20 Easy Ways to Encourage Kids to Give Back

Megan Zander | Feb 25, 2019 Big Kid
20 Easy Ways to Encourage Kids to Give Back
Image: Steve Debenport/iStock

easy ways to teach kids to give back
Steve Debenport/iStock

Whether we identify ourselves as a tiger mom, a bear mom, a helicopter mom, a free-range mom, or just a mom who's trying to make it until bedtime, the goals we all have for our kids are the same. We want them to be safe, we want them to be happy, and we want them to grow up to be kind, good, human beings. 

School helps teach our kids things like how to read, how to count, and what the capital of Texas is. And there are tons of social skills to be learned from being in school all day. Things like how to wait in line, how to share, and how to deal with jealousy over who has the blue marker are just some of the lessons are kids are absorbing all day long. 

But the character-building that comes from performing acts of service for others are lessons that start at home when kids are young. As parents, it's on us to teach our kids the importance of giving back to our community, both so that we may serve the world around us and so that our kids may grow up to be humble, caring adults. 

The business of raising a family can feel overwhelming. It's easy to donate money to our favorite charitable causes and tell ourselves that we just don't have the time right now to perform acts of service. But the truth is acts of service come in all different sizes and forms. 

Sure, building a house or organizing a gala are huge acts of service, but not every way of giving back needs to be so grand to have a powerful impact. There are lots of things kids of all ages can incorporate into their lives right now to start living a service-inspired life. Check out these easy ways we can teach our children to give back, starting right now. 

  • Food Bank

    ways to teach kids to give back

    Taking the kids to help out at a food bank can be a powerful lesson in the value of helping others and why we should appreciate what we have. If taking the time to volunteer isn't in the cards right now, have kids help pick their favorite food items to donate to those in need.

  • Donate Toys

    ways to teach kids to give back

    The next time the kids start pleading for a new toy, grab a box, head to the playroom and have a chat about kids who aren't lucky enough to have many things to play with. Encourage kids to donate toys they're not using anymore, and perhaps they'll realize how lucky they are to have so much already. 

  • Write a Thank You Note

    ways to teach kids to give back

    As adults, we know how powerful receiving a heartfelt thank you note feels. Once kids are old enough to write, help and encourage them to take the time to thank the adults in their lives -- perhaps a neighbor, instructor, or cherished aunt -- who are having a notable impact on their world view. 

  • Read to Animals

    ways to teach kids to give back

    Kids in early elementary school might love serving the community by reading to local shelter animals. Not only is it a great way to get them to practice their reading skills, but it's also super helpful as a way of providing socialization to furry friends who love getting some extra special attention. 

  • Operation Shoebox


    Teach kids the true meaning of Christmas by adopting a child (or children) to gift with presents during the holidays through Operation Shoebox. Kids can pick out small items to gift themselves, and because it's a single shoebox to wrap, it's not a service project that ends up falling on mom to finish. 

  • Clean an Outdoor Space

    ways to teach kids to give back

    The next time one of the kiddos decides the grass is the best place to toss that juice box, use it as a teachable moment about keeping common spaces clean for everyone. Organize a play date to pick up the park, or keep some gloves handy and make it a family rule to pick up five pieces of trash each visit before heading back to the car. 

  • Share a Talent

    Ways to teach kids to give back

    As parents, we love to encourage our kids to practice their talents. But sharing our gifts with others is a great way to make the world a little brighter. Call to see about taking that dance routine to a local retirement community or ask if the neighborhood preschool would like to see a performance by a budding magician. 

  • Bring Treats to Rescue Workers

    ways to teach kids to give back
    Steve Debenport/iStock

    Snowstorms and power outages are a great time to help kids say thank you to the workers who toil overtime to make sure the rest of us are safe. Stir up some brownies to hand out to the utility truck up the street, or surprise the neighborhood plow driver with a mug of something warm. 

  • Treats for Troops


    Kids are fluent in the language of candy, which is why Treats for Troops is a good fit as a service project to get them involved with from a young age. Find a donation location nearby to drop off extra Halloween treats. It's a way to teach kids about the power of sharing what we have with others.

  • Recycle

    ways to teach kids to give back

    Encouraging kids to recycle teaches them the importance of giving back to our Earth. Let them help sort bottles and break down small cardboard boxes and show them how to return cans. Use craft time as a way to reuse materials like paper roll tubes and egg cartons, rather than throwing them away. 

  • Kindness Rocks


    Painting kindness rocks is a fun service project for kids of all ages. Gather and clean some small rocks and have fun painting them. Younger kids can use it to explore color while older kids might like adding phrases like "Choose Kind" or "Smile." Tuck the rocks around parks and traveled paths to brighten people's day. 

  • Visit a Blood Drive


    The legal age to donate blood is 17 (unless allowed by state law with permission from a parent or guardian). But kids can still be exposed to the amazing act of service from a young age. Let them see mom and dad donating on the regular so they're ready to help others once they're old enough. 

  • Ask About Others' Emotions

    ways to teach kids to give back

    Small acts of kindness can have huge ripple effects. It's important to teach kiddos the value in being kind along with doing kind things. Model emotional giving by asking children how their day was and encouraging them to have the same emotional check-ins with the people they love. 

  • Hold the Door

    ways to teach kids to give back

    Holding the door might not be a big act of service in the grand scheme of things, but this simple act of giving back can be super helpful to anyone who's got their arms full or can't physically open a door. Teaching kids the value of this small courtesy will serve them well their entire lives. 

  • Have a Fundraiser Birthday

    ways to teach kids to give back

    A fundraiser birthday is a huge way for a child to perform a large act of service. In lieu of traditional gifts, ask guests to consider donating to a charity of the child's choice. For instance, a kid who loves animals might ask guests to bring items like food and cleaning supplies to donate to an animal rescue. 

  • Make Get Well Cards for a Local Hospital

    easy ways to teach kids to give back

    Encourage kids to share their artistic talents by making get well cards for patients in the hospital. Even toddlers can palm a crayon to help with this service project, and older kids can start to understand how getting an unexpected surprise might lift the spirits of someone who is sick.

  • Adopt a Troop


    Show love and support for the men and women serving our country overseas by adopting a troop to send a care package to. Kids can help select items to send (or help bake treats). Filling a box helps them learn a powerful message about service and sacrifice.

  • Host a Fundraiser

    easy ways to teach kids to give back
    Steve Debenport/iStock

    When we were kids, a lemonade stand was a way to earn money for those flashy new rollerblades or some neon hair ties. Kids these days are better at paying it forward, which is why this classic summer activity is a great way to raise a few dollars for a local animal shelter or food bank. 

  • Run or Walk for Charity

    easy ways to teach kids to give back
    Courtney Hale/iStock

    A charity walk or run is a way to do something healthy for ourselves while doing something that helps others at the same time. Help kids find an upcoming event and ask friends and family to sponsor them, then watch them feel so accomplished as they cross that finish line. 

  • Encourage Them to Donate Part of Their Allowance

    easy ways to teach kids to give back

    Families who set aside a part of their budget for charitable giving can start this lesson early using children's allowance. Encouraging them to put a portion of their funds aside for giving is a thoughtful act of service, and thinking about how much to save, give, and spend is an early lesson in money management. 


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