Looking for all upside? The starfish project for children is bringing ashore fun community service opportunities that students and families can do together from the comfort of home while still making a big splash of positive impact in the child’s mind. Showing is reliably more impactful than telling when it comes to teaching children most things. Community service is a perfect way to show children that they add value. Engaging in community service has been widely credited as a fail-safe method to increase a child’s self-confidence, feelings of self-worth and fulfillment and to expand a child’s perspective. In addition, while engaging in community service, a child’s focus moves away from himself, serving as a break from the daily stresses and concerns that touch all of us during this unusual time.  

The starfish project for children is diving in with Elementary Connections to provide positive and fun community service activities that the family can engage in together and which children can do independently — fun in the doing is a key element for children to enjoy the service experience. 

How do you find the opportunity for your child to add value that is fun and engaging? Three easy steps: 

  1. Make it personal – Involve your child in choosing among easy age appropriate service opportunities that the child can accomplish in one sitting, including set up and clean up.   
  2. Gather the materials needed in advance. 
  3. Explain specifically how your child’s service will benefit others and involve them in delivering the result of their efforts. 

Finally, after the service is completed, finish it off with a generous helping of positive reinforcement for your child for adding value to her community! Ideas below:

Cases for Smiles A hospital experience can be terrifying and traumatic for both a child and their family. While others strive to find a cure, Ryan’s Case for Smiles helps with the stress and emotional impact of illness in the here and now. Our whimsical pillowcases give children an emotional boost, while resources and tools help families better understand and cope with the experience.

Cookies for Caregivers Keep the holiday spirit going! Cookies for Caregivers was started by two dads during the pandemic to thank first responders, caregivers and essential workers for showing up for all of us! Grab your kiddos and bake away your boredom. Bake and package up the cookies of your choice and join the Cookies for Caregivers Philadelphia and Suburbs Facebook group to get directions on where to deliver, or to start your own chapter. This is a sweet opportunity to make some dough!

Caring for Friends For those who like to cook or those who like to craft, or both! Caring for Friends provides food and meals to seniors and anyone who is unable to purchase or afford to purchase foods due to disabilities and illness in Philadelphia and the surrounding counties. Caring for Friends needs volunteers to volunteer from home, making cards, making meals, making contact with clients. This community service opportunity consistently gets high marks for volunteer satisfaction! Call Caring for Friends to find out which volunteer opportunity is best for you!

Make a Recipe with an Older Adult: Cookin’ it Old School! DoSomething.org is a great website for a variety of service endeavors that young people can do from home. While many are geared to older teens, cooking is a great one for kids! Cooking a traditional recipe with an older adult is recommended as a great way to combat isolation commonly faced by senior adults. If you need a senior adult to engage, a call to a local senior center or residence should lead to an easy match.

Baby It’s Cold Outside – Knit a Scarf for Those in Need Follow these easy guidelines and knit away the time as you create a scarf infused with your warm spirit! This is a great activity to do as a family around the TV or individually to grab a break during the day. Check the article reference for specifics and how to donate to organizations that help homeless people with needed supplies. *Requires specific materials.

Step up to the Challenge! Sole Cents Fundraising for New Sneakers Worn out shoes can make kids feel like they don’t fit in at school, injure feet and self-esteem. Your service can provide homeless kids with brand new sneakers – helping them feel confident, comfortable and special! $25 will buy a new pair of sneakers for a kid in need. You can help by raising “sole cents”! Decorate a jar with Gotta Have Sole logos which you can copy from the website. Collect loose change and laundry change in the jar. When you reach $25, contact Gotta Have Sole and forward the money to get a kiddo in need a new pair of kicks! This opportunity will make your kiddo jump for joy! Gotta Have Sole also could also use help with new socks and hand made cards. Check the website for details.

Laughter is the Best Medicine. Homemade Healthy Laughs for Hospital Patients Hospitality Homes provides short term housing in volunteer host homes and donated apartments for families and friends of patients seeking care at Boston area health care organizations. Your contribution of a homemade joke book can break up tension and give everyone something to smile about! For this project, which can be a whole family or an individual project, you will need a 4×6 or 5×7 notebook, stickers, pens that write nicely and good jokes! When your joke book is complete, to arrange delivery contact Denise Duclos at dduclos@hosp.org or call (888)595-4678 ext. 1. Check the Hospitality Homes website for additional remote volunteer opportunities.

Color Me Kind: Use your crayons to create Color Kindness Download this card template and grab some crayons and draw or write your note of kindness & gratitude in the box provided Upload your drawing to Instagram use #crayoncollection! Send the note to your local hero! (Tip: use google.com to search for address). There is no limit on kindness so use all of your colors!

Operation Sock Drop: Sock It To Me – For Goodsake! For people experiencing homelessness, clean, warm socks are a luxury. Start a contactless neighborhood sock drive in three easy steps. 1) Make a flyer explaining the collection of new socks and the name of the agency you selected for your sock donation. Make sure to include your name and contact information and the address and location of the one central drop-off location – your porch is fine. 2) Print the flyer and place in mailboxes around your neighborhood. 3) Put out a clean covered bin, marked SOCK DROP in a clearly visible location so your neighbors can drop the socks. Contact Lovese Waters at 215-240-4800 for instructions, or donate to a homeless shelter of your choice.

Read for Seeds – Reading Challenge: Plant your garden from a comfortable chair!  Kids – grab your favorite books, a pledge sheet and a pen and read to help fight hunger! This easy read-a-thon pledge drive model from GainingGround.org is used to purchase organic seeds for 60 different vegetables grown annually. Since its inception, Read for Seeds has raised more than $120,000 and helped buy seeds to grow almost a half million pounds of organic produce for hunger relief! For details, check the Gaining Ground.org website.

Find A Friend! Make an E-buddy: Great for anyone who loves making friends and loves email communication! Best Buddies International is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to establishing a global volunteer movement that creates opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment and leadership development for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. E-buddies is an email based friendship built between someone with an intellectual disability and someone without.This activity is great for anyone at least 10 years old who loves being friendly and is comfortable with email communication. 

Please share this with family and friends! For a list of the community service organizations featured, click here.