kids volunteering for charity EQtainment Q Wunder“Mine!” “Gimme!” “I want it!” Sure, kids often act selfish and entitled. But you can teach your child to think about the needs of others, especially those less fortunate. After all, charity begins at home — literally. And with your help, your kid can change the world.

Give your kid choices.

First, ask your child who they want to help: Animals who don’t have a home? Kids with no toys? Older folks who don’t have anyone to keep them company? If your kid’s invested in the cause, they’ll be more likely to want to pitch in.

Then research your options. To find out about kid-friendly volunteer opportunities in your area, check out Volunteer Match; just enter your zip code and apply the “Kids” filter, or narrow your choices by selecting a cause or keyword. Note: Be sure to check with each charity that looks interesting to see if there’s an age minimum; some welcome all ages, while others may not allow kids younger than a certain cutoff.

You can also explore other volunteering channels: for example, your place of worship (many run food banks, host soup kitchens, and deliver necessities to the housebound), a nearby nursing home (yours may welcome young kids to visit with or sing to residents), local animal shelters (most allow kids to help with feeding, walking and/or playing with the animals and cleaning their cages), or even your own neighborhood (could your elderly next-door neighbor use help raking their lawn?). Contact these sources directly to see how your child can help.   

Encourage your kid to share their time — and share the wealth.

Just giving kids money and letting them choose a charity to donate it to can feel too abstract, especially for young kids. Giving kids the chance to volunteer, on the other hand, lets them see first-hand the effects their efforts have on those they’re helping, leaving a much more lasting impression.

However, it doesn’t have to be either/or. To set your kid up for a lifetime of giving, you may also want to require them to donate part of each week’s allowance — a dollar a week is a good start — to a charity of their choice. Once they’ve saved up enough, help them buy something with it (a toy, pet food, canned goods, etc.) that they can then donate directly if it’s a local cause. If, on the other hand, they want to save endangered elephants, make their action more significant by having them send a personal note along with a check, and write or dictate what the check is for in the memo section. Some charities will even send a personal note back to your child, which will reinforce their desire to give.

Help them give away stuff.

At least once a year (right before their birthday works well, since they’ll be motivated to make room for new gifts), ask your child to go through their clothes, toys and books for things they don’t use anymore. Then take your kid along to Goodwill or another charity and have them hand over the box.

Your child can also make things to give away. For example, they can create cards for the military or bake and deliver cookies with you for the fire department (perfect for wannabe firefighters!).

Bring it home.

Learning to be grateful and put yourselves in someone else’s shoes goes a long way toward learning to be charitable. Drive these lessons home by reading books to your kids about giving (for example, Have You Filled a Bucket Today? or Lend a Hand: Poems About Giving) and boosting your child’s emotional intelligence — including empathy and helpfulness — with the Q Wunder app.

When your child does act charitably, reward them with praise. But instead of just saying, “Wow, that was really nice!”, say, “Wow, you’re such a great helper!” Giving kids the “helper” label tells them that that’s who they intrinsically are, and getting positive reinforcement for that makes them more likely to adopt the label (and the behavior that goes along with it).

Walk the walk — and talk the talk.

It’s great if you plant trees at a local park while your kid’s at school and your bank account is set up to automatically donate to your favorite charities every month, but kids can’t learn from your behavior if they don’t know about it. Instead, let your child see you giving back and hear you talking about it. Take your kid along when you donate blood or visit an injured friend in the hospital. Invite them to help you make a casserole for your cousin who just had a baby. Have your kid come with you when you read to the blind at the library. Explain that giving is important in your family — then show them that’s true.