Help kids understand the joy of giving, gain a sense of community responsibility, and learn humility with service projects for kids. Service projects are volunteer opportunities where kids make something useful and give it away, raise money for a cause, or volunteer their time to help people in need.
Service Projects for Young Children
Kids in Pre-K, kindergarten, and first grade can participate in craft service projects made at home or community opportunities. Children in this age group tend to have short attention spans, so look for kids' community service ideas that don't require a huge time commitment. A responsible adult or teen will need to help this group complete their service projects, but should let them be child-led as much as possible.
Make Books for Seniors
Book making projects for kids are simple for the youngest volunteers to make. Kids choose from accordion style books, ladder books, or simple stapled books and write their own stories. Make a bunch of blank books first, then write in the words and draw pictures on each page to create fun and uplifting stories. These entertaining keepsakes can be donated to senior citizens though a local assisted living facility or senior center.
Hand Out Healthy Snacks
Young children can pick, collect, or purchase a variety of fruits and vegetables that are great for snacking. Pack each snack in a zip-top baggie and add cute labels or pictures. Head out to a playground, park, or local event and give out free healthy snacks to kids and adults. Make sure you wash and prepare the snacks properly so they are safe for anyone to eat. Always ask an adult before giving food to a child.
Decorate Your Town With Kind Words
Little kids can use chalk to write kind words and phrases on the main sidewalks of their town. Brainstorm and write out a list of words and phrases like "You are beautiful." or "Joy." Use cool sidewalk chalk colors to write each word or phrase on a different sidewalk block then add cute pictures.
Plant a Pollinator Garden
Planting pollinator gardens full of native plants can help these plants thrive along with the honeybees, butterflies, and other pollinators who love them. Kids can plant pollinator gardens at home, at school, or in public spaces. Work with a gardening expert to determine which plants to grow.
Write to a Lonely Pen Pal
Having a peer pen pal is great, but writing regularly with someone who doesn't have a lot of social interaction can be even more rewarding. Kids of any age who can draw or write can have a pen pal. Pair up with a local assisted living facility or homeless shelter to link up with a pen pal in need of interaction. Even if your pal lives close by, getting regular letters in the mail feels special for everyone.
Light Up Your Neighborhood
If your neighborhood or block isn't well lit, take action to make it safer with simple lighting solutions. Hang LED lanterns from trees or fence posts to light the sidewalk with permission from homeowners. You can also use colorful glowing lights like glow sticks and necklaces to make fun lights. Commit to keeping the area lit for a specific amount of time and see if you can convince neighbors to take turns changing out the lights.
Host a Food-Free Halloween Stop
Trick-or-treating can be a real bummer for kids who have food allergies and dietary restrictions. Make your house a food-free stop for trick-or-treaters so everyone can enjoy Halloween. Create signs to post around your yard and porch that tell kids you are an allergy friendly stop. Raise money or get donations of non-food items like small toys, stickers, and bookmarks to hand out.
Be a Secret Santa for an Animal
Shelter pets don't often get new things like toys they can play with and take to their new home. If you're an animal lover, consider becoming a secret Santa for an animal who currently lives at a shelter. Don't limit yourself to just giving gifts at Christmas, you can give to your animal any time of year.
Start a Change Board
Sometimes when people are out shopping at grocery stores or gas stations, they fall a few cents short of buying what they want. Help out strangers by posting a change board in one of these stores with the owner's permission. You'll need to make a bulletin board that has instructions on it. Collect some change and sort it into snack-sized zip-top baggies. Put a couple quarters, dimes, nickels, and pennies in each baggie then tack them to the bulletin board. Attach a small jar with a slot in the top to the bulletin board so donors can leave change while people in need can take a baggie.
Clean Park Benches
People use park benches to rest, take lunch breaks, and even sleep in the case of some homeless folks. Pick one local park and walk their every day with rags and a spray bottle of soapy water. Wash each bench so it's clean of bird droppings or sticky spills then dry it off with another rag. This simple act can go a long way for people who regularly use the bench or are in a hurry.
Service Projects for Older Children
Kids in grades two through five are able to start volunteering in more complex organizations and can commit to regular activities. Ask your kids who they are most interested in helping then look for opportunities to support those populations. Depending on the child's maturity level and the project, kids in this age group may be able to complete simple service projects on their own.
Make Friendship Bracelets for Kids
Whether it's kids new to your school or local children in foster care, you can make embroidery floss bracelets using friendship bracelet patterns. For these kids, life can be a little scary and uncertain. The gift of a friendship bracelet can help them feel welcome and accepted. All you need are bundles of embroidery floss and some tape to make these bracelets. Keep a basket of bracelets stocked up in your school office or take them to the foster care office once a month.
