10 Service Project Ideas to do with your family during COVID-19 to help your community
Service projects can be such a beautiful learning tool.
- Your family can substantially help another person and the experience can be heart-warming.
- It can also teach empathy and understanding. Use the projects not just as a meaningful family activity but describe who you are helping and what their situation is. This will help to nurture empathy, understanding, and a desire to live for another.
- Have older children help with preparing and organizing projects. This will become an opportunity to develop important skills like identifying a need and thinking of a solution, calling and speaking to someone about their ideas, and listing needed supplies and assembling them. They will learn the basics of what it takes to put a service project together.
Here are a few service project ideas along with some tips on how to use this as a learning opportunity for your children to nurture empathy and project organizing skills. Of course, please be fully involved adults present to guide the project along in case it gets stuck.
1. Create hand-made cards with positive messages for senior citizens
The whole family can get involved in this project from your youngest artists to your oldest children, and of course the parents too.
Learning about who you are serving:
The elderly in our communities, especially those with pre-existing health conditions are most vulnerable to COVID-19. Therefore, assisted-living facilities and senior homes can only have very limited visitors to keep them safe during this pandemic. Many are very lonely during this time because they were used to frequent visits from family and friends.
Involve the children in organizing the project:
In discussing with the facilities what we can do for our senior citizens, one acceptable idea was to make and send hand-made cards!
To make it more meaningful, we had the 9-12 year olds prepare and run the entire process themselves.
- Help them search online and identify a local assisted living facility, senior home, or rehabilitation center in your local community.
- You will need to confirm if they accept hand-made cards so the children will need to call the facility. Have them search for a phone number for the facility.
- Help your children create a simple script. This was ours:
“Hello. My name is _____. I am 9 years old. I am home because schools are currently closed. I would like to use my time doing a service project for my community. Would it be ok to make cards and send them to your facility?”
- Please have them practice in front of others before they make the call! They get really nervous but are so happy when they hear a “Yes! We would love to get cards from you”
- Assemble the materials and create cards.
- Take a trip to the post office together and send off!
Parents, please email the facility so they know the package is coming. Then the facility will also happily let you know when the package arrives.
Make each card count!
Points to be careful about when writing messages:
- Do not write things like “It will be ok.” For some it may not be so please be sensitive.
- Please do not have messages about getting better because some may have conditions they will not be able to recover from. So again, please be sensitive. So, no messages like “Hope you get better soon.” Or “Hope you feel better.”
- The main focus of each card is to bring a happy note and cheerful message to the recipient. So help each child understand this point and help them come up with their messages.
2. Create a Joke Book
This is an idea from a 9 year old.
He heard seniors are lonely because visitation policies have become very restricted during the COVID-19 pandemic. He realized they need cheering up and had an idea! To bring cheer and laughter to the seniors, he had an idea to create a joke book.
He assembled a team of his siblings and cousins. The children had a lot of fun looking for funny jokes in all sorts of genres.
The kids all sat around with a shared google slide open and found jokes online and cut and pasted the jokes. One child did the final work of categorizing the jokes and formatting them.
They went beyond our expectations. We were expecting a black and white, text-only list of jokes with their punchlines.
They considered the seniors are older, need large font, and color is easier to see.
For easiest delivery, we emailed the PPT to the assisted living facility.
Enjoy making your joke book.
Here are a few sample slides from their joke book.
3. Blankets for children in hospitals
We have worked on Project Linus since my girls were in first grade. We have done the project several times now. The project provides handmade blankets to hospitalized children. The blankets deliver love and comfort to a child, and for a child, it takes quite a lot of investment of focus, time, and hours of little fingers cutting, measuring, and knotting. So when they look at their blanket, it really is their gift of love.
There are people of all ages filling up the hospitals during the COVID-19 pandemic. Even though Project Linus is geared toward making blankets for infants and children, large blankets could probably still be made and brought to collection sites. The blankets might be given to children or perhaps a larger one could go toward someone older and larger who could also use the comfort a blanket can provide.
During COVID-19, various non-essential businesses have been asked to follow local health guidelines and have closed. Please call or email a blanket collection site before going for drop off. You can locate an active chapter near you here.
