Thursday, January 24, 2013

Top 5 Tips For Making Serving With Your Kids Horror-free

I am pleased to introduce you to a very inspiring women and her blog where she shares her journey of serving daily with her boys. Impressive right! I am excited that she is going to impart some of what she has learned through all her experience serving with her kiddos. Take it away Shiela.... 

I am Sheila from "Pennies of Time" and am *thrilled* to add to the great work that DeAnn has been doing in talking and sharing about serving.  I have enjoyed getting to know her and her philosophy on ways to serve with our talents.  (In fact, I am in the middle of using my own talents to help someone find a job in response to DeAnn's post last week on serving with our talents.)

Does thinking about serving with your kids make you want to run to your bedroom and pull the covers over your head?  Do you envision chaos while forcing them to "do good" . . . Are you fearful that it will be:  too much to do while dragging the kids along, result in a pounding headache, or end in kids fighting all the time? 

Serving with children doesn’t mean that you’ll load up a bunch of power tools to clear an acre of brush and then plan to fashion the woody stems into toothpicks to send to developing countries all while whistling a tune.  Nope.
I serve with my two young boys every day.  We call each service act a “Penny of Time.”  Completing a small act of service in a short amount of time, a “Penny of Time,” has been a great experience for us.  Here is how we do it without fighting all the time and without headaches.  (In fact, I get up each morning eagerly thinking about what we are going to do for our “Penny of Time” Adventure.)
#1  Make it FUN
When I started serving with my boys, we started becoming Secret “Service” Agents . . . doing anonymous service in disguise (full on mustache, hats, and glasses) and going on secret missions.  We would use code names and giggle while we watch the recipients of our service smile happily and look around for whom to thank. 
After several Secret “Service” Agent missions, we found ourselves in the middle of service without those fun disguises.  The boys were motivated by the good results they experienced from serving.
Other ideas to make it FUN:
Call it a “party.”  You really don’t have to do anything more than call it a “party” and kids get excited.  I mean, you can use party hats, but I bet just calling it a “party” can be motivation enough for the young ones.
Offer a treat at the end.  Seriously, you won’t have to do that too many times before they get lost in the service.
Pick a theme. Use your kids’ interests.  One genius friend did this for a service birthday party.  Her son loves superheroes.  They planned a Superhero Service Party where they dressed as superheroes and became real life superheroes for a women’s domestic abuse shelter. 
Use small, simple acts to teach children to serve.
#2  Engage Their HANDS in small, simple acts
Children enjoy being active.  The great thing about service:  it requires work and being active!  HERE IS THE BIGGEST SECRET TO Horror-Free SERVICE:  Each service act should be a small, simple act.  It doesn’t have to be a full body exercise like raking a huge yard of leaves.  Think in small and simple acts of service.  Remember, we call it a “Penny of Time”—a small, simple experience.  Most times, our acts take 10-15 minutes.  Seriously, no power tools or hissing fits involved.
And, the more we have been working together while serving, the better they have become at working around the house.  YAY for good attitudes when doing chores!!
Examples of Service Acts that Engage Their Hands (but don’t take long):
Learning about those we serve and the needs of others is just as important as completing the service act itself.
#3 Engage Their MINDS
The boys need to be aware of others’ needs and learn the words to talk about serving. By talking with them about the problems that others have in our community and the world, it gives us purpose when we look for opportunities to serve.  It places a greater importance on why we are serving.
Sometimes, we have “awareness service” activities.  I expose my boys to situations where there isn’t much for them to do by way of ‘work,’ but there is much that they can do by learning.  We usually do this by learning about an organization that does work in the community. 
An increased awareness of the needs of others will inform how they decide to serve as adults, long after our activity is complete.
Examples of “Awareness Service” Activities:
See a home being built by Habitat for Humanity.  Contact Habitat for Humanity about local homes being built.   Check their website resources. 
Visit the local animal shelter.  You can collect things to donate from the wish list.   Or, you can go and just talk about the animals there and why they were given up for adoption.  I am continually amazed at how teaching my boys about how to treat and love animals directly increases their compassion for others.
Use a book or video.  Some days, we read a book or watch a video focused on service.  This continues to build their knowledge of the needs of others and the words to use in describing the need and how to help.  Our favorite book to read right now:  "One Smile"  (In a pinch, I go to the “Movies and Video Pinterest Board – Pennies of Time”) 
 #4 Engage Their HEARTS
At the end of the experience, we take the time to reflect, to give them a chance to quietly discuss the importance of what we did and how it affected us as well.
With my young boys, we talk about:
  • if we helped in the way that we planned to help
  • how they think the recipient felt when we provided service
  • what they felt when they helped
We talk about how the person smiled, said thank you, or otherwise showed emotion in response to the service. These conversations start a momentum to allow the act of serving to touch their hearts and start to explain those intangibles of serving.
Don’t get discouraged if the reflection goes like this: What do you think about what we did? Good. What do you mean by good? Good.
This just means that they need some experiences with vocabulary building.   Model it for them, plan a couple of “awareness activities,” and read books that talk about the effects of serving.
Talk with your children about the joy of receiving service.  If they are having a hard time discerning how they are helping others is good, then take a day and serve them in extra special ways.  Doing this with my boys was a meaningful way to help teach them how serving brings joy to others.
Even while fully engaged, children will occasionally squabble.  They are kids; it happens.  Once the squabble has been resolved, use it as a teaching moment to ask them how their fighting affects the person that they are serving.  A few weeks ago, my two boys fought in front of the person we were trying to serve.  And, when I asked them how their fight made them feel (sad), they were able to make the connection that others who witnessed the fight might feel sad as well.  A powerful lesson in learning how our behavior affects others.
#5  Then, Repeat:  Serve Again
The more you serve with your children, the easier it gets and the more they gain from it.  Serving teaches them to work.  Serving teaches them to recognize the needs of others.  Serving teaches them about sacrifice and the rewards from sacrificing.  The more you serve with your children, the greater influence you will see it have on your family and your children.  Service doesn’t have to take a long time, include power tools, or be a burden.
Serve with your children, horror-free.
Keep the service a small and simple act.
Plan for:  Snacks and water.  Yeah, don’t forget that.  Hungry and thirsty kids do not serve well.  I have a dedicated “Pennies of Time” bag.  I keep it refilled it so that it is ready for the next time.