Make No Sew Sleeping Bags for Animals
Dogs and cats who live at animal shelters don't get a lot of privacy. By tying two pieces of fleece fabric together, you can create a small no sew sleeping bag. Make enough for each animal currently living in the shelter or make them all year long so every new animal gets one too. Dogs who like to burrow in their blankets and cats who love to hide will be grateful for your donation.
Entertain Kids in a Hospital
If you can sing, dance, perform magic tricks, or entertain in some other way, you could make a kid's day. If you've got a children's hospital or kids' hospital wing nearby, see if you can volunteer to entertain patients. You can set up a onetime or weekly show for everyone or take your act to each hospital room.
Start a Walking Buddy Program
Upper elementary, middle, and high school students can volunteer as a walking buddy to help keep younger kids safe when walking to or from school each day. Get nametags or make t-shirts that say "Walking Buddy" on them and offer to walk with younger kids down the main routes. You could also position yourselves at various places along the main routes to help kids cross busy streets.
Create Family Togetherness Bags
Encourage fun, free family interactions by leaving family togetherness bags in places where kids will find them. Use gallon zip-top bags and fill them with homemade board games or inexpensive donated games and activities for multiple players. Add a bag of popcorn and some water flavor packets for a complete family night package. Leave a note on each bag suggesting families take a bag, have a fun family night, then restock it and rehang the bag for another family to enjoy.
Organize a Swimwear Drive for Kids
Organize a bathing suit drive in the spring or at the end of summer where kids can donate new or gently used swimwear. Whether it's gym class, a field trip, or a day at the beach, every kid deserves to have functional swimwear so they can enjoy the water. Work with a local children's organization or school to get your clean donations to those in need.
Make Original Coloring Books
Make your own original coloring books by drawing the outlines of images in black on white paper. Staple a few pages together or bind them with string. Leave the coloring books out at the library, doctor's offices, or a senior center for others to enjoy when they need to relax or pass the time. If possible, collect used crayons at the end of the school year and package a couple with each coloring book.
Petition for a Community Change
Adults have a hard time saying "No" to kids and you can turn their "Yes" into a positive change for your community. Think about an important need in your community and start a petition. Go door-to-door and explain your platform then ask neighbors to sign your petition. If you're ready to take your stance to the next level, you can bring your signatures to a town meeting.
Make Misfit Baskets at the Farmer's Market
Sometimes people don't want to buy fruits and vegetables because they are severely misshapen or just look odd. Take a few small baskets to the farmer's market and collect these natural misfits from vendors willing to donate them. Give your misfit market baskets to the local food pantry or homeless shelter to offer to patrons. If you're crafty, you can try making your own baskets from thin wood and reeds.
Make Summer Care Packages for the Homeless
Winter is an obvious time to give to the homeless to help them survive the harsh weather, but summer can be difficult for them too. Use donated cinch sacs to collect summer safety items like sunscreen, a reusable water bottle, a handheld fan with batteries, and chapstick with a high SPF. Leave these summer care packages around places like shelters and churches for homeless people to take and use.
Service Projects for Middle Schoolers
Middle school tweens are ready to move up to service learning projects where they learn about specific causes while volunteering their time. At this age, kids can sometimes complete a service project without any adult help. Tween service projects can be long-term commitments or recurring annual activities.
Make Tutus for Tiny Dancers
Dance uniforms can be really expensive for some families. Get creative with tulle and make no-sew tutus for a local dance group to help them save money and ensure every kid gets a cute performance outfit. Talk to a local dance school and see what colors and sizes they'll need for their dancers. This is a great project for seasonal parades where the dance team might march such as the 4th of July with red, white, and blue tutus or for their annual recital.
Make Small Bags to Conceal Feminine Products
Middle school is a time when many girls begin menstruating and using products like tampons and maxi pads, which can sometimes feel embarrassing. Upcycle old t-shirts by using the sleeves to sew small drawstring bags. You can use a sewing machine, hand-sew, or use a fabric glue to make the bags. Gather donations of feminine products and fill each bag with a few. Keep a basket of your bags at school or in a public restroom for girls to take and reuse. You can also embellish the bags with cool patches or puffy paint designs.
Knit Plastic Grocery Bags Into Reusable Bags
Knitting with plastic grocery bags starts with cutting each bag into strips. If you don't already know how to knit, this can be an inexpensive way to learn and count as a service learning project because you're gaining a new skill and helping the environment by going green. Look for plastic bag knitting patterns to create tote bags your family can use. You can collect plastic bags from friends, family, neighbors, and even local businesses. If you make a lot of bags, you can leave them at the local grocery store for customers to take and use.
