Inside: Spread kindness as a family through this Family Volunteer Challenge for April by making fleece blankets for animal shelters and pets waiting to get adopted.
I hadn’t really ever spent much time at an animal shelter.
Until the summer we decided to get a dog.
Our last dog had passed away years before and we had adopted him from a friend of a friend who was fostering him.
We knew we wanted to adopt rather than go through a breeder because there are so many dogs who are dying to get placed. Literally.
(The thought of kill shelters makes me sick to my stomach.)
And so we went to the shelter every week, searching for the just-right puppers to join our family.
Two months later, we found our Indy girl. We scooped her up and brought her home, and loved her the way her first family couldn’t.
But walking the cages of the shelter each week, I was so torn and heartbroken knowing I couldn’t save all the fur babies.
There are so many dogs and cats (and other random animals like turtles and rabbits) hoping to get chosen.
If you can’t adopt a pet from a shelter, or like us can’t adopt them all, there are other ways we can help the animals in the shelter waiting for their forever homes.
And our kids can help those fur babies waiting in the cages to ake their time there easier and cozier.
Why it’s Important to Volunteer with our Kids:
We are raising kind kids. We expect it, we praise it and we model it.
Related: How to Raise Kinder Kids
And we tend to focus on the quiet, normal, everyday moments of kindness.
Holding the door for the person behind you.
Picking up something someone dropped.
Offering your seat to someone who needs it.
But there’s also bigger, grander, more time-consuming acts of kindness that falls more into the volunteering category of kindness:
Times when we donate to our local food bank.
Or collect all our old jackets and take them to a shelter that needs them.
Or when we take a taco to someone who’s really hungry.
Our kindness may not change the world. But it can change the world for the people we help.
And it instills in my children the fact that volunteering and acts of service are a normal part of lives.
Helping others doesn’t need to be a once a year activity during December when we donate a toy or two.
People are hungry year round.
Animal shelters are full year round.
Kids are sick year round.
And we can help. Because we are helpers. We are raising our kids to be helpers.
As an added bonus (as if we needed one more reason) volunteering as a family is an incredible way to connect as a family and build a strong family identity.
So teaching our kids to give to others who are less fortunate than ourselves is a true gift.
And volunteering is one of the easiest ways to help kids practice being compassionate. Compassion is feeling others’ pain or hardship or suffering and then being prompted to take action to relieve that suffering.
Many families want to donate and volunteer but it feels too hard.
And they don’t know where to volunteer or how easy it really is to make a significant difference.
So we’re here to make it easier for you with the Family Volunteer Challenge for March.
How the Family Volunteer Challenge Works:
Every month, we’ll post a family-friendly service activity you and your kids can do together.
It’s 12 months, 1 activity each month, 10-30 minutes each month.
And it’ll be super easy.
We’ll give you a suggestion.
You can run with it, tweak it, make it your own, or scrap it and do something totally different.
Your only tasks are to commit to doing this as a family, talk about what you’re doing and why with your kids so it has a lasting impact, and then protect the time on your calendar so it doesn’t get pushed back.
And it also has to come with this crucial caveat…you can only do this Family Volunteer Challenge if you do it with no guilt.
- No guilt that you didn’t start it sooner. You’re starting now and that’s incredible.
- No guilt if one month, life got in the way and you skipped it. You can do it next month, no worries.
- No guilt if you think your kids are selfish and self-centered and are ungrateful. They probably are but that’s not their fault or yours. It’s how their brain is wired and we can turn giving to others and being generous into a learned habit.
Okay, now that we’re guilt-free, let’s start spreading some kindness.
12 Months of Volunteering as a Family:
Before we jump into March’s volunteering activity, if you haven’t checked out January’s Volunteer activity and this year’s Bonus Activity, you can check it out here:
Now for the Family Volunteer Challenge for April:
For April, we’re supporting local animal shelters and the dogs and cats waiting to be adopted.
There are several ways to help your local animal shelter and the dogs and cats waiting.
For families, the easiest ways to support your animal shelter includes first looking up where your nearest shelter is. So many of us don’t know unless it’s around the corner from us.
