One of the natural results of living a homestead lifestyle is that we want to reach out to help others along, especially in our own communities. Plus, if you’re homeschooling, have a list of service project ideas for kids and families can be helpful for augmenting lessons during the year. Whether you have older or younger children, one child or a dozen, these community engagement ideas will provide you with a great opportunities to serve other families this year!
What is Considered a Service Project?
I think it’s important to first remind ourselves that service projects don’t have to be elaborate or time-consuming, especially when involving the whole family. Service project ideas for kids can range from picking up trash in the park for ten minutes to making a scarf or blanket over several days.
A service project is anything that we share that helps anyone enjoy more abundance than they currently have. Sometimes that means feeding lunch to the homeless, and sometimes that simply means giving your grandmother a big hug.
The key words are “share” and “abundance”.
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Service Projects Ideas for Kids and Families
These ideas will come in handy year-round and all of them are family-friendly. Just use your common sense when choosing one for your family tradition and it should work out great.
Here Are Some Related Articles That Might Be Useful
- Christmas Quilts – An Easy Service Project for Kids
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- 5 Alternatives to Trick or Treating
Service Project Idea #1 – Rake Leaves & Pull Leaves
Serving neighbors by helping in the garden is particularly fun because the children can watch out the window as people return home from work, seeing their happy reactions to a clean yard. This old standby service has made many of our elderly neighbors happy over the years.
For some reason, my kids just love to clean up people’s yards (though not always their own). Especially if it’s a surprise. Even toddlers can stuff leaves in a bag, so this is a good service project for all ages.
Bonus: You can use the leaves you collect as mulch in the garden!
Service Project Idea #2 – Make Scarves, Gloves, & Hats
Local shelters appreciate donations of warm clothing to have on hand before cold weather sets in and their tenants need them. Our local library does a scarf and hat drive every year.
We aren’t ambitious enough yet to make our own gloves but we use knitting looms to make both scarves and hats. My youngest children still need help using the knitting looms, but my older kids (ages seven and up) can pretty much work these looms on their own.
If knitting isn’t your thing, fleece is an easy material to work with because it doesn’t need to be hemmed.
To Make an Easy Fleece Scarf or Blanket:
- Cut a long rectangle of fleece of any length. For a blanket, I suggest 5′- 6′; for a scarf, I suggest 4′- 5′ in length. The width for a blanket can be 3′- 5′; the width for a scarf can be 6″- 18″.
- Make 4″ deep cuts 1″ apart for fringe all the way around the perimeter of the scarf or blanket.
- Take two pieces of fringe and tie a square knot. This step is optional if you simply want to leave the fringe hanging free, it will also look cute!
Making these items is a favorite quiet activity during our family reading time. Something that keeps little hands busy during quiet times is a service to me as the mom, too.
If you want to make something a tiny bit more complicated but still within a kid’s wheelhouse, try our tutorial for an easy quilt.
How Do You Teach Kids About Community Service?
The best way to teach our kids about community service is to model it ourselves! Plan to execute these service project ideas right beside your children, even if they’re cool teenagers or self-possessed young adults.
On to more ideas…
Service Project Idea #3 – Assemble Bug-Out Kits for Kids
We know that it’s important to have emergency bags ready for the family in the case of an emergency, but do we remember the babies? If you know of a single mom of a newborn, or a friend whose strained finances are trying to cover the needs of twins, get a group of friends together and assemble emergency kits for babies.
—>>>Learn to Make Emergency Kits for Babies and Kids<<<—
Service Project Idea #4 – Share the Harvest
If you grew so many pumpkins and apples this year that they’re coming out of your ears, round it all up and donate it to your local food pantry. Each pantry will have its own rules about which donations it can legally receive.
So, call several local food pantries and ask them what they’ll take in the way of fresh fruit and veggies.
- Websites like Ample Harvest and Feeding America can help you locate pantries near you.
- If you plan ahead each growing season, you can participate in the any of the number of the “Plant a Row” campaigns which encourage gardeners to plant an extra row of edibles to donate to the hungry.
Service Project Idea #5 – Baked Delights
Who doesn’t love to make cookies? The best part about whipping up a batch of chocolate chip cookies is that no matter whom you deliver them to, there will always be a few leftovers for the little bakers.
