By: Stephanie Shabangu, Penfield Children’s Center

The holidays are upon us! Whether you celebrate a certain holiday or prefer to focus on the winter season, this can be a fun time of year to get your kids involved in community work and have fun together.

Families who volunteer together are often strengthened by serving others and when parents model positive behavior, children learn to incorporate these values into their own lives. In addition, taking the focus off receiving gifts and promoting a season of giving enhances your family’s beliefs regarding the “reason for the season.”

Here are five ideas for getting into the spirit with your little ones:

  1. Serve a holiday meal. Many food pantries and churches host holiday meals for families in need. Depending on which location you choose, your family could help prepare or serve the meal to guests.
  2. Deliver baked goods to a local non-profit. Put on some holiday music, tie on an apron and roll out the dough. Allow your little ones to cut the dough into different shapes and help decorate them once they come out of the oven. This activity is bound to get everyone in the spirit, while showing your kids how fun it is to bake something that can be shared with others.
  3. Make a snow-inspired craft with folks in a nursing home. There are thousands of fun wintry crafts to create, but one in particular that can be kept as a memorable keepsake is a salt-dough ornament. They can be tailored to whichever holiday you celebrate or can be stamped with shapes of any kind such as snowflakes, sleds, winter mittens or animals. According to, an easy way to bake these ornaments is to preheat the oven to 300 degrees F (150 degrees C), mix flour, salt and water together, roll out the dough, cut into shapes and bake for 30 minutes. Find the full recipe here.
  1. Throw a holiday party and encourage guests to bring a non-perishable food item that can be donated. These items can be very general (peanut butter, mac and cheese, canned soup) or can be food to create a holiday meal.
  2. Organize a new and gently-used coat drive. Outdoor gear can get expensive and because kids grow so fast, parents probably need to purchase new coats every year. For those with a limited income, it can be challenging to keep up with the demand of a growing child’s wardrobe. Many social service agencies and schools who serve lower income families try to provide coats for kids before the temperatures get too cold.

Encouraging children to volunteer and get involved with the community shows how they, although young, can make a big difference for those in need. Service work also allows children to develop a sense of responsibility for helping those less fortunate.

What generous holiday traditions does your family practice?


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