Inside: Spread kindness as a family through this Family Volunteer Challenge for June by helping to clean up and beautify your neighborhood and community.
I grew up in a scouting family. My mom was my Girl Scout leader for a decade and one of the things she repeated to us all often was one of the Girl Scout tenants: We leave a place cleaner than we found it.
Whether it’s a campground, a meeting space, or our friend’s bedroom after a playdate, not only do you clean up after yourself, but you also clean up after others.
Why? Because we can. We’re able to help. We can leave a space better and less filled with trash than the people before us.
And now as a Girl Scout leader myself, I find myself repeating the same tenant to my own children and their friends: We leave it cleaner than we found it.
So as the summer starts and we’re spending more time outside enjoying public spaces like parks, lakes, and beaches, it’s the perfect time to focus on beautifying our communities and neighborhood.
It’s so simple, so easy to bend over and pick up the soda can or the plastic baggie headed towards that storm drain.
And all it takes is some intention, remembering one simple thing, and belief in the phrase: we leave it cleaner than we found it.
So our focus for June’s Family Volunteer Challenge is beautifying our neighborhoods and communities and protecting our ocean.
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 June.
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 June’s volunteering activity, you can check out past month’s volunteer activities in case you missed it and want to do more.
June’s Volunteer Challenge:
For June, we’re cleaning up our communities and community spaces which also helps protect ocean animals.
After a big summer storm or a windy day, there’s one thing that’s true: trash that was littered on purpose or on accident goes everywhere. Storm drains are covered by trash. Random trash blows through neighbors’ yards.
And parks, beaches and lakes…places that should be beautiful…are speckled with trash.
Our kids know not to litter, but not everyone follows that community rule/law of taking care of our communal space.
And here’s the bigger problem…that trash almost always ends up in water: oceans, lakes, rivers, and streams.
To help raise awareness, many drains have stenciled reminders that everything flows to the ocean or to the lake or to the river.
Because when trash pollutes our waterways it then hurts ocean animals either when they swallow it or get tangled in it.
But there’s something super simple our kids can do to not only preemptively help the ocean and it’s animals but also make our communities a better space to be in.
They can pick up trash.
Do the Family Volunteer Challenge for June now:
This is one of the simplest ways to give back to our communities and protect our planet.
On your next walk around your neighborhood, on your next hike, or on your next trip to the beach, lake or park, take a trash bag with you.
Super, duper simple.
As you’re enjoying your time with your family and you see trash, pick it up, and put it in.
When my daughters and I walk on the beach searching for shells and rocks to put in their buckets, we also take a trash bag along to pop the trash in. They scoop up the shells and the chip wrappers.
When we see trash, we could shake our heads or say “what a shame” or “I can’t believe people litter.”
OR, we could do something to fix it. We can take action. And we can show your kids how easy it is to take action.
To make it more fun, you can make it a contest to see who can pick up more trash.
Or you award prizes for the trash: Grossest trash or most colorful piece of trash or weirdest piece of trash.
Picking up trash isn’t glamorous. It’s not showy and over the top impressive and incredible.
But it is impactful. And it is so easy to do as you go about your daily lives this summer.
(Just remember to wash your hands thoroughly after picking up trash.)
Talk about it:
Explain to your kids trash not only looks, well, trashy on the ground, it can also get blown or washed into storm drains. Then the water pushes the trash out to the ocean or to the lake.
The trash floats in the water or sinks and is then harder to pick up. Ocean animals like fish, turtles, dolphins, and sharks eat the trash on accident or get caught in the trash if it’s big enough.
So it’s so much easier to pick up the trash now, when we see it, before it has a chance to get to the ocean or lake or rivers near us.
If you need help explaining it to younger kids, here’s how we do it: Sometimes people drop their trash on purpose and that’s called littering. Sometimes people drop their trash on accident or it blows away. But if we see trash, we can easily pick it up and throw it in the garbage. We can pick up the litter so our park and our street and our favorite vacation spot looks as pretty as it can. But we also pick up trash so it doesn’t accidentally get pushed into the river, lake or ocean near us. When trash gets near fish and turtles and dolphins they accidentally swallow the trash and get really sick. So picking up trash helps us keep our community beautiful and helps keep ocean animals safe.
You can also read books to help kids really understand:
Have a conversation with your kiddos after they pick up trash about how easy it was to grab the trash and get it off the street or off the beach.
Remind them of how simple it was to remember to take a trash bag with you on your walk or when you went to the park or the lake.
And you can ask them these questions:
What would it be like if no one picked up trash?
If we don’t pick up the trash, who will?
How do you think the animals in the ocean and rivers feel about trash floating in their home?
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 your community even more beautiful and our ocean animals safer.
And share the Family Volunteer Challenge for June with other families. Kindness is contagious. Challenge other families to join you by asking them to bring a trash bag with them the next time they go on a walk.
Because the world can always use more kindness and less trash.
We can leave the world not only cleaner than we found it, but also kinder than we found it.