Friends and family are very deserving but try to think of someone in the community who could really use a thank you for all they do. How about dropping off a dozen or so to your local fire house, medical clinic, or public works office. Your favorite teacher or the aides in the special-needs classes could certainly use a little treat.
Pro Tip: Be sure to include an ingredients list in case of food allergies among your recipients.
Don’t be discouraged if your public servants are obligated to decline your home-baked offerings. Sadly, many public offices have had to adopt a “No Homemade” policy when it comes food because of devious attempts to poison or otherwise harm them.
What a sad commentary on our times; don’t be daunted, though! If your child wants to bring something to your local law enforcement, go ahead and purchase packaged treats.
Service Project Idea #6 – Pick Up Trash
This one is super simple and can be done both anywhere and on the spur of the moment. Keep a few things tucked in the back of your car so that you can stop and pick up trash when you’re playing at the playground. This is a great activity to couple with a picnic. Picking up trash = fun time at the park!
Items to Keep in Car:
- Trash bags or extra plastic shopping bags
- Hand wipes
- Snacks and water bottles
Service Project Idea #7 – Meals on Wheels
Let your kids join you as you drive for Meals on Wheels (or similar programs) and have them say a little hello during meal drop-off, if possible.
The children can also decorate placemats for the people to whom you deliver to add a personal touch.
Service Project Idea #8 – Homemade Dog Treats
Let’s not forget our animal friends when thinking of service projects. Baking up a batch of homemade dog treats or delivering a few rawhides to your local animal shelter would be a great boon to them.
You can call ahead and ask if they need other items, like toys, and get your friends to donate with you to increase the amount you can give. (Don’t forget your own doggies.)
- Farm Girl in the Making can teach you how to make Natural Liver and Turmeric Dog Treats.
Also, leaving out seed for wild birds is a noble thing to do in winter. For Christmas, the kids and I often string popped popcorn and cranberries on trees outside for the birds to find.
Using a large embroidery needle and sturdy thread, you simply have the children pop each piece onto the needle and pull them down the thread. Yes, some of the popcorn comes apart and some of the cranberries roll away, but it’s all fun.
These strings have the added benefit of looking quite festive on your outside trees and bushes. Until all the birdies have eaten the con-tents, that is.
- Little Cooks Reading Books can help you learn how to Make a Popcorn & Cranberry Garland.
Service Project Idea #9 – Craft Kits
Kids stuck in hospitals or shelters get bored! To help them have a little fun, make up craft kits to donate in bulk.
To Make Craft Kits:
- Make a call to the chosen facility beforehand to see if they have any special requests.
- Get a bunch of your children’s friends and families together, inviting each to bring art supplies. Items like crayons, coloring books, scissors, construction paper, tape, thin ribbon, stickers, and a small ruler or shape template.
- Divide up the supplies evenly and place them in gallon-sized storage bags to deliver to your local children’s hospital or family shelter. to make them a little snazzier, you can get plain/cheap gift bags to put the serviceable storage bags into.
In shelters, the older children usually go off to school, leaving younger children with nothing but electronics to occupy their time. These crafts kits might just inspire the next great artist of the age.
Service Project Idea #10 – Donations Instead of Gifts
Have your children’s friends bring items to donate to places where kids in need congregate; hospitals and shelters are great for this project, too. When you host a birthday party, include on the invitations a list of items that can be donated.
- Reading and coloring books, as well as blank sketch books and lined notebooks for writing
- Pencils and erasers
- Pens, crayons, and watercolors
- Stickers and cute stationary
- Personal hygiene items like cute toothbrushes, soaps, and lotions
I remind my children that the party with their friends is the real birthday present and what fun it will be to spread the joy around to kids who are struggling. To make it fun, the kids and I decorate a cardboard box with wrapping paper and write up a big sign that says, “Donations here.”
After the party, we take everything over to our local hospital children’s wing or family shelter.
Service Project Idea #11 – Game Night
Bring some board games to your closest elderly care facility or refugee center and have some fun playing with the residents. The kids can learn a Monopoly move or two from grandmas and grandpas, so it’s a win-win situation.
At refugee centers, games can be helpful even when there are language barriers; Mancala and other such games have very few rules and are visually easy to understand. Also, games like Banana-grams and Scrabble can assist refugees and kids alike trying to polish their English skills.
