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Sunday, March 27, 2016

Community Service Projects, Pre-K Through College

updated January 30, 2020

Photo by Rachel on Unsplash

by Catharine Hannay

How do you teach kids to be less self-involved and more involved in the community?

How do you choose a project that's age-appropriate?

How do you make volunteering a positive experience?

For answers to these and most other questions about volunteering with youth, here's a list of resources to help kids help their communities.

PBS Kids has a couple of useful guides on service projects:
  • Tips for Volunteering with Kids, by Laura Lewis Brown: Most importantly, be a role model, involve the whole family, and have fun.
  • Zoom Into Action: Family Guide to Volunteering [No longer available. This has been removed from the PBS kids website and I can't find it elsewhere.]

Pennies of Time: Teaching Kids to Serve is a site devoted to family volunteering projects and acts of kindness:


The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation is dedicated to "inspiring a culture of kindness in schools, homes and communities." They have 

Vanderbilt University has a series of posts on community-engaged teaching for college professors: 


Volunteer Now has a brochure of Best Practice Guidelines for nonprofit organizations “to ensure you are recruiting, retaining and adequately supporting all young volunteers.” I think this is worthwhile reading for parents and teachers, as well, since it can help you ask the right questions when choosing and setting up a volunteer project.

Finally, here are lists of potential projects for young volunteers:

Kid World Citizen suggests 35 Service Projects for Kids, including:
  • Donate kids’ craft kits to a local children’s hospital.
  • Organize a board game night at your local nursing home. 
  • Put on gloves and pick up litter at your local park.  (I definitely agree with the gloves--my husband and I got sick from picking up trash without gloves on, even though we didn't touch anything that looked at all unsavory.)

Laura Grace Weldon lists 40 Ways Kids Can Volunteer, Toddler to Teen, including:
  • Get your dance class, choir, or martial arts school to give a demonstration at a daycare, nursing home, or community center.
  • Walk dogs, collect mail, shovel snow, or rake leaves for someone in your neighborhood who needs the help.
  • Greet new people on your street with a small gift such as a houseplant or plate of cookies.

Teaching to Give has a list of projects appropriate for preschoolers, including: 
  • Bake cookies and deliver them to the local fire station.
  • Hold a stuffed animal drive and donate to the toys to homeless children.

Teen Life has 50 Community Service Ideas for Teen Volunteers, including:
  • Teach computer skills to the elderly.
  • Coach a sport you love to a youth team.
  • Offer to nanny or baby-sit for free to a family in need.

I hope the above resources help your family or your class to have a fun, safe, productive experience in volunteering.

related posts:

Change the World: Songs for Reflection and Discussion

Creative Ways to Make a Difference: Videos for Reflection and Discussion

Inspiring Videos of Young People Serving the World

Videos about Compassion, Kindness, and Service

About the Author

Catharine Hannay is the founder of and the author of Being You: A Girl’s Guide to Mindfulness, a workbook for teen girls on mindfulness, compassion, and self-acceptance.