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Volunteering For Kids

In this day and age of Social Media and online living kids are being drawn more and more into virtual worlds and often words that are based on a fair bit of narcissism. Kids are caring more and more about outward appearance not just of themselves but oft heir lives as a whole. Often you will find tweens and teens engrossed in their phones or tablets looking at the lives of others and seeing how theirs compares. So many young people are falling into the trap of believing they are not enough as is and as a result are spending far too much time and energy trying to make themselves look better, their lives look more exciting all for some likes from strangers. With increasing energy going into themselves and an inward look at their own lives our children and teens are being drawn into a more narcissistic culture that is making for higher numbers of depression as they are constantly being made to feel inadequate. There are many ways to try and combat this growing trend in superficial and self-absorbed behavior and one of my favourite ways is to get kids looking outwards not inwards is volunteering. Volunteering can bring such much needed perspective into the lives of our teenagers and even younger kids giving them a greater sense of purpose in helping others and it is something that will be more inwardly satisfying than the amount of ‘likes’ on a picture.

What Does Volunteering Look Like?

Now Volunteering sums up a lot of images, from the extremely glamorous building houses in Africa to the totally unglamorous sweeping the floor of a home for the elderly. Volunteering can often seem like it takes to much work to organize, finding the right organization, often having to pay for your privilege. This is not the kind of volunteering we are talking about here. Especially not for young kids and teens. Lets think of Volunteering more as giving acts of service within your local community and even family and now all of a sudden it doesn’t sound so daunting or hard, but a little more interesting and fun. These acts of service that you can enroll your kids in can have such a positive impact, to your children’s and to the community and to the person or people they are helpings lives.

Where To Begin?

There are a few different ways to go about making volunteering a part of your kids lives. It can be an incidental thing, something that happens when the moment arises or a more thought out process. If you are a bit stumped yourself as to where to start on this journey of service giving then it may be good to firstly sit down yourself and make a list, starting close to home then branching out, of any family members, Aunties, Uncles, Grandmothers or Grandfathers that may need some extra help in some areas. Even Cousins or Siblings can be included. For example a Grandparent may need help with some gardening or a cousin may need some help with a school project in a subject your child excels in. When you’ve done with family you can start thinking about the wider community. Organizations you may be a part of, other people you know that may be in a less fortunate position that your own kids or be going through some personal issues and may need a bit of extra help around the home, in the yard or in another aspect of life. Once you’ve gone through that take a look on the internet and see if there are any community organizations that do run volunteering programs, soup kitchens, making care packs for the homeless, tutoring or mentoring programs (This for the older kids) for disadvantaged kids. You will be surprised at what is out there and how many different ways there are of providing acts of service.

So How Do I Get My Kids Involved?

Now that you’ve done a bit of your own research it’s time to get your kids on board with it. If you feel like you need to start with a more subtle approach you can try casually mentioning there is a family member who needs a bit of extra help and you were going to go around and help out and would love it if they could join you. This method can work with particularly resistant teens. After going and doing these stealth acts of service a few times you may find your kids enjoying themselves and the feeling it gives them to get out of their own head and be helping others and they may naturally start looking for opportunities to help out themselves. This is of course the best case scenario and if it happens to your kids then great!! Well done. But it is not always going to be the case so may I suggest a more forward approach. Try sitting down with your kids and talking to them and saying how as a family you would love to start looking for more ways to help others. Make sure you are not pinning it all on them or they will start to get suspicious and instantly resistant. Try not to make them feel bad for not always doing service for others, instead think of the service activities they may have done in the past and remind them of how good it made them feel and how proud you were of them being able to give of themselves. Then put it back on them, ask your kids for suggestions of how they can give acts of service and whom they can give acts of service to. Make a list with them and share your own list with them also if they are having trouble. Talk to your kids about the importance of helping others and being grateful that they are in a position where they are able to help others.

Now if any of these options just flat out don’t or wont work for your children but you are still very keen on having them involved in some volunteering or service projects then may I suggest finding a volunteering program already set up in your community in which you can enroll your kids into. Youth groups and church groups quite often have programs going on which provide great help to the local community and even to countries abroad. You may find your kids resentful at first and not interested but with a bit of time and once they start to see the positive impact they are able to make I’m sure they will start to look at it in a different light and happily continue on with great volunteering work.

Volunteering And Service Ideas

If you are feeling a bit stumped for ideas on just how your kids can help contribute to the lives of others, I’ve outlined a few simple suggestions.