Service Project Idea #12 – Surprise Service
Sometimes the community we need to serve the most is the one that lives in our house. For one week have a Surprise Service challenge.
- Pick an easy-to-carry object for this activity. For example, I laminated a large, paper star.
- Explain to the children that this is the Surprise Star of Service (or whatever item you chose), and you’re going to be the first to use it.
- Tell them that you’ll be doing a surprise act of service for someone in the house and will leave the star behind for them to find.
- If they find the star, then it’s their turn to do a surprise, anonymous service.
Some ground rules can be helpful:
- No one gets to steal the Surprise Star of Service and go rogue with a kind act. You can do as many kind services as you want, but don’t take the star from someone else—that’s just not cool.
- You may not hide the star, either—also not cool.
- You can’t keep the star for more than eight hours unless you have consulted with a parent.
- Try to think of something your person really needs that day. Remind them that verbal praise is one of the best services we can render each other in our family. Sometimes we’re so harsh with each other; kind words are like a healing balm.
It ends up being difficult to keep each service anonymous and you get a lot of repeat services like making beds and hand-drawn pictures. It’s all good!
The Word “Secret”
FYI, we used to call this the Secret Star of Service activity, but we’ve become cautious with how we use the word secret in our house.
Secret is a word that child predators so often use when manipulating children. We’ve discussed what most people mean when they use the word secret and to be aware of the difference.
In the case of this activity, what we really mean is fun surprise.
How do you create a service project?
If you’d like to create your own service project, look around your community and see what’s missing – where are the holes?
- Do you have a lot of trash in the parks?
- Is there a homeless community in your town?
- How is the elder care?
- What about your own family – is anyone sick? Injured? Recently lost a job?
Remember, service project ideas don’t have to be elaborate to be effective. Simply try to fill the void in places that can use your help.
For example, one year we met a new friend who had spent some time in a homeless shelter with her children. She talked about the experience and how grateful she was for a safe place to sleep! However, the kids had a hard time staying out of trouble because they were little and didn’t have much to entertain or educate them.
That’s how our next service project was born!
Service Project Idea #13 – Children’s Book & Movie Drive
This one can take a little more effort but it’s so fun to deliver what you gather.
One year, before Thanksgiving, we printed up slips explaining that we were hosting a children’s book and family-friendly book and movie drive. We hand delivered them to every door in our immediate area.
We were living in the city then and dropped off around 200 fliers. We provided two pick up dates so that people could simply leave their donations in a plastic bag on their doorstep for us to retrieve.
We even made up some Christmas ornaments to leave as thank you gifts to those who left donations for us.
At first, we were disappointed because, of the 200 houses we visited, only about fifteen people ended up leaving stuff out for us. However, when we got home and started sorting through the books and movies, we were so excited by the great children’s titles we’d collected.
We boxed everything up and drove it over to our closest family shelter. When we told the lady at the desk what we had she nearly cried with happiness.
She explained to us that the older kids went to school, but the younger ones had nothing to do at the shelter to constructively occupy their time during the day. Each family only had a very small amount of space at the shelter, and very little room for things like books.
She said that the books and movies we’d collected would help the littles ones find a good way to occupy their time, and even help them learn to read and be creative.
Of all the collections we’ve taken up, from food to clothes, that children’s book drive was our absolute favorite.
Service Project Idea #14 – Snuggle Bags for Foster Care Kids
Sitting in a case worker’s office waiting to go into foster care can be a very scary experience for a child. Likewise, being in a foster home that first night can be so disorienting for a young one.
Your family can sit down and imagine what your child might like in such a circumstance and buy some plain cloth bags from the dollar store. Add items like:
- homemade fleece blanket
- stuffed animal
This is a perfect project for a group of families to work on together so that you can pool resources and provide as many bags as possible.
Similarly, putting together Easter baskets or holiday stockings for your local orphanage is a great group activity.
Be sure to work with these institutions to get their opinions on age ranges and genders. They’ll be able to tell you how many boys and girls they currently have and what ages they all are.
Service Project Idea #15 – Quarter Surprise
Give your children a roll of quarters each and spend an evening leaving them in random vending and gumball machines. It will totally make someone’s day to find a quarter in the machine.
You’ve had that happen to you and know how it makes you smile. It feels like you’ve won the lottery!
What about you? What’s your family’s favorite service project? Leave a comment to help other readers with ideas!
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