Volunteering Ideas for 5 – 9 year olds

You would love to get your elementary school child involved in some service projects, but it seems as if liability concerns have outweighed family involvement, and many non-profit organizations are not willing to accept volunteers under the age of 13.  What sorts of activities can you do with your pre-teen?

Younger children can often bring enthusiasm to a project.  They may not have the physical strength or coordination, long attention spans or the attention to detail required for some projects, and they shouldn’t be involved in projects that involve physical risk or unsupervised contact with outsiders.  Parental involvement is practically a must, though some school, church, or scouting groups may enable sharing the supervisory responsibility.

Here are a few ideas:

  • Arts and Crafts projects:  Making greeting cards or holiday decorations for people that might otherwise be forgotten (soldiers or people in nursing homes, hospitals, or prisons).  Involving others in the crafting process can be part of the volunteer service as well.
  • Environmental:  Under the watchful eye of a parent, adult leader or older youth, children can participate in picking up trash, beach cleanups, planting seedlings, and removing invasive plants up to the limits of their attention span.
  • Senior Citizens:  Visiting senior citizen in a nursing home or their own homes can be mutually beneficial for the elders and children.  Game playing, reading together, or helping out with simple household tasks are things that younger children can do to provide stimulation, conversation and practical assistance for seniors who might otherwise be isolated.
  • Hospitalized children:  A visit from a new friend of the same age can be a great way to cheer up a patient.
  • Food Closets:  Children with adult supervision can help sort, bag and box food donations for distribution.
  • Fund Raising:  Walk-a-thon, lemonade stands, coin drives, can drives or car washes
    As concerns about children going door-to-door have increased, fund raising through neighborhood pledge or gift solicitations or cookie, popcorn or magazine subscription sales have declined.  Still, parents can be involved in the solicitations while the children participate in walking or selling lemonade, or encouraging relatives to share canned food.
Another great resource for ideas is Jenny Friedman’s The Busy Family’s Guide to Volunteering:  Doing Good Together
Do you have other suggestions?  Please add them in the comments! (Comment button is in top header, underneath the post title.)


  1. Peggy says:

    I love your suggestions Steve. For our friend Frances (Frances was turning 89 years old and had expressed it was hard financially), me and my daughter of 8 years old decided to do a “Madeleine stand” this year and give the donations to Frances. The process was amazing, my daughter got to participate in all aspects and saw tears from Frances when we gave her the $200 we raised.

    • That’s a great story, Peggy! A beautiful example of the power of bridging the generational gap. I have to admit it took me a minute to realize that Madeleine meant “cake” and not “character from the children’s book.” 🙂

      Please pass along my kudos to your daughter for a successful fund raiser that clearly raised something much more important than dollars.


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