– Helping out the elderly

This can be with housework and gardening or just by simply spending time reading books, listening to their stories and being a companion. The elderly have a lifetime of experiences and stories that they often so happy to share. Your kids are sure to learn some amazing things and their elderly companions will have to joy of being able to share.

– Mentoring and Tutoring

If you have teenagers this can be a great one. There may be special needs kids at their school or kids that come from disadvantaged areas of town that need a little extra help with school work or just a friend to hang at the park, go for walks or even to play video games with! This can be a great way for them to be a positive influence and to realize how lucky they themselves have it.

– Activity Boxes

This is great for younger kids. Have them fill a small box with some fun games and activities they may have grown out of or even shop with them at charity stores for some things they can donate to children’s hospitals or children from disadvantaged homes. It’s a beautiful way for them to share and see the smiles it can light up on another kids face.

– Town Cleanups

Town cleanups are great ways of giving back to the community, affiliate your kids with an existing group or help them to start their own around beaches or parks or bush areas and help them hold clean up days to reduce litter. This helps them to respect the community they are a part of and a great way to help them with their Eco Journey.

– Walks and Fun Runs

Many schools and local groups put of a few ‘fun runs’ or walks for charities. Such as walks to raise awareness and donations for cancer. This can be a way of teaching them compassion and about the real things that effect peoples lives everyday. A lovely and fun way to show they care and to raise some money for good causes.

– Animal Care

If your child has an affinity or love for animals then maybe helping out at an animal shelter could be the right fit for them. Spending time with animals has been proved to be very therapeutic and being able to help them to have better lives is a very satisfying and worthwhile thing to do.

– Sharing Stories

Another great one for kids is sharing stories and visiting children in hospital. Helping to brighten their day and put a smile on the faces of sick children can be fulfilling for people of all ages. Bring some games along too and get involved!

Volunteering And Social Media

One of the most useful tips I have found in getting your children involved in volunteer work is to get them to leave their phones/devices behind. These can be very addictive and teens can particularly find it difficult to focus on other people and service when they have a link to the ‘glamorous’ world in their pocket. You may find them sneaking off on toilet breaks that last a little to long just to check in or stay connected.

Another peril of having a phone with them is the use of social media while they are working. In some cases social media can be a great tool for promoting a project they are working on that may need donations or more volunteers. The it would be appropriate for them to share what they are doing on social media. But there is a downside also, and that is by ‘sharing’ their ‘stories’ or photos of their volunteer work they are also feeding back into that self absorbed world and possibly using their volunteer work as a way of showing off how thoughtful they are, which in the end leads back to a very narcissistic way of thinking.

When involving your kids in volunteer and service projects It’s important to talk to discuss with them the ‘why’ of what they are doing. Explaining that acts of service should not be something to boast about or used for social status in anyway, acts of service are just that, acts of service and are done to help others. When they are volunteering it is for the benefit of others and their own personal growth.

They Can Do It!

Most importantly with doing acts of service with children and teens, make it an experience they can enjoy. It doesn’t mean it has to be ‘fun’ or ‘easy’ but more that it is something they can come out of at the end of seeing a positive result and how they were able to make a difference in the lives of others. Once they see this they will be far more inclined to want to do more and look for more opportunities in their day to day lives to provide acts of service to others and in looking outside themselves and into the needs of others you will find your kids growing more patience and compassion and having more gratitude for the life the do lead. Have faith in your kids and let them know that they have so much good to give and offer the world and you’ll see how this can lift them from self obsessed kids to respectful and compassionate young people.


Sustainable And Eco kids Clothing, Is It Worth It?

What is Eco Clothing?

In the last few years the words ‘Sustainable’ and ‘Eco’ have entered our lives in a range of different ways. One of the standouts of this is within the clothing and fashion industries. There have been documentaries and TV shows dedicated to exposing the trap of fast fashion and the waste that the fashion industry creates. And also there has been a growing awareness of asking the question of ‘where do you clothes come from?’ This is asked in every aspect of the garment, to the growing of the natural fabrics, to the creating of synthetics and then into the factories where the fabric is being made into clothing, and who is it being made by?

There are so many questions that come up when you look deeper into the fashion industry. While there has been a range of clothing brands who are either starting up and declaring they are ‘Ethical’ ‘Sustainable’ or ‘Eco’ most of these have been for adults and within that mostly aimed at woman’s fashion.

