When we do this, we call it a “Penny of Time” . . . the goal is to do something good for someone else that takes around 15-20 minutes. (Often times, we get caught up in the experience and spend over an hour helping someone.)
Planning for a something that will take only 15-20 minutes of our afternoon makes it doable in a busy schedule. We have helped in many ways: volunteering at the SPCA, cleaning out a creek by the elementary school, putting together chemo care packages, and helping out a homeless shelter. There is not much that we won’t try to do!
Frankly, out of all the experiences that I have had with my boys since they were born, I am quickly finding that it is the moments when I serve with them that I treasure the most. I predict that it is those same moments of helping others that will be my most favorite memories when they are grown men. Serving with your children is doable and will benefit your family and the people you help.
Besides planning for something that will take 15-20 minutes, there are four other elements that help us have a great time while helping others:
1. Find an act that interests my children
2. Plan the act with them
3. Have fun during the act (we don’t force it!)
4. Take the time to reflect on how we helped after the act is over
Here are 5 activities that we have done and have really enjoyed! (The title of each idea links back to a Pennies of Time Adventure to show how we did it.) Take a look and try one with your kids . . . (or do them all!). Let us know how how it goes!
Burying Treasure at a Playground
The boys love to do this! We first started doing this when my husband completed A Guy’s 42 Acts of Kindness on His 42nd Birthday! It was an immediate hit with the givers and receivers. Find a playground (sand pits work great) where you can hide “treasure” in the dirt. We use jewels, dinosaurs, and plastic treasure coins. My boys GIGGLE to themselves when they are burying the treasure. And, you should see the amazement on the faces of other kids when they accidentally find treasure. The Best!
Happy Sidewalk Chalk Message
Grab that forgotten sidewalk chalk and go leave a nice note on a driveway to lift a friend’s spirits! We like to do it in secret and leave it as an anonymous message of love (and it is always fun to see if we get caught!). Or, like Sidewalk Revolution leave uplifting messages on sidewalks for any walker or runner to see. A favorite with the boys!
Busy Books for the ER
You’ve been there . . . an unexpected trip to the emergency with a small child, maybe even with a sibling or two? Help out a parent in that exact situation by making Busy Books. You can inexpensively buy coloring books, crayons, and Ziploc bags (dollar stores are great for this) . . . add in a bunch of young hand to assemble the busy books, and you are ready to donate a much needed resource to your local emergency room!
Travel Sized Care Kits for the Homeless
With your children, talk about what it would be like to be homeless. My kids were floored when they realized that they wouldn’t have a bathroom space to brush their teeth! Brainstorm items that someone who is homeless might need, purchase the supplies (you can see our list here), then put together the basic elements for a care kit into a sock to help out someone that is homeless (make sure you put the other sock in there, too). This is a meaningful activity for the kids, full of things that individuals who are homeless can use, and it fits nicely in your car, ready to be handed out whenever needed.
A Note for the Mail Carrier
We have a friend who is a mail carrier. She has taught us about the difficulties of that come with her job. After learning from her, we started leaving treats and messages for our own mail carrier. We are now friends with our own mail carrier! (And, he has left notes back for us!) We really like to do this act when it is raining outside (that is when the boys think that the mail carrier’s job is most difficult!).
Check out the Pennies of Time Pinterest Boards.