How kids can give back (and get off their devices) this summer
The best ways to volunteer with your children, from quick activities to longer-commitment projects
BY Reiko Milley
While summer break was made for kids to relax, recharge and go a little wild (don’t we all remember the sweet sound of that final bell?), it’s also the perfect time to give back. Getting involved in community activities is a great way to learn the value of lending a hand, first-hand. And it’s also a foolproof method for parents to turn idle—read: screentime-heavy—days into fun and fulfilling family time. What’s more, giving back is proven to help young people build confidence, which is no small feat. Statistics Canada reports that, in addition to feeling more prepared for the working world, the majority of youth volunteers feel their experiences boosted their interpersonal skills.
Thankfully for busy families, there are plenty of opportunities to contribute, from quick one-offs to bigger projects. Here are just a few ways to get kids involved over summer break.
If You Have a Morning…
Take part in a park stewardship event The organization:The City of Toronto Who it helps: Communities and green space users across the city Pitch in: Join a hands-on, two-hour tour of east-end Toronto parks from Milliken to the Beaches. Learn about preserving the natural environment by taking part in activities ranging from tree planting to removing garbage and weeding invasive species. Nota bene: All necessary equipment is provided by the city, but participants need to bring drinking water and sunscreen, and wear long pants and closed-toe shoes. (If you’ll be attending with ten people or more, email firstname.lastname@example.org to pre-register.)
If You Have an Evening…
Lend a hand at a food bank The organization:The Mississauga Food Bank, 3121 Universal Dr. Who it helps: Individuals, families and youth in need of access to healthy food in the Mississauga area Pitch in: Youth between the ages of eight and 15 can volunteer with an adult at Family and Youth nights. Families can also help out at various special events, or join volunteer food sorters in the warehouse, dividing and packing items and assisting with cleanup. Nota bene: All family members are asked to wear sturdy shoes or boots when volunteering. Young people 16 or older, such as high school students looking to complete their volunteer hours, are also welcome to come back on their own without adult supervision.
If You Have a Weekend…
Prep and deliver donation boxes
The organizations: Habitat for Humanity ReStores or Salvation Army Thrift Stores
Who it helps: Community members in need of affordable, gently used furniture, clothing and other essentials, plus each organization’s charitable causes.
Pitch in: Spend a Saturday getting the kids to scour their closets, play spaces or a shared storage room for items that may be of use to others. Then, make a day of packing and delivering boxes right to the store (be sure to check operating hours before delivery; stores advise against leaving donations unattended).
Nota bene: Check each organization’s list of acceptable items to determine what’s most needed before sending the kids on gathering expeditions, and review the condition of each item before donation.
If You Have a Week…
Organize a charity drive
The organizations: Covenant House Toronto
Who it helps: Homeless and at-risk youth between the ages of 16 and 24 in Toronto
Pitch in: Spearhead a small- or large-scale food drive in your neighbourhood or at your kids’ school, collecting non-perishable items and low-denomination gift cards to local restaurants. Encourage kids to take part in planning and executing the event, and dropping off your collection at Covenant House (pick-up is not available).
Nota bene: A special events coordinator can provide event planning advice, digital logos and promotional materials for drives; contact Covenant House directly for more information.
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