So while it’s easier to think of adults shopping less frequently and for better quality where does this leave kids?

From birth until teens children grow at a high rate. As a baby they may only spend one to two months in the same size of clothing, and then as a child they usually go through a size or two a year depending on their growth spurts. So while it’s all well and good for adults to buy less and better quality clothing that they can care for a wear for years to come, is it really a feasible thing to expect parents to buy ‘Eco’ or ‘sustainable’ for rapidly growing children?

Children’s Growth

Children grow at rapid rates, and are often growing out of their clothes within a year which means that they are constantly needing new clothing to fit their growing bodies. On top of that children who play and spend a lot of time outside are often wearing out their clothes before they even grow out of them. Clothes get covered in food stains and dirt stains, get ripped and torn from outdoor play, and wear in at the knees from all the running around and sliding on floors they do. So it’s pretty easy to see that kids are going through a lot of clothing.

This is all contributing to the clothing waste that we see clogging up landfills and polluting the earth, but can it be helped?

Why Buy Eco?

Buying clothing for children that is Eco and Sustainable could dramatically reduce waste and help to promote factories with good working conditions, organic farming of natural fibers used in clothing. On top of that, most Eco clothing is made with natural fibers which are better for children and they are more breathable and often more gentle on children’s sensitive skin. Eco clothing is also often made to a higher standard of quality and if cared for correctly would theoretically last longer than other cheaper made garments. On top of that, buying Eco is helping towards a more sustainable future for our children.

Buying Eco may sound like the obvious choice, and seems easy, but there are a few snags, such as availability and price that come into the equation.

Is It Financially Worth It?

With children growing out of clothes so quickly, is it really financially viable to pay up to $30 for an organic cotton T-shirt? This T-shirt may only fit the child for a year if cared for properly and if not could only last six months if not cared for properly. This is why most children’s fashion is bought from big chain stores that offer cheap prices for more disposable clothing, so that every time a shirt or pair of shorts wears out, parents are not having to break the bank to replace it. Buying fast cheaper fashion for kids on the surface does look like the better option financially. Cheaper clothing tends to wear out quicker, and when there is always great specials on clothes parents tend to find themselves buying more than they need for children and also buying things that are ‘on trend’ and ‘cool’ so kids don’t feel left behind. Buying ‘on trend’ clothing can also be damaging as just like adult fashion, kids clothing trends don’t always stick around for a long time and it’s not long before a 10 year old girl may be saying “I wouldn’t be caught dead in that dress!” after only wearing it for a few months. When clothing is cheaper it is easier to over spend and when everything looks like a bargain, not realize how quickly it all adds up. On the other hand Eco Clothing is not often too concerned with following trends but instead tends towards more timeless pieces that may not date as quickly as some fast fashion trends. It also has a reputation for a higher quality and as we know better made clothing often lasts longer. If cared for in the right way Eco clothing would be more readily available to use as hand me downs or taken to charity shops to be worn again. So in the long run perhaps buying fewer but better quality and ethically conscious clothing could work out at a similar price.

What You Can Do To Cut Down On Waste

As clothing is a huge contributing factor to pollution and waste in these modern days it’s good to have a look at how you can help in cutting down the waste of clothing.

Buying Eco and sustainable clothing can definitely help, because the process of making these garments often have less waste and pollution involved from the ground level. But once you have these items it is important that you care from them properly. Buy buying less but better quality you can reduce your imprint and also buying washing clothes on hand wash or gentle settings that don’t wear the fabrics out too quickly. There is also teaching kids to be accountable for their clothing, if they know they will be doing dirty or rough play, to wear older clothing that is already being worn out so as to not wear out new clothes faster.

If buying ethical or sustainable just doesn’t fit into your budget these same principles still apply. Taking care of garments correctly and teaching kids to respect their clothing more.

Another great way of dressing kids more sustainability is through hand me downs, which can be done with all clothes, provided they are well cared for. If the clothing is also more of a timeless style, kids will be more inclined to wear hand me downs whereas if you are buying only clothing on ‘tend’ kids will soon tire of it and the younger children will be less likely to wear wheat they see as ‘last years fashion.’ So providing children with more timeless cuts and patterns in clothing can help prolong the life of them.

Charity shops are also great places to go if you are looking for clothing for children. It is 100% Sustainable as you recycling. Charity shops often have great choice in the children’s sections. They can also be used in conjunction with buying Eco were, for example, buying nicer ‘special occasion’ or ‘staple’ items of clothing from eco stores and then everyday play clothing from charity shops so it doesn’t matter as much if these are worn out faster.

