Sandwiched between the high jinks of Halloween and the frenzy that surrounds winter holidays, is November—the classic month for giving thanks. Somehow, Thanksgiving has managed to elude the commercialism of its counterparts and remain a day for celebrating the home-grown pleasures of family, friends and togetherness. For many, the sense of unity and fellowship extends outwards into the community as they give of their time and resources to help those less fortunate.
Imagine, a holiday more about sharing our collective blessings than hording our individual good fortune. It’s a concept easy to embrace as we approach this most thankful of holidays. Harness your good intentions now, before the rush, and plan to involve the whole family in making a difference this holiday season.
The benefits of giving back
Getting your children involved in community service has a host of benefits. Parents magazine’s Thrive in 2025: Raise a Kid Who Gives article lists a few. “Kids who volunteer do better in school and are less likely to try drugs, according to a study conducted by the Corporation for National and Community Service, a federal agency that promotes acts of citizenship and responsibility. The same organization found that people who regularly lend a hand tend to be healthier and that these wellness benefits increase if they start charitable work earlier in their life. Research also demonstrates that doing volunteer work that involves personal contact makes people feel better: There's a literal endorphin rush for the giver, the givee, and anyone watching. Plus, it builds confidence and self-worth in the right way, by showing kids that their actions matter.”
Find a cause
We loved some of the kid-friendly causes suggested by Parents such as Defenders of Wildlife which lets your child "adopt" an endangered animal and get a plush version of the wild animal to play with at home. And, Project Knapsack, where your child can write a pen pal from a developing country and send him or her a backpack filled with school supplies. Browse the causes at Changing the Present with your children to see what sparks their interest.
Simple ways to get involved
You won’t have to search for long, especially during the holidays, to find a food drive, coat drive or toy drive behind which to rally. Make the experience of donating more meaningful by involving your children in the process. Have them clean out their closets and pick the items they’d like to donate. Let them raid the pantry and load up a few bags of canned goods or personal hygiene supplies. Give your kids a budget and let them go on a toy shopping spree for kids in need in your community. Then, bring your children along when you drop off your donations.
Family friendly community service
For service-oriented activities you can participate in with your children, you’ll have to do a little pre-planning. Volunteer Family is a great resource to jump start your service project with ideas, family-friendly volunteer opportunities in your area, and advice for making the experience meaningful for your children. Another great resource is the book Doing Good Together: 101 Easy, Meaningful Service Projects for Families, Schools, and Communities, written by Doing Good Together’s Founder and Executive Director Jenny Friedman and Jolene Roehkepartian. Volunteer Match features local listings for volunteers with specifics about the cause, the type of work needed, and the amount of hours involved. When you’re ready to take your volunteering to the next level, consider taking a service-oriented vacation during Winter Break, Spring Break or over the summer. Cross Cultural Solutions and others provide international volunteer vacations.
When it comes to community service, the thought doesn’t count nearly as much as rolling up your sleeves and getting to work. Whether it’s simply donating to your local food bank or traveling across the world to build a school, the act of helping others is an experience to be experienced this holiday season. Let us know how you plan to get your family involved in giving back.
Contributed by Danyelle