"As we work to create light for others, we naturally light our own way." - Mary Ann Radmacher
4 Easy Activities That Teach Your Toddler to Love Giving
By Sundari Johansen, PGK Manager of Strategic Engagement
Did you know it’s never too early to get kids involved in service? Seriously, moms and dads have even strapped infants to their chests to come and volunteer at our events!
I’ve got a busy toddler, and a busy life, and too often I’m just trying to hold myself together, so trying to find ways to volunteer in the middle of all that can be overwhelming! But luckily, PGK and our awesome nonprofit partners make it easy to combine things you want to do with your toddler anyway - super fun play that engages the senses and builds life skills - with meaningful volunteer activities you can do right in your own home.
Pro-tip: These activities are great for older kids, multiple kids of different ages, and whole families to do together, too!
Most of these activities use supplies you already have at home, or can easily get at your local grocery or art/craft supply store, and they can be done from almost anywhere! All of them have a sensory or skill-building component that’s great for toddlers.
Want more fun activities at your fingertips? Download the Youth Give app from iTunes!
1. Make bookmarks for kids learning to read
If you’re like me, you already do messy art activities with your toddler on the regular. Well, turn that into a volunteer activity! Reading Partners of the San Francisco Bay Area helps kids learn how to read, and every avid reader knows that a great bookmark is a wonderful thing. All you’ll need is some cardstock, scissors, coloring supplies like non-toxic paint and markers, and any other flat decorations your toddler’s creative heart desires. Get messy with it! When you’re done, let them dry, pop them in an envelope, and send them to Reading Partners so they can give them to new readers. Get started here!
2. Dog biscuit bake sale
This awesome activity from the MSPCA, one of our partners in Boston. Toddlers love getting their hands dirty, and dogs love biscuits. Another activity that’s great for the whole family, get your toddler involved in making dog biscuits at home. Baking is a great sensory activity! Then help your child sell the treats to dog owners around your neighborhood, at the local dog park, or to friends, family, or co-workers, to raise money for the MSPCA (or your local animal shelter). Get the recipe here!
3. Trash free lunches
Packing lunches for your toddler to take to daycare or preschool is often a chore, but our Los Angeles area partner Grades of Green has a great idea to help your child use their lunch to save the planet! Make this activity toddler-friendly by getting older toddlers involved in preparing and packing their lunch for the next day before bedtime, using only reusable containers, utensils, napkins, and water bottle, and remind them that every day they eat a trash free lunch, they’re doing their part to save the planet. Find out more here!
4. Spread some PB&J Love
What kid doesn’t love peanut butter & jelly (or, if your child is sensitive to peanuts, sunflower seed butter & jelly)? If you live in the LA area, the North Hollywood Interfaith Food Pantry needs PB&J sandwiches to help provide lunch for someone who might otherwise go hungry. And this is a great sensory and skill building activity to get an older toddler involved in! While you’re making the sandwiches together, have a simple talk about kindness and the importance of helping others, and making sure that nobody goes hungry. Needs vary, so be sure to call ahead to confirm the morning to drop off the sandwiches! And if you don’t live in the LA area, contact your local food pantry to see what their current needs are, and how your family might support their work. Get started making PB&Js!
Find more ways to engage your kids with service by using our online Activities tool!
With Open Arms
By Jessica Barga, PGK Contributor
Within minutes of sitting down to write this post, I came across the following verse, one I’d never noticed before: “Do not neglect hospitality, for through it some have unknowingly entertained angels” (Hebrews 13:2, if you’re interested). It got me thinking about my own attitudes toward welcoming others and showing care and concern for my neighbor.
We think of hospitality as a skill, something someone might be good at, something we see Ina Garten doing on TV. But hospitality doesn’t have to mean using the good china or hosting the family Thanksgiving gathering. Simply welcoming others, making them feel at home – wherever we are and whoever they are – is the key to true hospitality. Where do you feel more comfortable: a beautiful but sterile hotel room, or a bustling house full of friends or family?
Making people feel welcomed and appreciated can be as simple as a smile or a hello. The vast majority of the time, we don’t know how someone’s day is going or what’s happening in their life. But we shouldn’t underestimate the power of acknowledging a person, of showing we care, of taking the time to look into someone’s eyes and listen to them.
Sometimes the hardest part of being hospitable, though, isn’t the action itself; it’s the noticing of the person in need. It’s (usually) easy to smile at our friends and spouses and children; maybe not so much for a person who’s homeless on the sidewalk, or a grouchy coworker, or a mother speaking another language as she tries to corral her kids on the playground. The fact remains that these people are our neighbors just as much as anyone else – and maybe even more in need of a simple act of kindness than we could know.
Need a few simple, everyday ideas to show hospitality?
- Greet service people, like receptionists or cashiers. Take a minute to genuinely ask how their days are going.
- Pay a sincere compliment to someone you see every day at work.
- If you have leftovers from lunch, offer them to a person who could use them.
- Pick up an extra treat, like a coffee or muffin, to share if you’re buying something for yourself.
- Send a friend or family member who’s moved a card or package letting them know you’re thinking of them.
- Smile. You might be surprised how many people smile back.
The Cause We All Must Care About
By Molly Yuska, PGK Founder
Earth Day is Sunday, and as I sat down to write this, I thought about the fact that Earth Day really should be every day. My son, Michael, started an Eco Club at our school a couple of years ago. In addition to starting a recycliing program for our school (because they didn't have one when we arrived, if you can believe that), the group does weeky segments on the school news to raise awareness, school clean ups, and a variety other things to inform, educate and move our school to act. This week, there has been a different focus every day - from encouraging a Trash Free Lunch to a recycled art contest. As a mom, I couldn't be more proud. As a fellow human on this precious planet, I thank him for his leadership.
He informed me a couple of weeks ago that humans have consumed more resources over the past 50 years than in all of recorded history combined before that. That fact can't get out of my head. In a little more than my lifetime, we have consumed, and thrown away, and consumed some more at a rate that is most definiitely unsustainable. As much as most of us, especially those of us in country that consumes a disproportionate share of resources relative to the percentage of the population we represent, are aware of our consumption-focused tendencies, awareness is simply not enough. Each and every one of us has got to be a part of the solution.
Small tweaks - the resuable shopping bag, ditching straws or switching to compostable ones, having a compost bin, forgoing the toys in the happy meals - can all add up. If we all do it together, the collective impact can be huge.
If you are feeliing like doing more, we have some great partners offering some options this weekend (see below). EarthDay.org has some good ideas for action too. We encourage you to celebrate Earth Day in a more meaningful way this year. We encourage you to act. Saving our Planet really is the one cause we all must care about.
Nothin’ But Sand Beach Clean-up Santa Monica with Heal the Bay (4/21)