Sharing about who you are helping:
The About Page of Project Linus does a good job describing the difference a soft blanket can make to comfort a child who might be in and out of the operation room or spends week after week in a hospital battling a life-threatening sickness. I usually show the page and read the description so the children have an empathic heart and desire to create something that could offer comfort and love.
Choose an Appropriate Blanket to work on:
We have only done this blanket which is the simplest and most popular one. Children ages 5-10 could work on together, and it taught important skills like measuring, cutting straight, knotting, and following directions. It still takes great involvement of parents.
I print out the directions for the oldest ones to follow as they work in small teams.
If you have an older group that likes to knit or quilt, there are quite a lot of blanket types the Project Linus accepts. Here is a comprehensive list of blanket options.
Involve Children in Organizing the Project:
- Select the fleece patterns. During COVID-19, most of your purchasing will be online ordering so look through the cloth patterns together. Talk about who it will be for – a baby, a little girl or a toddler boy. They have unicorns, dinosaurs, and patterns of every kind. I usually buy 3 yards which allows for two blankets or one large one.
- Look over the directions together so everyone understands the steps and the order. Discuss the precautions together. It helps to build empathy. For example, some children are battling serious illness and they can get sick from the chemicals in the markers. That is why we will use masking tape and make marks only on the tape, never on the cloth directly. If you mark the blanket, they won’t be able to give your blanket to a child.
- Work in teams! Older children can perhaps make the blanket on their own. If you have younger children, pair them with older children. The younger children can learn to measure with a ruler and place marks every 1 inch. Some have enjoyed cutting the strips as well.
- Deliver your completed blankets together! Again, please call the collection center before delivering. Some stores are closed during this pandemic. Please locate a local collection point on this page.
4. “Anti-Boredom Kits” for neighborhood families with children or a local homebound senior
If you are the crafty mom type that finds all these neat activities to do with your children, make an extra set or two and give it to a neighborhood family with children.
Or perhaps create a box or bag with an activity for a local home-bound senior. It is very good for seniors to keep their hands moving and their minds working, especially if they cannot get out so much anymore. But think of their eyes and fingers, so try to make the crafts not too small or complex.
Here are a few ways to get started:
Idea 1: Internet Search for DIY crafts
The internet is full of great craft ideas! Just look up craft ideas for toddlers/children/teens/homebound senior and an endless stream of websites will appear.
Here are just a few sites to get you started
- Crafts by themes presented by Focus on the Family
Enjoy these activities with your family and create an anti-boredom kit for another.
Idea 2: Purchase simple crafts and assemble a kit
Another great idea that came in! The Dollar Store or Dollar Tree is still open during this time. (Please check before going to a hobby or craft store to see if they are open!). Stock up on the simple craft kits they sell to put into an anti-boredom kit for a neighborhood family.
Idea 3: Ordering anti-boredom kits online
I never purchased one online but today I learned anti-boredom kits is a thing. They actually sell kits with puzzles, games, or thematic crafts. Consider purchasing an anti-boredom kit or a craft kit and sending it as a gift to a family you know.
Here are a few references:
- Spring Boredom Buster Kit
- The Boredom Box
- Etsy has a whole boredom kit page with “Quarantine 2020 Survival Kits” to Fort starter kits and embroidery starter kits.
- And here is a site with a list of craft DIY kits you can purchase online and gift to someone you know.
All families have upped the handwashing practice and soap has become the greatest household commodity! This is a cute family activity sent in by a mom as a way to do their part to help during this COVID-19 pandemic.
Melt down your old soaps and reshape into cute characters. This makes a great gift to send to relatives or give out to neighbors.
The idea was picked up by a newly married couple who has made it their quarantine activity. Since they cannot go see relatives during this time, they will include the homemade soaps in care packages.
By extension, this becomes a fun and meaningful activity to do together as a family but a great excuse to make a care package, stay in contact with relatives through sending gifts, and getting back in touch with people you may have lost contact with over the years.
