10 Easy Ways to Teach Kids the Joys of Caring for the Needy This Summer
Purple popsicles and ice cold watermelon. Musical ice cream trucks and lemonade stands. Glowing fireflies and fuzzy dandelions. Refreshing dips in the swimming pool and lazy days at the lake. Ahhhh. Summer is finally here!
For parents and kids alike, summertime is a welcome break from the norm of the school year. It’s a well-deserved time to rest and relax in the sunshine. It’s also a great time to incorporate ways to teach children how to care for the needy. There’s no denying that our children are growing up in a “me-centered culture.” I’m a busy mother of seven children, and if you are like me, I am always looking for ways to make sure my children learn that there are needy, hurting, and lonely people in our world who desperately need a touch from someone who will take the time to care. And the summer months are a wonderful time to do just that!
As summer break approaches, consider incorporating these ways to help the needy with your children into your summertime fun:
- Anonymously leave a box of groceries on the doorstep of a widow/widower, or a single mother. When you shop for these groceries, make sure you let your children help you choose items that they think will be enjoyed by the recipient family. Your children will enjoy being “secret agents of kindness” when you sneak up to the porch to leave the box of groceries!
- Visit a nursing home. There are so many lonely elderly people living at nursing homes. Consider calling ahead and asking one of the charge nurses if there is a particular resident who rarely gets visitors. Bringing a flower from your garden or a cheerful picture your child drew will be a treasured gift for a lonely person.
- Collect pennies in baby bottles for a Crisis Pregnancy Center. At the beginning of the summer, let your children collect change in a plastic baby bottles. When the summer is over, help your children roll the coins and exchange them for paper currency. Take your child to visit your local Crisis Pregnancy Center and let them hand-deliver their donation. With his or her small donation, your child will learn the value of giving to a charity that helps save the lives of the unborn.
- Take quarters to a laundromat and give them away to people you meet there. This seems like such a small act, but it can be a wonderful way to teach your children how to bless a stranger through random acts of kindness.
- Create placemats for a soup kitchen. If your children like to draw, let them color cheerful pictures and designs on several legal sized pieces of paper or poster board. Cover them with contact paper or have them laminated. Deliver them to your local soup kitchen to be used as place mats for the people who eat there each day.
- Children love to make crafts on rainy days. To teach your children the importance of prayer, make beaded bracelets with foster children’s names on them. You can get the first names of children in state foster care by visiting adoptuskids.org. Use small letter beads and leather strips to make the name bracelets. As your children enjoy wearing their bracelets this summer, let it be a reminder to them to pray for that child who needs a family.
- Make Needy Bags with your children. Fill gallon sized zip-lock bags with toiletries and other items that a homeless person might need such as small shampoos, soap, washcloths, lip balm, scripture cards, water bottles, crackers, etc. Keep these bags in your car so you will always be ready to help when your family sees someone in need.
- Invite neighborhood friends to your church’s Vacation Bible School or summer camps. Many children are considered ‘latch-key kids’ and may be at home alone during the day in the summer months while their parents are at work. What a blessing for the parents and a load of fun for the children, for them to be invited to VBS! Your children will see the blessing of helping another child to enjoy some summer time fun—a child who would otherwise be alone during the day.
- If your family lives in a place where you can plant a summer vegetable garden, consider growing extra vegetables to give away to an elderly neighbor or a needy family. Giving your children the opportunity to help with planting and watering, then letting them give away some of the vegetables they harvest will help cultivate a lifelong lesson of ‘giving’ into their young hearts.
- Make Care Baskets for a hospital waiting room. Fill a basket with things that someone who is sitting in a hospital waiting room might need such as bottled water, packs of crackers, scripture cards, Christian magazines, mints, gum, notepads, pens, etc. Be sure to get permission before leaving the basket, but if you make a small one for the nurses’ station, you are sure to get a resounding “yes!”
With a little planning, your children’s summer break can not only be a time of relaxing and playing in the warm sunshine; it can also be a time of learning the joy and the importance of helping the needy around them. These simple summertime projects will take very little planning or money, but the impact they can make on your children as they experience ‘giving’ in such a tangible way, will last far beyond summer break!
Excerpted from A Cup Of Cold Water In His Name, © 2012 by Lorie Newman. Used by permission of Discovery House Publishers, Grand Rapids, Michigan. All rights reserved.