Pick Up Pet Waste in Your Neighborhood
Most towns and cities have rules about picking up your dog's poo, but not everyone follows the rules. Get a pooper scooper and trash bag or individual pet waste bags and cleanup your neighborhood on a regular basis. Make sure you never touch the waste with bare hands and keep hand sanitizer with you. Take the project a step further and create posters to hang around town that include your town's rules on pet waste cleanup and the dangers of leaving pet waste on sidewalks and in public parks.
Teach a Free Kids' Class
Turn your talents into teachable moments at a local recreation program or library by teaching free classes for kids. Help kids learn to safely use the computer, braid their hair, play the guitar, or write a short story. Take the project a step further and solicit friends to teach a variety of free classes that together form a free skills school for kids that could last weeks.
Build Natural Seats in the Park
Natural seating options can be made from logs, tree stumps, or even rocks. Head out to a local park that doesn't have a lot of seating and create a few resting places for community members. Make sure you only use items you have permission to repurpose and that the seats are usable without being dangerous. From small stools to benches, patrons walking through the park will appreciate having a place to take a break. Double check with the local parks service that you can do this before undertaking the project.
Paint Community Murals on Public Buildings
Work with your city government to design some uplifting murals you and your friends can paint on the side of buildings around town. These projects are a great way to beautify your community and infuse it with youth. See if you can find local hardware or home improvement stores to donate paint and brushes. You might also be able to collect unused portions of outdoor paints from local homeowners.
Start a Pay it Forward Lunch Program
Pick one popular lunch spot in town and start a pay it forward lunch program there. You can set up a bulletin board there for your project. When people are buying their lunch, they can double their payment amount and donate the same lunch to someone in need. The clerk can then fill out a lunch coupon that you provide which details what the free lunch includes. Lunch coupons get hung on your bulletin board and people can redeem them for free lunches.
Create Parties in a Box for the Food Pantry
Think about common celebrations such as birthdays or Valentine's Day and what foods or paper goods make those events special. Organize a party box drive where people can donate things like boxed cake mix, frosting, birthday candles, and decorative paper plates to include in your party boxes. Gather recycled boxes and decorate them using leftover wrapping paper that matches the theme of the box. Donate the party boxes to the food pantry.
Photograph New Animals at a Local Shelter
Animal shelters often rely on photos of their animals to help find those pets new homes. If you've got a camera and love taking pictures, sign up to be on call for taking these animal photos. Solicit donations of cute animal props like sweaters or fun collars and basic grooming supplies so you can make the animals look great in their photos. You can also use these images to create a calendar the shelter can sell to raise money.
Service Projects for the Classroom
Completing service projects at school is fun and educational. Look for projects that are easy for large groups to participate in so everyone in the class gets the chance to help. Brainstorm ideas as a class, then vote to determine which project you'll do together. You can tie your project into lesson plans and even complete multiple projects in one school year.
Take Notes for Sick Classmates
Kids of all ages get sick often and can miss a lot of school. Upper elementary and middle school students can volunteer to have copies of their class notes made for kids with extended illnesses or who miss a lot of school. If you volunteer as a note taker, you'll need to be sure you're always taking the best notes you can. Before or after school you can work with your teacher or the office to get copies made of your note pages for whoever needs them.
Write Local History
Kids can work together as a class to preserve their town's history by writing down important events. Check with your town historian or government to see if there are any old or new historically significant events that haven't been well documented. You can gather photos, interviews, and newspaper clippings then compile them into one binder about the event. Donate your finished project to the town archives.
Build a Little Free Library
Schools are the perfect location for a Little Free Library. Your class can find plans, gather supplies, and build a Little Free Library to post outside the school. Collect a few book donations to stock it then let the town know it's there. Kids and adults can get a free book anytime they want and add books whenever possible.
Foster or Adopt Classroom Guinea Pigs
Most animal shelters only take pets like dogs and cats, but some will take smaller animals like guinea pigs and bunnies. Set up an appropriate small pet habitat in your classroom with donated items. You can adopt a classroom animal or it might be possible to foster the guinea pigs and bunnies until they find forever homes.
Organize a School Spirit Gear Re-Gifting
Many schools sell spirit gear like t-shirts, water bottles, and car magnets. For some families, these items can be too pricey. Organize a spirit gear re-gifting event where people can bring their outdated, gently used spirit gear items to donate. In exchange, you could offer coupons for a percentage off the purchase of new spirit gear items. You can take all the donations to your school and they can hand out the items to kids who might not otherwise be able to purchase them.
Kids Giving Back
Kids of any age can give back to their local community or anywhere in the world with service projects. Look for opportunities and programs that already exist if you don't have the time and creativity to invent your own unique service project. Schools, senior centers, hospitals, animal shelters, food banks, and other community resources are great places to look for service project ideas.