Many families want to help kids understand the importance of acts of service and helping others in their community. But doing a service project as a family can feel overwhelming! Where do you start? What projects can kids participate in? How do you ensure that they’re getting the most out of the project, and that the project is really helpful to others?
Let’s take a look at the four components of a great service project to help you and your family find just the right fit. Read the overview below and then download our quick guide with checklists and fill-in-the-blanks to build your own project. Plus, we’ll include a few examples for families with younger and older kids. Scroll to the bottom to download the free guide!
Consider your family service project in four parts:
Step One: Brainstorm
The brainstorm step gives the whole family a chance to offer ideas about how they can help the community. Young children may not know what they are capable of doing for others, so this step may have to be mostly facilitated by adults. With young children, adults can pre-select a few options and ask kids for their opinion on the project, or to weigh in on one or two elements. Older children will benefit from designing their own project and having more say in what the family does together.
Step Two: Plan
Constructing a plan together will help children understand how the project will unfold. In this step, adults should think about logistics and details, and what materials are necessary for the project. Some projects may have work that is divided up or may have several tasks that must be completed. Depending on the project, adults may want to write a checklist or use visuals to show what the steps of the project are. Be sure they’re written in chronological order and come back to the list after each step to check it off. This helps kids see the progress they’re making on the project as they go!
Step Three: Act
This is where the project comes to life! In this stage, the family carries out the tasks in the plan. Expect that children will be very excited during this part of the project. Be sure to be clear around behavior expectations and any procedures that support self-regulation, cooperation and independence, especially if the project will be completed in an unfamiliar setting or around unfamiliar people. Be sure to praise children for their efforts, so they can gain a sense of satisfaction that comes with serving others. This is a chance for children to gain confidence and see that they can make a difference! And don’t forget to take photos of your family in action (if appropriate) so you can look back on them to reflect.
Step Four: Reflect
This is the most important part of the service project process. After the project is complete, guide children to reflect on the work they did and why it was important to them and to the community or people affected. It is often helpful for adults to model this reflection by sharing how the project made them feel, how others responded and how proud they are of the children’s efforts. Discussing these things will build children’s understanding that they can be agents of change. If you have photos or video, look through them together as a family to help build their recollection of the different stages of the project.
Want more detail on each of these four steps? Click here to download the free build-your-own project guide.