 years, my children have traded their Halloween Candy for a $10-$12 toy of their choice. I know what you are thinking, “You take ALL of their candy, you are so cruel!” To be clear I don’t TAKE anything, it is a TRADE that they agree to make. I also allow them to eat some candy on Halloween and save 5 pieces for consumption the week after Halloween. This has worked well for us and their dentist approves!
The candy the kids trade in is sent to work with my husband. His employees LOVE the variety and it is usually all gone in 1-2 days!
Last year, while packing Thanksgiving food baskets at our local food bank, I was surprised to see that Halloween candy was one of the items included. “We like to put in a little fun for the kids,” the organizer told me. I knew right then that next years Halloween candy would go to the food bank for the Thanksgiving baskets.
There are many great places to donate Halloween Candy, a quick internet search will bring up many options in your area. I am asking you to consider your local food bank, call them and see if they would like a donation for their Thanksgiving baskets. Happy Halloween!!
Celebrating birthdays is such an important ritual for children. They love to gather with family and friends, eat party food, play games, open presents and blow out the candles on their birthday cake. Some families are choosing to transition the theme of their child’s birthday from one of GETTING to one of GIVING.
Some families are asking for donations in lieu of birthday gifts for their children’s party. The child then delivers the items collected to the food pantry or animal shelter. This is a wonderful concept but can be difficult for many children. You may want to ease in to this concept with having a service project be an activity at the party or asking folks to bring a smaller gift and a donation from their cabinets for the local food pantry.
Here are some ideas that you and your child may incorporate for their next birthday gathering to spread a little love and kindness in honor of their special day.
For All Ages
Donate Items to Goodwill or a Local Shelter (one for each year)–Every birthday and Christmas, my children donate one item for each year they have been on this planet. This practice of cleaning out their spaces and donating their gently used toys, books and games is so important as we teach them to let go of things that are no longer serving them. My husband and I join in on this activity and since we are a bit older we include paper purging (catalogs, magazines and old bills) into our number.
Recycled Party--My son once had a birthday of all wrapped hand-me downs. People brought gently used toys, games and clothing items as gifts. Zach loved his “new to him” gifts and nobody had to spend any money. It was a great lesson in reusing and reducing waste.
Food Pantry Party or Animal Shelter Party–Food pantries and Animal Shelters are always looking for non-perishable donations. Asking guests to bring donations in lieu of gifts or a canned good with a small present is a great way to organize this party. Make a collection spot where everyone can see the items. Have the children count the donated items at the end of the party and have the birthday child thank everyone and share where the donations will be going. Make a big deal of the Donation Day for your child and make sure to take a picture of them donating the items to the pantry or shelter (send it to firstname.lastname@example.org for them to be featured on our website).
Birthday Box Party–Not every child in our country has the chance to celebrate their birthday. Consider asking party goers to bring the contents to make a birthday box in lieu of a gift. During the party, the group can work to assemble the birthday boxes and your child can go and donate them to the local food pantry. Check out our post on birthday boxes for more information.
Party with Seniors--Who doesn’t love a party? Many residents at your local nursing home would LOVE to celebrate a birthday with your child. Contact your local nursing home and see if this is a possibility and if there are any food restrictions. Invite some of your children’s friends, bring some balloons, games to play (they LOVE bingo with prizes) and bring some treats to share. This is a great way to spread some love and kindness.
Book and Pajama Drive–Have each party guest bring their favorite children’s book and/or a pair of new pajamas and donate them to the Pajama Program. For this party you could have everyone dress in their PJ’s, bring a stuffed friend (if they are young) and read your child’s favorite story to all of them. Older kids can enjoy a sleepover party with this theme.
For Older Children
Sole Hope Shoe Cutting Party–Sole Hope is a wonderful organization that helps to make shoes out of old jeans for children in Uganda. These shoes prevent the children from getting painful jiggers in their feet. Jiggers make it difficult to walk and thus the children can’t perform their daily chores, walk to school or play with friends. Organizing a shoe cutting party is a great birthday alternative. Order the kit here, have everyone bring a $10 donation toward the shoe cutting kit cost and a pair or two of old jeans (no holes) . Put on some music, chat while you work and think about all of the children you will be helping on the other side of the world.
Make Dignity Bags or Homeless Bags–Being a homeless has many challenges and homeless bags can make life a little easier. These bags contain hygiene items, snacks, uplifting messages and so much more. Dignity bags can make life a little easier for homeless women. Consider organizing a Homeless Bag party where everyone brings items to contribute and then you assemble them together. Check out our post about Homeless and Dignity Bags here.
Blanket Party—Project Linus is always looking for blankets for children in crisis. Making no-sew fleece blankets is a great project for a birthday party. As host, you can provide the blanket materials or in lieu of gifts have each child bring the supplies they need to make a blanket. This would be a great slumber party idea! Click here for more information.
Other Service Project Activity Ideas
Paint Kindness Rocks
Make placemats for Meals on Wheels
Make Seeds of Kindness
Have a Kid Knits Party
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.
For the past few months, Kids in Service has been celebrating all of the WONDERFUL service work that children around the country have been doing. I love that we are able to highlight their accomplishments and hope that their work inspires other children around the globe. Today, I wanted to take a minute to celebrate the two most important INCREDIBLE Kids in my life…my son Zach and my daughter Caroline.
We are a homeschooling family and as part of their portfolios, I write up an End of Year Assessment. Over the past few weeks, I have spent a lot of time reflecting upon what the kids have accomplished during this school year. Looking back, it is easy to see that this has been a Year of Service for our family. Service learning is a valuable tool for all kids, no matter their age or where they go to school. Learning to think about others, embracing diversity, learning about the bigger world and finding a way to help make a difference are important life-long lessons that they will carry with them into adulthood.
One of Zach and Caroline’s big service projects, happens right here in our home. For the past 6 years my children have produced a community newspaper for friends and family. They have over 40 subscribers, many contributors and put out 3 issues a year. They charge a nominal fee for their paper but because of their generous subscribers, they have raised over $1200 in 6 years. ALL of that money has been donated to 12 different charities. This newspaper has evolved over the years and has become a community project. I am so proud of how hard Z and C work and how careful they are to pick the charities that will be receiving the funds after each issue.
Outside of the home, Zach and Caroline have spent many hours this year serving our community. It is not always fun for them but they show up and work hard until the job is done. They have learned first hand about homelessness, compassion, drug addictions, diversity, poverty, empathy, hunger and gratitude. I am so proud of them, the work they are doing and look forward to serving along side them, for many years to come. They are INCREDIBLE Kids!
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.
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!!
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 email@example.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.
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 Goodall is 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 🙂
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
travel bottle of hand lotion
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
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
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!!
“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.
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!!
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:
Peanut Butter (or Nut FREE versions)
Pasta and Sauce
Canned Meat (chicken, tuna, salmon, SPAM, ham)
Instant Mashed Potatoes
Canned Vegetables and Fruit
Soap and Shampoo
toothpaste and toothbrushes
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!