Volunteering with Your Children

Parent Q&A

  • Volunteer at food pantry with 5 year old

    (2 replies)

    I want to take my 5 year old to a food bank for a volunteering opportunity. Ideal would be where we are sorting or packing food. Any reccomendations in the Bay Area?


    Is he very active? We volunteer at the Alameda County Community Food Bank and a child has to be ten because it is a busy warehouse with large food bins. However, ask around at churches. There is a food pantry in Berkeley where people can be food "ambassadors" for their neighborhood and collect donations for the organization. It's called the Berkeley Neighborhood Food Project. Good luck. It is such a rewarding activity.   

    The San Francisco/Marin Food Bank is an awesome place to volunteer with young children! They take volunteers ages 4 and up on Sundays; ages 8 and up Saturdays. Sign up online well in advance. The shifts are fun and positive; my kid and I have been doing this for years. 

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Archived Q&A and Reviews


Volunteer opps for 6 yo

July 2015

I'd like to get my 6 year-old involved in community service. Are there any organizations that would allow a volunteer as young as 6? Thanks in advance. Volunteering mama

Playland Not At the Beach! My 9-year-old daughter and I started volunteering there when she was 6 and she is still doing it. It is a nonprofit carnival museum - kids run carnival games and hand out tickets/prizes. It has been a great experience for her, and has given her self-confidence and enjoyment. If you haven't been there before, I would suggest paying the place a visit and seeing if it is your child's thing before committing to volunteering. Here is a link to more info: http://www.playland-not-at-the-beach.org/volunteers.html Playland volunteer

Yes! Give Together is a great local non-profit that organizes volunteer events for families with kids as young as 2 years old. My family has participated in a couple of events and loved it. Their website is: http://www.givegrow.org/ K

It can be difficult to find volunteer opportunities for kids, but there are some organizations that are happy to take on young volunteers.

This article on 510Families has a great list of potential volunteer gigs for families, along with advice on how to find more leads: http://www.510families.com/hands-on-volunteering-with-kids-in-the-bay-area/

If you live in Oakland, I also recommend the city's Adopt a Spot program (managed by the Public Works Agency). If you can make a regular commitment to clean a spot you love for at least one year, they provide all the tools -- trash grabbers, vests, garbage bags, gloves, etc. It's a wonderful way to make a difference in your neighborhood, and 6-year-olds can be a big help with this kind of work. For more info, visit: http://www2.oaklandnet.com/Government/o/PWA/o/FE/s/ID/OAK024735

I look forward to reading other suggestions. Best regards, Sara DuBois (Adult) Volunteer Coordinator Oakland Public Library

Doing volunteer work with a 10 year old

May 2014

When our son was little I always thought we would start doing volunteering work together as a family when he is older. Now that he is ten, We are ready, but wanted to start small so that we can continue building volunteering work into our busy life over the long term. What have you done that you would recommend? What would be most meaningful for a ten year old raised in a comfortable sunburn setting without much worry about anything?
Thank you for all of your recommendations and wisdom in advance. Looking for volunteering opportunities

I really like the San Francisco Food Bank-- now called the SF/Marin Food Bank-- for families with kids. On Saturdays the age minimum is 8 and on Sundays kids as young as 4 are allowed. The need for volunteers is significant; they're serving one in four SF and Marin County residents. Half of those served are kids under 18. Our family goes once a month; there's an easy online signup. Volunteering as a family is great

Try sorting food at the Alameda County Food bank. http://www.accfb.org/volunteering/ Volunteer

The Alameda County Community Foodbank is perfect for a family - you can all work together, your child can actually engage (unlike at many places with kids where they basically just watch you work), and it is a visceral experience of interacting with food for people who don't have... Maggie H

