45 Family Service Project Ideas for Your Service Advent Calendar
Every year, throughout the month of December, we like to do some sort of advent calendar. Some years, I get creative and think of fun treats to put in the pockets of our homemade advent calendar.
Other years, I just buy the cheap, cardboard calendar with chocolate pieces behind little, perforated doors. One year, I purchased 25 children’s Christmas books and wrapped them so we could read one each night. Another year I bought a lego advent calendar with lego toys behind each door.
This year, however, I had the most fantastic idea!
Last year we took Christmas to a refugee family living in a family shelter. A couple of years ago we took Christmas to a single mom and her kids. Those experiences were more meaningful to my family than all of our other Christmases combined!
I want my kids to experience the joy of service again this year. So I’m creating a service advent calendar! I can’t think of a better gift for us to give our Savior![bctt tweet=”There is no better gift to give our Savior this Christmas than to serve your fellow men.”]
It’s an unfortunate fact of life that children are not born altruistic. Yes, babies are sweet. I love the feel of a soft, tiny head bobbing against my neck. But if that baby gets hungry, or tired, or gassy, you can bet he’s going scream and cry until the cows home. His needs come first, and his little world revolves around him.
If we want to raise compassionate kids, we have to teach them compassion. Volunteering together as a family helps kids learn that they can make a difference in the lives of others and that serving others feels good.
Family service cultivates empathy and helps children learn to recognize their own blessings and be grateful for them. Volunteering together also strengthens family bonds in ways no other activity can. Memories made while volunteering together will last forever.
Each of these advent activities is family-focused and a great way to connect as a family.
I’ve shared 45 service ideas below, but an advent calendar is only 25 days, so you can pick and choose the ideas you like best. I’m going to let my kids help choose the service ideas they like best, but I’ll be sure our calendar contains plenty of super easy, no-prep ideas. There are so many ways to serve others, and they don’t need to be big. December is a busy month and I want our goal to be achievable.
Your advent calendar doesn’t even have to be 25 days. It could be shorter. You could call it the 12 days of Christmas instead. Or you could just choose 10 service ideas and intersperse them with fun holiday ideas from your bucket list — things like decorating your tree, listening to Christmas music, or having a nativity lesson.
Here are several fun ideas for ways to construct your advent calendar. Or you could just write the ideas on the sticky side of the sticky notes, write the number on the back of the sticky note, and stick the notes to a calendar. Or you could print the activities on a piece of paper, cut them apart and fold them into a mason jar. You don’t have to be fancy!
We would love for your family to join us in service!
Just think, if 1000 families join us, completing 10 acts of service each, that’s 10,000 acts of service! Now that is something to celebrate![bctt tweet=”The happiest people I know are those who lose themselves in the service of others. ~Gordon B. Hinckley”]
Family Service Project Ideas for Your Service Advent Calendar:
1. Color ‘thank you’ notes and leave them with a plate of treats in the mailbox for your mail carrier.
2. Adopt an angel from the Angel Tree. The prison fellowship has a great Angel Tree organization if you need help finding one.
3. Compliment someone.
4. Choose your favorite non-perishable food items to fill a grocery sack or two and donate them at your local food bank. Feeding America offers a Food Bank locator, searchable by zip code.
5. Have your kids make cards for family, friends and neighbors, then deliver them as a family.
6. Take thank-you notes and a plate of goodies to your local police officers or firefighters.
7. Make a small gift of appreciation for your child’s teacher.
8. Babysit for a family friend so the parents can go on a date.
9. Offer to hang an elderly neighbor’s Christmas lights.
10. Go Christmas caroling at your local hospital and spend some time visiting with the sick.
11. Shovel, rake, or mow for a neighbor.
12. De-clutter and give your gently-used items to a local thrift store.
13. Pack a Christmas shoebox for Operation Shoebox
14. Instead of throwing away the travel-sized shampoo and soap from your hotels, save them. Use them to stuff new, warm socks, along with water bottles and granola bars to give to homeless men and women you pass on street corners.
