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A Volunteer’s a Volunteer, No Matter How Small: Children as Volunteers

Does the thought of designing volunteer opportunities for young children under the age of 12 make you nervous? Would accepting very young children as volunteers create extra stress for your already busy schedule? Would your staff be resistant to working with young children as volunteers? Fear not! This edition of Along the Web is designed to quell any fears or anxieties you may have while providing examples of volunteer activities by children, best practices for working with young volunteers, and special issues to consider

Incorporating young children into volunteer programs requires administrators to approach volunteer activities in a vastly different manner than working with adults. Young children need age-appropriate assignments and require more supervision than older volunteers, so the administrator must design projects with these dynamics in mind. One strategy is to recruit families with young children to volunteer as a unit; another strategy is to seek out existing youth groups – in schools, faith communities, social clubs, etc. -- and provide a project for the group to complete under the supervision of the group leader. Both approaches are different from the traditional method of training a single adult volunteer who will work independently within the agency.

Though young volunteers are not as independent as adolescents and adults, don’t assume that the time and cost of monitoring these youngsters are always greater than what you need to give to older volunteers. Several of the Web sites identified below illustrate the benefits of designing volunteer activities for young children. When entire families volunteer together for an agency, the overall number of agency volunteers increases. Collaborative volunteer projects with existing youth groups strengthens community support. In some cases, agency clients and participants can be encouraged to contribute time with their own families, which can build on the programs and services they are receiving. 

"A person's a person, no matter how small." Dr. Seuss

This quote from American writer and cartoonist Theodor Seuss Geisel embodies the theme of this edition of Along the Web. Perhaps the examples and advice here will encourage you to explore the potential of this underutilized group of talented “small” people. In keeping with the words of Dr. Seuss, let’s remember that a volunteer’s a volunteer, no matter how small.

Real Examples of Children as Volunteers

Tips and Advice: 

A Few More Tips:

Although the materials below are written primarily for parents, administrators can easily use these tips to seek to increase volunteer opportunities for young children. Also included are examples of age-appropriate activities for young children:

Sites with Useful Resources:

A Conclusion for Fun:

And, just for fun, check out how Sesame Street introduced the concept of "volunteer" with Elmo and guest Usher in this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5cysG5M1PFA.

 

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A final note: Every effort was made to include the most recent URLs in the annotations above. However, Internet addresses change with reckless abandon, and URLs that are current at the time of publication are apt to change, disappear, or mutate beyond recognition as time goes on. Our best advice for locating a site that vanishes is to use the exact name or title of the reference in a search engine such as Google or Yahoo that allows you to hunt for precise word combinations. More often than not, the material remains accessible at a new location on the Web.