Shelters usually post their wish list on their website. You can Google: “animal shelter near me donations” to find out their specific wish list. They probably need similar things from this list:
Donations are always appreciated.
But, we can also donate blankets. And so I taught my kids how to make fleece tied blankets to donate to our local shelter.
Do the Family Volunteer Challenge for April now:
If your animal shelter needs blankets (and most of them do!) you can make these simple fleece tied blankets with your kids.
- fleece fabric (we’ve made 3-foot by 3-foot blankets and larger blankets…size isn’t super crucial)
- scissors that can cut through fabric
There are two ways to make the blankets: single layer and double layer blankets.
For a single layer blanket, lay the fabric flat on the ground and cut a 2-inch by 2-inch square off each of the corners. You could measure, but I just eyeball it. It doesn’t need to be perfect.
After you have all four corner squares cut off, then cut 1-inch strips around the edge of the entire blanket. Cut about 2 inches up to match where you cut the corners off.
Again, there’s no need to measure and if it’s not straight, it’s okay. When you tie them the pieces it will hide the imperfections. The main thing is you want them to be consistently about the same size.
Start on one corner and show your kids how to take the first two pieces and tie them together in a square knot. You make an X with the two pieces.
Then pull the piece on top through the opening.
You repeat it one more time on the same two pieces so the knot stays put.
Continue around the entire blanket until they’re all tied. If you end up with an “extra” piece as we did, simply tie it to one of the other pieces that have already been tied into a knot.
When you’re all done, you’ll need to stretch out the blanket along the knots and it’ll be done and ready.
If you want to make a two-sided, thicker blanket, you’ll line up two pieces of fleece on top of each other.
Remember to have the pretty side of the fabric facing out on both the top and on the bottom, so the “backside” of the fabric pieces will be on the inside of the blanket.
Then cut 2-inch squares in each of the corners of the blanket.
Just like in the single fabric blanket, cut 1-inch wide slits around the blanket around 2 inches up from the edge.
Instead of tying the strips to a strip next to it, for a 2-sided blanket, you will tie the two strips together that are on top of each other so the two pieces of fabric get tied together.
Continue around the edge of the blanket until you’ve tied them all together.
Again, if there are extra pieces for any reason, you can tie them to a strip that’s already part of a knot.
Stretch out the blanket and the knots and you’re ready to deliver the blankets to your local animal shelter.
Talk about it:
Sadly there are tons of animals that get sent or taken to animal control or animal shelters. While they wait for a family to find them, these animals stay in cages that are concrete and metal so their space can easily be hosed down with water and sanitized.
To make the cage more comfortable, we can make blankets to give to the dogs. And often, these blankets are given to new dog and cat owners to take home with them so the pets have something to go home with.
If it’s appropriate, take your child to your local animal shelter to show them what it’s like there. The staff and volunteers are caring and loving, but it’s still a cold, sterile, sad environment. If you can’t go to a shelter, you can also go to the shelter’s website or Facebook page like this one and show them pictures.
If you need help explaining it to younger kids, here’s how we do it: There are so many dogs and cats who want to find a new family to love them. But while the dogs and cats wait, they have to stay at the animal shelter like the one down the street from us. Inside the shelter though it can get cold and lonely. They don’t have a couch or carpet to lay on. But we can make blankets and take them to the dogs and cats so they can be cozy while they wait for their new family. And then they can take the blanket home with them to their new house.
You can also read books to help kids really understand:
Have a conversation with your kiddos after they make a blanket about how easy it was to make the blanket.
Remind them of how simple it was to tie knots in the fabric. Talk about how it makes our hearts feel full when we can make the cold cages animals sleep in warm and cozy.
What would it be like for our dog/cat was in a cage?
How would you feel if you were a pet waiting for your family to come to choose you?
How do you think the dogs and cats will feel if they have the blanket we made in the cage with them
Celebrate and Spread the Word:
Be proud of your volunteering and let your kids know you’re proud of them. Celebrate the time your family spent together to make these blankets for animals at the shelter.
And share the Family Volunteer Challenge for April with other families. Kindness is contagious. Challenge other families to join you by asking them to make a blanket too.
Because the world can always use more kindness and less sad, uncomfortable pets in our shelters.
Spread more kindness this April: