This post has been adapted from it's original feature in Red Tricycle on 3/11/2020 by Natalie Silverstein, MPH, author of Simple Acts: The Busy Family's Guide to Giving Back.
Regardless of circumstances, lots of downtime at home with kids can lead to frustration and boredom. Anytime your kids are home for an extended period, Natalie Silverstein suggests service as the new go-to activty when stuck at home for any reason.
“Kitchen Table Kindness” activities can keep children meaningfully engaged while spreading kindness to others. All of the following projects can be done by children of all ages and uses simple supplies.
1. Write letters and cards for children who are being treated in the hospital. You can send them to Cards for Hospitalized Kids or Send Kids the World. Send Kids the World allows you to search a database so you can direct your letter to a specific child. The Cards for Hospitalized Kids website includes important guidelines on appropriate language to use in your letters (for example, you never want to say “feel better”). The use of glitter and glue should be minimized. Construction paper and crayons or markers are all you need to work on this easy and meaningful project.
2. Similarly, your kids can make colorful birthday cards and send them to the Confetti Foundation which supplies birthday parties for hospitalized children.
3. Kids can decorate plain paper placemats with cheerful messages and drawings, and these can be donated to your local Meals On Wheels program. You can search the national Meals on Wheels website to find your local branch.
4. There are many ways that your family can support our active-duty military, their families and veterans. Organizations like Soldiers Angels, Operation Gratitude, and Support Military Families collect cards, letters, hand-knit scarves, para-chord bracelets and others items for care packages that are shipped to our servicemen and women who are serving far from home, and to the home-front families who miss them.
5. Do you have some fleece fabric sitting around? Consider making no-sew blankets for Project Linus, which provides hand-made blankets for children in need, or donate them to a local nursing home to be used as lap blankets.
6. Fleece scraps can also be used to make chew toys or pet blankets for donation to your local ASPCA or animal shelter. Ideas and instructions can be found online.
7. Do your kids love to draw? Check out Color a Smile which distributes cheerful drawings to senior citizens, our troops overseas and anyone in need of a smile. You can download printable coloring sheets from the website and let your kids go wild. Once you’ve collected a stack of beautiful drawings, send it along to Color a Smile which has given out over a million smiles over the last 25 years.
8. Order an arts and crafts kit from Stars of Hope. Stars of Hope is an organization that grew out of the tragedy of 9/11 which empowers people to share messages of love and hope through hand-painted wooden stars. Each “Box fo Hope” includes 15 wooden stars, paint, brushes and instructions. After your kids have painted the stars, you can box them up and send them to a community that is recovering from a natural disaster or other tragedy.
9. Take a look around your own neighborhood. Is there an elderly, homebound or ill neighbor who might need some groceries, some help or just a phone call to check-in? Can your kids spend some time on the phone, Skype or Facetime with a far-away relative who hasn’t seen them in a while? Think about the people in your family who might appreciate hearing from you, who would enjoy sharing a laugh or a warm word of affection during an anxious time.
10. Finally, if your kids are a little older and they are interested in learning more about a social justice issue—the environment, poverty, hunger, educational access for girls around the world, homelessness, etc.—sit with them and help them through some internet searches of reputable sources of information on these subjects. Spend time talking about the work that is being done and how they might get involved.
Natalie Silverstein is the volunteer coordinator of Doing Good Together in New York City. She is a frequent speaker and writer on the topic of family service. Her essays have appeared on Red Tricycle, Grown and Flown, and Mommy Poppins.
Find more resources in Natalie's book, Simple Acts: The Busy Family's Guide to Giving Back.