The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many of us into lockdown mode for more than two months now, so it's understandable if you and your kids are feeling anxious or unhappy. But there’s a remedy, backed by science. Studies show that with just an act of kindness—lending a helping hand to someone in need, or expressing gratitude for health care workers—you can improve your sense of well-being. By spreading goodwill, you can improve your mental health while making the world a better place.
Volunteering Activities for Students to Do at Home
So how can kids make a difference in the world without leaving their home? We put together five virtual-volunteering activities that you can share with students and their parents. Happy virtual volunteering!
1. Craft Cards for Seniors
Nursing homes and assisted living centers have gone on lockdown to keep seniors safe during the pandemic, leaving seniors lonely at a stressful time. Students can help brighten seniors’ day with a card or a letter. (There is currently no evidence that COVID-19 can be spread through the mail, according to the Centers for Disease Control.) Writing and creative card making can also give kids an outlet to express what they are feeling during this scary time in their lives.
Encourage kids to get crafty by providing them with a variety of materials for card making, including construction paper, glue, scissors, crayons or markers, ribbons, wrapping paper, and old magazines. If you think they might get stuck on what to write, suggest that they share a silly joke, describe a moment of joy or something they’re grateful for, or just wish their pen pal health and happiness. Send letters and cards to local nursing homes and assisted living centers or participate in a national campaign, such as Love for the Elderly.
2. Share Their Skills
Do you have students who can draw? Play the guitar? Knit? Take great photos? Pair them up over Zoom or FaceTime with other students at school who would like to learn new skills. If students’ skills are in entertaining—maybe they have standup comedy chops or mean dance moves, or they can sing or play an instrument—encourage them to record their act and share it with friends and family members (with permission from caregivers, of course) to help them beat the lockdown blues.
Another option is to set up a virtual tutoring service for students, run by students. Put out a call for volunteers—students who are fluent in Spanish, have superb math skills, or a knack for making writing sing—to help classmates in need of sharpening their skills. Once you have enough volunteer tutors, advertise their services on your school’s Facebook page or other social media channels.
3. Make a Donation
Challenge students to get their families together to clean kitchen cabinets, looking out for foods they can donate. They can check the website of their local soup kitchen for a list of foods needed. Typical items include peanut butter, dried pasta, and canned items such as tuna, soups, beans, vegetables, and fruit.
One of the benefits of being homebound is that there’s time for the whole family to clean out clothes closets. But students may have to set aside items until charities like Goodwill are open and accepting donations again. Another option is to hold a tag sale and donate the proceeds to a charity of their choice. Before they hand over any money, suggest that they check the organization’s track record at charitywatch.org.
4. Start a Petition
Ask students to brainstorm a list of problems in their community, or in the world, that are in need of solutions. Maybe there’s an intersection that needs a stop sign, a summer youth program that needs funding, or an endangered animal that needs protection. With permission from a parent, students can start a petition on change.org to garner signatures and make a difference. The site is known for wins, like putting an end to Bank of America’s $5 monthly debit card fees and helping to get the U.S. Department of Agriculture to ban pink slime in school lunches. Challenge students to come up with creative ways to spread the word about their petition.
Younger students could write to their representatives in Congress about an issue in their community and suggest ways to solve it. This might be a good time to practice letter writing and proper paragraph structure. Encourage students to write three paragraphs:
- Introduce themselves and briefly state why they are writing.
- Describe the problem.
- Suggest a solution to the problem.
Remind students to include the date, a greeting (Dear ______), and a closing word or phrase (Sincerely; Yours Truly).
5. Send Sidewalk Smiles
With some colorful chalk and creativity, a driveway, sidewalk, or cement wall can become a blank canvas for spreading positivity during the COVID-19 pandemic. Messages like these have appeared on sidewalks across the country: “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life”; “We Will Be OK”; “Brighter Days Ahead”; “Keep Your Sunny Side Up”; and “Thank You, Health Care Workers!” Encourage students to craft their hopeful and colorful messages on the pavement outside their homes. No chalk handy? Students can use crayons and construction paper to craft their messages and hang them on the front door or in windows where passersby can read them.
To help you continue teaching and learning during the current outbreak of coronavirus, visit HMH's At-Home Learning Support page for free resources.