Our 8-year-old volunteers at Playland-Not-At-The-Beach in El Cerrito and just loves it. PNATB calls itself a ''museum of fun,'' as it is a non-profit dedicated to preserving the memory of the old Playland and carnival games. It is also a super fun place, with carnival games like Skee Ball, vintage pinball, and magic shows. Kid volunteers get to run carnival games, give out tickets and prizes... and also get to play games themselves when it is quiet or when their shift ends. We have found it be a very fun, family friendly place for all of us to volunteer together. The staff is very warm and nurturing, and our child has really developed confidence and maturity in helping out. But she has also enjoyed the gaming/entertainment aspect of it, which I think your son would too, from your description of him. Website for more info is here -- Kendra is the main contact for volunteering: http://www.playland-not-at-the-beach.org/volunteers.html mm_spark

Check out Give Together
They have some great community service events for families.

Baby-friendly volunteer opportunities

March 2014

I have a ten-week-old baby, and I will be staying home with him until the fall. Now that we are past survival mode, I would love to start volunteering in the community (I live in Oakland). I have a teaching credential, and I can tutor/help with college applications, resumes, etc. I would especially love to work with underserved youth. I can commit to something weekly, but I will have my baby with me. Does anyone know of any volunteer opportunities that are baby-friendly? Thank you! Hoping to give back

Bay Area Parent Leadership Action Network (PLAN) 7700 Edgewater Drive, Suite 130 Oakland, CA 94621 Tel. 510-444-7526, Ext. 303 Fax: 510-444-7527 www.parentactionnet.org Anon

Our school needs you! We are ASCEND, right next to the Fruitvale BART station in East Oakland. Our K-8 teachers would LOVE to have help from you, even with a baby in tow (I would imagine). Contact me and I can put you in touch with some of the middle school teachers (or any grade you'd like). My daughter just started in kinder and my wife is the principal. This is a public school that started in our living room! Seriously. Some concerned parents and teachers got together and wrote a proposal to start their own small public school and it worked! The ''small schools movement'' in Oakland was just starting and it has been a fabulous success. But one of the many, many things needed are more volunteers. Anyone else reading this post, please contact me if you can help. Any little thing can help! I go in once per week and run a literacy group in K. My mom comes in and works with two children (one at a time) who have no one in their lives loving them, helping them, etc. She's doing literacy activities with them, but mostly what she's doing is being someone who cares about them, gives them love and attention, and is becoming a ''Nana'' that they can count on to spend some time with them consistently. There are so many other kids who need that too! So if anyone reading this post feels intimidated to ''help'' in an academic environment- DON'T. Just coming in and reading a story with a child, practicing their number & letter recognition, etc. can help. You don't need to be academically inclined to be able to do that and these kids NEED YOU. Thanks!!! Mailisha

If you don't know about the program ''Roots of Empathy'' you might want to look into it. It pairs a family with a baby with a classroom (usually K-5 I think) and schedules about 10 visits throughout the year. The point is for the kids to develop empathy by watching the baby's expressions and actions, as well as watch the baby grow and meet significant milestones. I don't know how young your baby needs to be when you start, but it's worth a look if you're interested! Rebecca

Some nursing homes have programs where you can bring your baby in to see the residents. A lot of them are far from grandkids and like to see babies! When my kids were younger we went to a program once a month at Piedmont Gardens off Piedmont Ave. in Oakland. You might call to see if they still have it running. Good luck!

Check out Roots of Empathy. I don't know anything about them firsthand, but the idea (I think) is that they teach empathy to schoolchildren by actually having a baby in the classroom. anon

Volunteering with a baby is hard for so many reasons. But have you checked out Roots of Empathy? www.rootsofempathy.org They work in K-8 classrooms and what you'd do is bring your baby in every few weeks while the class learns to observe your child and learn how to interpret the baby's feelings, in other words learn empathy. Sounds like it might be a great fit and there's a chapter in the Bay Area. Laurel