15. Have a yard sale and donate the proceeds.
16. Take a Family Humanitarian Vacation – More planning, time and financial commitment are involved with this one, but it is certainly life-changing for both your family and those you are serving! Some friends of ours travel annually to Mexico to help build orphanages.
17. Have your kids draw a picture for their bus driver and give it to him with a small treat.
18. Donate a toy to a Toys for Tots collection bin
19. Make a ‘gratitude jar’. Decorate a mason jar and leave it on your counter, along with a pen and a stack of small papers. Throughout advent, the whole family can write their blessings on slips of paper then place them in the jar. Try to fill the jar to the brim with all of your blessings. Reading the blessings from the jar would be a fun addition to a lesson on gratitude.
20. Bring flowers to a widow or older single woman.
21. If you’re crafty, make a few hairbows or other accessories and take them to the family shelter, to little girls who wouldn’t otherwise have them.
22. Have your kids round up their gently used books and DVDs and donate them to a local children’s hospital.
23. Put on a talent show at a nursing home. You could sing Christmas carols, play instruments, recite poetry, or whatever sounds fun to your kiddos. The show doesn’t matter much — the most important part of this service is to spend some time talking individually with the residents and to leave them feeling special and loved. You could also take homemade cards or Christmas decorations to add holiday cheer to resident’s rooms. Be sure to call ahead and schedule your visit with the activities coordinator.
24. Leave sticky notes with random compliments on them on mirrors in public bathrooms.
25. Leave a generous tip and a nice note for your server after eating out.
26. Drop off a plate of cookies and a thank you note to your local librarians.
27. Decorate holiday cards for soldiers overseas. Red Cross-sponsored Holiday Mail for Heroes will deliver letters postmarked before Dec. 10, 2010. There are also organizations you can donate candy to as well.
28. Offer to take a shopping cart to the cart corral for someone else at the store.
29. Plan a service auction. Our church youth group sponsors a service auction every year where they youth auction off services like babysitting, tutoring and gift-wrapping, and all the money raised is donated to a charity.
30. Give someone an unexpected hug
31. Take your dog for an extra walk, play with it and give it some extra love.
32. Walk the dogs and pet the cats at an animal shelter.
33. Smile and wink at someone who looks frazzled.
34. Buy a bag of fun-sized candy bars and hand them out to all the frazzled shoppers at Walmart.
35. Call up far away grandparents for a fun chat and to make them feel remembered and loved.
36. Assign each child a sibling to secretly serve throughout an entire week; helping with chores, making their bed, playing with or reading to a younger child.
37. Record senior histories at a nursing home, then offer to send the mp3 files to a family member.
38. Serve at a soup kitchen.
39. Adopt a family for the Holidays through a local business or church, and let your kids help shop for that family.
40. Sew menstrual supplies for the Days for Girls program to help empower girls throughout the world. The projects are easy enough for young children to sew.You have to check out their program if you haven’t heard of them!
41. Donate blankets or coats to a ‘Keep Warm in the Winter’ drive — One Warm Coat has locations near you or check with your local church or service organization. One year we made quilts and donated them to our local homeless shelter.
42. Volunteer as a family to be bell ringers for the Red Kettle.
43. Invite a neighbor or two over for dinner.
44. Hold the door open for someone or help them with their groceries.
45. Pick up trash and beautify a local park.
Pin these family service ideas for later!
Volunteering as a family does not require a whole lot of time or money. Most of the ideas on this list are very cheap or free. Several of them require zero preparation or thought.
My sister-in-law is an excellent example of seeing needs and immediately jumping in to fill them. I want my kids to be like her! Serving is a skill that should be taught. You can teach your kids to identify and fulfill the needs that exist all around them.
Don’t wait until your kids are grown to teach them empathy and compassion. They will not only be more enthusiastic when they’re younger, but starting kids young on service also creates lifelong habits. Imagine if we all committed to raising selfless kids.[bctt tweet=”Please join us in 25 days of small acts of service. Let our hearts and hands be stretched out in compassion towards others.”]
I hope this has inspired you to get out there and share some family service with the people in your community. Have fun! Please reply in the comments if you decide to join us, and share your service ideas and experiences!