It’s the most wonderful time of the year — if, by wonderful, you mean equal parts magical, stressful, joyful, exhausting and over-scheduled. Parents spend much of the holiday season trying to temper children’s anticipation around getting more stuff.
“I need that!” your son howls after catching the ten thousand commercials that air during the 16-minute How The Grinch Stole Christmas. “Mommy, can we go to Target today?” she pleads, as she trips over the toys you have asked her many times to pick up off the floor. Where is that eggnog, again?
It’s no secret that many kids today have plenty of toys and are gleefully self-absorbed. If you’d like to incorporate giving into your family holiday traditions, connect in a meaningful way with your children and expand their horizons, Big Hearted Families is a new website with dozens of service projects designed for kids ages 2 and up.
You may choose to heal the earth, care for animals, fight poverty, provide comfort or advocate for a cause. The site's simple, step-by-step instructions, reflection questions and book recommendations make it easy to customize the projects to suit your family. Some of the activities can be completed in a mere 10 minutes, or roughly the amount of time you’ll probably spend looking for your child’s overdue library book.
Big Hearted Families is a collaboration with two other nonprofits, one of which is based here in Austin. Little Helping Hands offers local hands-on opportunities for children and families to experience the value of community service and build stronger communities. Parents can browse the Events Calendar to choose from almost 40 activities a month which are tailored for children.
Here are a few other opportunities to make this a season for giving for your family:
- Youth Sorting Night For Coats for Kids - December 4, 6 - 8:30 p.m. at the Palmer Events Center; Children ages 8 and up, accompanied by a parent, will help sort and prepare coats. Register here.
- Youth and Family Night - December 4, 6 - 8 p.m. at 8201 South Congress; Children 8 to 17 and their families inspect, clean, sort, box and make donations ready for distribution to Capital Area Food Bank Partner Agencies and their clients. Register here.
- Creek Restoration Project - December 5, 4 - 6:30 p.m. at Bartholomew Park; Volunteers are needed to remove invasive bamboo. Register here.
- Lady Bird Lake Cleanup - December 8, 9 - 11 a.m., multiple locations; Pick up litter from the shoreline or by boat. On-the-Water volunteers should be 16 or older and be comfortable around water. Each cleanup will end with a prize for the most unusual object found during the cleanup. Register here.
- Operation Blue Santa - December 8 from noon to 6 p.m., 4101 S. Industrial Drive #260; Volunteers can request 1 to 1 ½ hour time slots to sort and prepare donations. Volunteer opportunities are also available during the week until 8pm from December 4th-14th. Register here.
- Holiday Giftwrapping - December 21 between 8:30 a.m. and 9 p.m. and December 22 between 10 a.m. and 9 p.m. at Lakeline Mall; Wrap gifts for holiday shoppers in exchange for donations to the Austin Dog Alliance. Register here.