Volunteer Opportunities for family with 3 kids

Nov 2013

Hello! I was looking for some recommendations on places to volunteer as a family. We have a 6, 8 and 11 year old and have volunteered at the food bank in San Francisco as they will allow kids as young as 4 to participate. My kids loved that, but I was also interested in other opportunities where they can be directly involved and, ideally, it's an organization on this side of the Bay.
Thanks in advance!
Hoping to Help
http://www.bethelberkeley.org/getinvolved/homeless-meal Congregation Beth El has been serving a wonderful, multi-course chicken dinner to 125 - 200 people on the third Sunday of each month for over 20 years. We are part of a network of places of worship which ensure that at least one hot meal is available every weekend on Berkeley's northside. New and experienced volunteers are needed. The more people who learn the tasks of preparing, serving and cleaning up, the more volunteers we have to draw from. Sign up to serve at the next meal. Sign-ups are by time and task. All helpers are welcome, Beth El members or not. As long as young children (generally 6 or older) are supervised by their parents, there are tasks that they can do to be part of this important community service. happy mom volunteer
The Unitarian Universalist Church of Berkeley (UUCB.org) up on the hill at the top of Moeser Lane in El Cerrito helps out at a community dinner at GRIP, a center in Richmond, every month or so. Get on UUCB's mailing list and the GRIP notices come out every so often. El Cerrito love

The Public Works Agency (PWA) in Oakland has a great volunteer opportunity that might be a good match for you... Check out the Adopt a Spot program at http://www2.oaklandnet.com/Government/o/PWA/o/FE/s/ID/OAK024735.

You can commit (for at least one year) to picking up litter from your family's favorite Oakland park, street, median, or other public space. PWA provides all the supplies you will need and the program staff is very helpful if you run into any issues. There are also a lot of opportunities for single days of service if you don't want to adopt a site for an entire year.

My young son and I have been picking up trash around the Main Library for almost a year, and I've found it to be a very rewarding experience. I work (part-time) as the Library's volunteer coordinator, but this is a personal volunteer commitment and I can't recommend it enough.Please contact adoptaspot [at] oaklandnet.com to learn more. Sara

Volunteering once a month with 9 and 13 year olds

Jan 2013

We would like to volunteer our time about once a month cooking or serving food somewhere for people less fortunate with our children, ages 9 and 13. Preferably in our local community of Berkeley. Ideas, suggestions? mom who wants kids to give back

What a nice thought! Kids that age are welcome to volunteer for the monthly Homeless Meal at Beth El: http://www.bethelberkeley.org/getinvolved/homeless-meal Volunteer enthusiast

Families at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Berkeley serve meals once a month at the Greater Richmond Interfaith Project shelter for families - you're certainly welcome to join in! All the kids end up running around and generally having a great time. Contact Family Minister Amy Moses-Lagos at amy.moses-lagos [at] uucb.org for more info. Albany Dad

Looking for Volunteer Opportunities with a Toddler

Sept 2012

My three years old son and I are looking for volunteer opportunities. We have joined Berkeley Shore Cleaning in September 2011. We have not found any volunteer Activities since then. It is not easy to find one. My son enjoys helping. We, both also lean from doing activates together. Please let me know if there is any. Thank you. Shun

Check out www.volunteermatch.org. They have a great, searchable database. Have fun! anon

What a nice idea! My teen son volunteered at a senior living facility. He would just go in and talk to the older people living there, and they loved having a young person around. I would imagine your toddler would brighten their days. Go to volunteermatch.org to find a place that is convenient for you. That's a really good web site that allows you to type in what you are interested in, where you live, and provides you with the names of organizations looking for volunteers and a description of what they are looking for. Carrie

Volunteer Chance for 10 year old Boy

Aug 2012

Hi, My son (10 year) is looking for a volunteer opprtunity. He likes exploring nature, reading books, playing a violin, swimming, and growing plants. I searched http://www.serve.gov/ site. Yet I was able to find for adults, not for elementary students. We live in Albany. I can trasnport him if it is less than one hour driving range. Thanks Iris


At 10 years old, you most likely will have to volunteer along with him. Here are two places where we have enjoyed volunteering together as a family:

Alameda County Food Bank - food sorting http://www.accfb.org/

MedShare - sorting surplus medical supplies medshare.org MedShare is a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving healthcare and the environment through the efficient recovery and redistribution of the surplus of medical supplies and equipment to those most in need. We collect surplus medical supplies and equipment from hospitals, distributors and manufacturers, and then redistributes it to qualified healthcare facilities in the developing world. We also outfit medical missions and safety net clinics in both the U.S. and abroad. Helena

Check out http://www.volunteermatch.org/ Put in your city, then search, then click ''suitable for kids'' I hope you find a good fit! best wishes

Your son can do a book drive for the African Library Project. www.africanlibraryproject.org He would have to collect 1,000 books and about $500 for shipping. It might not be the kind of ongoing volunteering you are looking for, but lots of kids have done it and had a great time making a difference. deborah [at] africanlibraryproject.org

Our Family started volunteering to care for cats and kittens with the Berkeley East Bay Humane Society, (http://www.berkeleyhumane.org/adoptions/pets), when our son was nine or so. It has been a fun experience. We now foster a kitten or two in our spare room as a way to keep up the volunteering. Fostering at our home gives my son more flexibility with his after school schedule and he's learning about the all important ''giving back to the community''. He feels like he's doing something, we all do. And we get our hug-a-kitten fix. The BEBHS gives training sessions on how to foster, they supply everything, are very supportive, available for any questions and so nice to work with. We have the fosters for a week or two until they are spayed/neutered and then ready for the adoption process. It's very organized, so you won't be left on your own, if this appeals to your 10 yo. mom of kid volunteer

My 11 year old son and I have been volunteering at the East Bay SPCA for the past several months. We help take care of the cats and have really enjoyed it. Their website is www.eastbayspca.org. Kathy

In the Presidio, there are several volunteer programs your son may be interested in, the third Sunday they have a family friendly event if he wanted to start with that, but all of the weekend programs would be suitable for a ten year old, there are some ''regulars'' that are just slightly older, but I think started around then. (my husband works for the National Park service, and runs some of these programs, if you would like some more info or specific times or such you can look it up on the presidio website. There are also volunteer opportunities at the botanical garden in golden gate park, I believe. Good luck, awesome to be a volunteer!! LEW-SF


Volunteering in Haiti with 6 year old

May 2012
I have been wanting to do some volunteer work in Haiti. Do you know how to go about doing this? I am a psychotherapist, have some building experience and speak French. I would love to bring my 6-year old son with me - thoughts?
Thanks so much. Anon.

I was a volunteer for the Hurricane Katrina disaster. Also have done builds with Habitat. After Katrina, we camped in tents for about 8 days. I highly do NOT recommend any children that young - usually the age limits for these volunteer groups is 16.  The sites are dangerous, and there
specific vaccinations are required due to the threat of disease and infection.  It's hot, sweaty and not comfortable. It's hard work and not a vacation, not at all suitable for a child that young.  Sandra

Volunteering with 3-year-old in tow?

Jan 2011

Since I was a teenager, I have always had an active volunteer life. I waited until my 40s to have my daughter, so there were many years of adulthood too, where I always had at least one volunteer activity going. It truly does feed my soul. My daughter is now 3, and I've taken a break from active volunteering since her birth (except for taking food to People's Park on a somewhat regular basis, which she does accompany me to do). I'd like to start some more formal volunteer work again, but I'd also like to bring her along-- partly because the free time I have for volunteering is also time I have her with me, and also because I want her to grow up seeing that volunteer work and active involvement in our community are a normal part of life. My question is: what volunteer opportunities would be best suited for a mom with 3-year-old in tow? My past volunteering activities were mostly not things she could easily accompany me for--such as writing groups with teens, tutoring for example--any ideas? Can you bring a child delivering Meals on Wheels? Could I read to kids at a shelter where she could just join the group? Does anyone have a favorite charity or a volunteer experience to share? wanting to contribute