6. Home-made masks
Jo-Ann Fabrics has called on all craft lovers and sewers to use their talents to help with the shortage of masks. They have a goal to make 100,000,000 masks to response to the serious shortage of masks for our medical responders. They are halfway there!
You and your children can join in to make masks. Keep your own family safe with homemade masks. Distribute to neighbors, friends and family. If you are adept sewers, you can make them to donate through Jo-Ann to respond to the mask shortage.
Jo-Ann’s COVID-19 response page has all you need for mask making – cloth types, video tutorials, step by step blogs, and even background on how a mask can help fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
7. Deliver food to homebound seniors.
One mom sent in this project that her local Boys Scout Troop has organized. The Shoreline Boys Scouts Troop 309 has a scout doing his Eagle Project. He chose to organize food delivery to homebound seniors.
Here is the link to the donation site and his project.
Due to minimal contact, food is left outside the door. However, the scout and parent volunteers have prepared 2 ft tables for each senior because they cannot bend over to lift heavy food baskets.
Join this project. Or try it in your neighborhood. Partner with your local Meals on Wheels, Food Banks, or local church, mosque or charity to help with food delivery to seniors.
8. Buying gift cards from local businesses and donating to a family in need.
This was an idea I heard on Christian radio on how to help local businesses during this difficult time. Due to social distancing and health considerations, most coffee shops, restaurants, and delis have seen a drastic drop in business. Consider buying gift cards from a local small business (deli, restaurant, coffee shop, donut shop, local bakery).
I’m pairing the gift card purchase with a notice that went out from our school’s Parents-Teachers Association (PTA). Many families are in desperate need of support with the school and business closures. Many parents have lost their jobs as a result of COVID-19 closures. Although schools have tried to keep the hot meals program available for families that need the support, for some families it hasn’t been enough. Consider purchasing gift cards and, in turn, donating it to a family in need. Our PTA listed the collection centers for donated gift cards. Contact your local PTA that usually has a family advocate who knows which families are in need of support or find a local charity that accepts gift card donations.
This helps both sides – local businesses and families in need.
9. Thank You Cards for first responders and medical workers.
Medical workers, first responders, and nurses are putting their lives on the line to fight on the front lines of COVID-19. Several families who either recently spent time in a hospital or know someone in the medical field, spoke about how moved they are watching the medical staff work overtime to meet the demands of this pandemic. Some family members are called to build temporary medical facilities.
Consider making thank you cards and sending your appreciation, prayers and thoughts to them.
10. Pay it Forward – gift something to the overworked healthcare workers
Consider buying a treat or flowers with your family to send to our healthcare workers.
Describe the people you will be helping:
This is a very moving video tribute made for the medical workers, first responses, and nurses that are fighting on the frontline every day. Please watch this video called Thank you to all the SUPERHEROES on the front lines (Tribute to all Healthcare Workers).
There are some moving stories of local businesses that almost lost their businesses during COVID-19 but found new life from people paying it forward.
- Listen to this radio feature about Trophy Cupcakes from Spirit 105.3 https://www.spirit1053.com/2020/04/01/catch-the-spirit-trophy-cupcakes/.
- Watch this news clip about Pinkabella Cupcakes: https://komonews.com/news/coronavirus/the-generosity-has-come-through-gifting-treats-new-trend-to-keep-businesses-alive
- Chef Doran Brooks and Ritsu Yamamoto delivering 50 meals donated by Noble Fish to the Henry Ford Medical Center in Troy, MI along with some treats from White Wolf Japanese Patisserie. The staff who received the donation was crying with gratitude and you can hear her say all the staff have been working so hard. Here is the Facebook Video.
Involve your family:
- Have your children earn the money together. They can do odd jobs around the house that you might have hired someone to do. They can take on simple jobs or tasks focused on earning money for this project.
- Choose what you want to give.
Place a special order to a local bakery. One group gave decorated cookies with thank you messages.
Gift cupcakes from a local cupcake shop.
Purchase donuts from a local donut shop.
Bakeries have donated free coffee along with the treats.
Some Flower shops like Tulip Town are doing a campaign to donate bouquets to health workers. Find your local flower shop and place an online order to donate flowers.
- Choose where you want to donate to together.