My “Pennies of Time” bag also has these items that have often made our “Penny of Time” adventures better:  Bags for trash, wipes, hand sanitizer, index cards, coins, gloves, post-its, pens, and sunscreen.
What are your tips to making serving with children
"horror-free" and fun?

Pennies of Time Community Facebook Page, we love sharing ideas on serving with our children!
Pennies of Time on Pinterest, my "go-to" spot when I need an idea.

Thank You so much for some really helpful tips. I hope you visit her blog and get inspired to do some service, it is doable, we all have "Pennies of Time right?! If you want to know the back story visit her blog. Spend some time on her blog and get to know her you won't be disappointed, I haven't been.

All my love,



  1. It is amazing what they will do when they think it is a fun game! We walked around the neighborhood yesterday pretending to be garbage men and picking up random trash. They girls were so excited to find something! We spent some time at the park in the middle too. They had a great time and were happy to make their neighborhood pretty!

  2. Ashley---I love it! Great idea to make it a game. My boys think it is like a treasure hunt when we go pick up litter. Amazing what fun a pirate voice can bring to things!

  3. Great post, Sheila! I agree that engaging kids is the best way to get them invested in the project! What wonderful lessons they're learning!

    1. Thanks, Ashley! I enjoy sharing with my boys how you are serving with your kids. You have a great sense of humor!

  4. These tips are wonderful! Thank you for sharing this, I always feel overwhelmed with how to get my 2.5 year old involved but you offer great tips that make me want to give it a try! XO Courtney

    1. Courtney, Thanks for commenting. Please give it a try. As I sent off my oldest to full-day school this year, my one regret was that I didn't start serving every day with my boys when he was younger. Serving with your children will provide the sweetest experiences!


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