Encouraging Children to Volunteer: Little Hands Can do So Much

Please, Mom and Dad…my hands are small. Don’t expect the bed I made or the picture I drew to be perfect—just love me for trying. 

– Excerpts from Please Mom and Dad, by 
J.L. Richardson, American author

Over the course of my life, I have learned that children are eager to help others. They are willing learners, and enthusiastic participants in programs designed to help those in need, and the joy they express in having helped someone in need is boundless. 

Our youngest crafters were from a church Sunday school class of two-, three-, and four-year-old children whose teachers were helping them learn about God’s love by making tiny teddies about eight inches high. The children’s little fingers were ideal for tucking the stuffing into the bears’ arms, legs, and tummies. Each bear had a pocket sewn to its belly with a copy of a letter explaining who made the bears and how they could be used. The children made these bears to help other children in the hospital who were frightened and perhaps in pain.

Their gifts were eagerly received by the pediatric nurses. They were especially helpful when the young patients needed to receive an injection or experience something frightening. The nurses could distract and soothe their young patients with these unique gifts.

These young crafters confirmed my belief that even the smallest child could participate in volunteer programs. Taking part in a volunteer experience will help kids learn to think about other people’s feelings and help reinforce a child’s sense of empathy. 

So, what can children do to volunteer? There are a few projects that come to mind. 

  • Cards – Children can make cards for patients in long-term care facilities to send to friends and family to stay in touch. The cards can be seasonal or simply cheerful ways to help people to reach out. 
  • Felt Teddy Bears – the bears so beloved by pediatric nurses at St. Mary are easy to make and very popular with young children facing medical procedures.
  • Fleece Blankets —  A no-sew tie fleece blanket is also a great option. This may be better suited to older children accustomed to handling scissors. Still, the result is a beautiful and cheerful blanket that can be used in neonatal units to help cover incubators or comfort newborns. 

There are many activities suitable for children. They are fun but also help kids understand the need to help others.