For the posters looking for ways to volunteer when you have young kids: I just found out about Sparked.com, which lets you volunteer your skills online to help non-profits, usually in conveniently small chunks. For example, you might edit a newsletter or review a logo concept - you enter your skills and interests and it returns results tailored to you. I found it to be almost impossible to physically volunteer for things when my kids were small, but helping out virtually is a great alternative. JP

Try a nursing home. I took my toddler to one on Oakland years ago and did everything from working in the gift shop, to visiting, to sitting with residents at mealtime. My son loved all the attention and the residents loved having a little one around Anonymous

When I was in your shoes, I called around and found that few charities accept volunteers with toddlers or even young children in tow. Even the library didn't want me ( Rockridge) to read to the kids weekly with my child in tow. So I started thinking creatively. Ideas: 1)Do your own bake sales or yardsales at home or at parks and give the money to charities. 2)Make crafts to sell as above. 3)Organize donation drives for a shelter or program using e-mail among your friends or preschool parents then you coordinate and deliver the items donated. 4) Offer to drive elders or sick people you know who are friends or from church ( toddler goes with you) 5) Offer to shop for or deliver home-cooked food to elders or sick people you know. Toddler goes with you to the market and on delivery. JM

I am going to suggest this to the other person who wants to volunteer with a toddler. Check out the George Mark House in San Leandro. I just went to their open house and I heard of volunteers taking their children to the activities. Granted, it may be a difficult place for some, but absolutely remarkable, and the only one of it's kind in the country. The facility cares for children with life-limiting illness - essentially, children who are expected to pass away soon. They have an astonishingly beautiful facility, and need volunteers in many areas, so if working with the children might be a bit much, they can certainly use you in other areas. The volunteer coordinator's name is Courtney Redis. Do

Chaparral House (home for very frail seniors) has a ''balloon toss'' activity on Saturday and Sunday mornings in which the seniors (those who are able) hit balloons back and forth with volunteers. I brought my five-year-old son a few weeks ago and the seniors just lit up when he came into the room. They were so excited to see a cute little kid, and some of them reminisced about their own child-rearing years. He was the star of the show! And he had a great time playing balloon ball with the seniors. Your daughter might not be old enough to actually hit the balloon back and forth, but she can just have fun playing with one of the balloons and the seniors can have fun watching her kid energy while you play balloon ball with them. Have fun!

To both moms who want to volunteer with your young child-it's great that you want to get back into it and expose your kids from the beginning to ''giving back.'' As a volunteer manager, however, I must caution that not all volunteer positions are suited to having young children along, and to be sensitive to that. You are responsible forboth watching your child as well as your volunteer tasks (as you know, I'm sure, but some people don't seem to realize this) so as not to create extra work for staff, disruption to a program, etc. You also may not be able to give your full attention to the task at hand when keeping an eye on a child; toddlers can be quite disruptive to an office setting where staff are trying to work. I get many requests to bring toddlers along in tutoring situations, which is not fair to the student being tutored. Check online postings on Hands On Bay Area (I think that's what it's called-I've moved out of the area) and volunteermatch.org to scan through postings to see what would be suitable and fun for both of you. There are ''virtual'' opportunities too-one of these might work. Doinggoodtogether.org is a great resource for family volunteer ideas-geared more towards kids who are old enough to truly participate, but it will give you some good ideas (even tho it's based in Minneapolis). I would highly recommend volunteering with elders-they LOVE having kids visit and since you're just ''hanging out'' you're not trying to complete any tasks on schedule. I hope my post isn't too negative-I commend you and am just giving food for thought! Been there


Volunteer opportunities for family with 4-year-olds

Nov 2008

We would like to instill the value and fun of community service in our family. We have four year old twins and would like to include them in volunteerism this winter. Do you know of any volunteer opportunities for our entire family? Thanks! Alison