If your child has no younger siblings that hand me downs can be passed to it is also highly recommended that you take their old clothing that is still in good condition to charity shops so others will have the opportunity to cloth their children in a sustainable way.

Shopping For The Future

Shopping sustainably is shopping for the future. We are creating now the earth that our children will inherit and what a better way to help make it a better place for them than to reduce our waste and pollution in every way possible. Shopping for clothing sustainably can also help open up dialogues with children and teach them why it is so important to shop this way and take care of the earth. Teaching kids and each other to be more sustainable can only lead to a better and brighter future for our kids.

Are Fidget Spinners a Useful Toy or Just Another Fad?

Fidget Spinners first entered the marketplace as a useful toy for children with Autism and other Attention Deficit Disorders but they soon became much more than that.

It wasn’t long before Fidget Spinners because a trend for children and teens who did not suffer from any disorders but began to use them as a toy almost as they would a yoyo.

A Fidget Spinner is a toy created from metal and plastic that is incorporates ball bearings in the center to spin the three outer lobes.

The Spinner is designed to be held in the center and once it gets going spins very fluidly.

As the name suggests the Fidget Spinner was designed to help children who do Fidget to be able to calm themselves by spinning the device. It is small enough that it was meant to be used while children are in classrooms or anywhere else where their concentration is needed.

As the Spinners were picked up by parents and teachers with Autistic and ADHD Children They soon caught on as a popular toy for other children and what started out as a simple toy became highly marketed and redesigned in different colors and even shapes.

Kids began to invent new ways of doing tricks with the Spinners, throwing them up and catching them, free spinning them on their fingers and spinning them in certain patterns. The Fidget Spinner became almost like a yo yo in terms of all the new tricks being done by them.

While the Fidget Spinner could have been good news if it had of stuck to children who really needed them, used so widely the Spinner has become more of a distraction in most classroom settings than a help. Some schools have banned Fidget Spinners from the classroom and even from the school saying they are causing more kids to loose focus than gain it as the toy was originally intended.

So are they an okay toy for most children to have even outside of school hours?

On the surface it seems like these little toys are nothing but a harmless toy, but a news station in Wisconsin recently tested a range of fidget spinners and concluded that some contained alarmingly high amounts of lead with one brand showing up 400 times the legal amount of lead. The lead is used often to soften the plastic but under certain conditions such as sunlight the plastic can start to break down allowing the lead to seep out and when children put them close to their mouths than can incidentally breathe in some of the particles containing lead. The affects of lead are irreversible and can be highly damaging, especially to developing children.

After the study had been done some of these products were recalled from toys stores and online outlets. But authorities warm there still could be some out there containing more lead than is meant. It has been advised that parents do their own research into trustworthy brands before purchasing one. While it is true that not every brand of Spinner has unwanted amounts of lead in it, it is still a good practice to be cautious with any plastic based toys and what they really contain.

Aside from lead testing studies there have also newly been studies into the actual effectiveness of Fidget Spinners and whether or not they even help children with their attention span. Some Scientists in the US decided to do a study to find out if there really was any merit for children suffering from attention disorders as many manufacturers of the toys claim there are. They saw that there had been before July 2017 no research had been done on the links between the Spinners and children’s attention. Without having actual scientific evidence behind them it appears that the advertising of the Spinners is false.

But there are some parents, Occupations therapists and Teachers who do claim when used correctly and by children who genuinely have Attention Disorders, ADHD, Autism and Anxiety they can be an asset. There are many parents blogging about the benefits they have seen with their children after using them and Occupation Therapists have long been using sensory toys as a way of letting children harmlessly fidget.

So if your child does suffer from a disorder that does affect their attention are Fidget Spinners for them? If you are choosing wisely from brands that you trust and that show no high amount of lead then it seems that a Spinner could do no other harm but provide them with a toy to fidget with. If you are going down this path there are also many other sensory toys that have been scientifically studied and proven to help children with Autism, Anxiety and ADHD to focus in the classroom. So it may be worth having a look at options that aren’t such a fad.

If your child wants a to join the fidget spinner craze and use it as more of a toy then after you have done your research onto selecting one from a reputable manufacturer, there could be no real harm, provided you encourage them to keep them for an after school and weekend toy so they are not distracting other children in the classroom and even the teacher and not taking away from the kids who really need them to be able to concentrate in class.