If you can afford it, you might consider adopting a local very-low-income family in need through Compass Community Services (www.compass-sf.org). The organization can try to match you with a family of specific genders/ages/#s of kids. It's not exactly an ''activity'' in the way you might have been thinking of, but your twins might enjoy the process of shopping, choosing clothes/toys for other kids, and thinking about what it means to not be able to buy these things for themselves. anon

Have you tried calling your local senior center/ home care center? Having children come through these facilities is like a breath of fresh air. I have heard of small groups or classes go through with magazines, songs or homemade treats (healthy of course) for the holidays. Good luck

Volunteering and bringing 10-month-old along

June 2007

Hi, I am a social worker (MSW) that is currently a stay at home mom. My daughter is 10 mos old. While I am not ready to go back to work yet, I was hoping to get involved in the community again and do some volunteer work. I am looking for recommendations/advice on places that are appropriate to volunteer at with my daughter, as I dont have anyone that I can leave her with at this time. Please let me know if you know of any organizations in the East Bay (close to Emeryville) Thanks... mina

Hello, I'm the director at the Berkeley YMCA running all of the youth and family programs. I wanted to let you know about a volunteering opportunity available to parents where they can bring their children. We have many volunteers in our Childwatch room. Volunteers work one 4 hour shift per week watching children in the Childwatch room along with the paid staff. They read stories, feed and diaper little ones, play and provide appropriate activities. This works to bring your child with you as long as your child allows you to interact primarily with other children. There are lots of benefits to doing this volunteer work, and if you are interested in hearing more about it, please contact the volunteer coordinator. She can be reached at 510-665-3273. Good luck finding the right volunteering fit for you and your family! Eden O.

Volunteering With Toddler

Dec 2004

I am searching for info on organizations that allow small children to be involved with their parents' volunteer efforts. I have an almost two year old and have many parent friends & toddler friends who would like to get involved in community volunteer work all together. Does anyone have organizations to recommend, experiences to share, or tips to pass on? Thanks very much. Alison

On Thanksgiving we signed up with Little Brothers-Friends of the Elderly to visit seniors who were alone for the holiday. We took our 2 and 1 year olds and we all had a great time at the Laguna Honda Hospital. The elders loved being with the kids and the kids loved being the center of attention. We will be spending all holidays volunteering through this program. Elizabeth

Family of 4 wants to volunteer in the community

November 2003

I would like recommendations of where our family of four (two children 9 & 5) could volunteer our time doing community service projects. We are not members of any church and are not necessarily looking for a church to join. We just want to be able to be involved in providing some good within the community and teach our children the value in this. We live in North Berkeley. thanks

Every year we volunteer at the Richmond Rescue Mission, either to help with Thanksgiving or Christmas dinners, or to help wrap Christmas gifts for children. They are a Christian organization but do not preach to you about it. Call them, because their sign-up sheets, esp. for the gift- wrapping sessions, books up fast. anon

Hello, You can use VolunteerMatch (http://www.volunteermatch.org). It's free, it's easy and it uses your ZIP code to find an opportunity in your area. On the search form you can check the box ''great for kids'' to find opportunities that welcome kids. An Active Volunteer

Go to www.volunteermatch.org. Plug in your zip code, then click on ''refine your search'' to tell how far you are willing to travel, and that you want opportunities suitable for kids. They will come up with opportunities that match your preferences.

If you are specifically interested in helping at homeless/shelter meals, get info at http://www.berkeleyfreeclinic.org (if this doesn't work, Google berkeley homeless meals, and select the option starting Berkeley Free Clinic). R.K.

Summer volunteering for 9-year-old

July 2003

I am looking for opportunities in which my nine-year-old son could volunteer his time this summer. I was thinking along the lines of his working with younger children (reading stories, helping physically challenged children...something similar) I don't know whether anything like that exists for children as young as 9, and I would certainly be able to supervise him, but I would appreciate hearing about such an opportunity. Thanks.

I think there's something at the Albany library where older kids read to pre-schoolers. You might want to call them. Mary