How Did You Spend Your Summer Vacation? Building Fond Memories of Charitable Works

raising giving children

When my kids go back to school in a few weeks and their teachers ask them, “How did you spend your summer vacation?” I hope they have all sorts of fond memories of long days at the pool, endless nights catching fireflies, and time spent in laughter with family and friends. I also cross my fingers that the time they dedicated to helping others will linger in the forefront of their minds as some of the most meaningful, proud days of the season.

After an Earth Day activity in her pre-school class this Spring, my 4-year old daughter said to me, “You know, mama, we should really find new ways to help clean up the Earth.” As an active recycler, I agreed.  As a mother, I felt proud.  As the only adult in the room, I was humbled that my pre-schooler was leading the charge to make her world better.  I knew I had better jump on her bandwagon quick!

Inspired by the Earth Day lesson, my daughter asked if we could organize a Recycling Event for our block.  With the help of her big sister, she designed a flyer that listed common household opportunities for Recycling:

  • Everyday items:  junk mail, cardboard, aluminum cans, plastic and glass bottles
  • Household items:  old clothing, shoes, and even baby items
  • Electronics: cell phones, keyboards, and computer monitors

We delivered the flyers to each house. We offered neighbors to use our garage as a Drop-Off Site for all of their recyclables, for one week’s time. At the end of the week, we took a day to sort and deliver a garage (and driveway) full of items to the appropriate places.  For example:

  • Adult clothing, baby clothes, and even children's clothes:  donated to a local women’s shelter
  • Healthcare products:  deposited in a designated box at Target
  • Unused keys, old umbrellas, and even broken nail clippers: recycled at a scrap metal center

It was a long-week of collecting items and an especially hot delivery day—which I was ultimately grateful for. The heavy lifting, salty sweat and extra effort added to the gratification of it all.  My daughters got to see that their hard work paid off right away, when at every delivery stop they were met with wide-smiles and genuine appreciation. I know my kids will remember the heart-felt “Thank-you’s” and I know they meant it deeply when they answered, “You are welcome.”

Energized by the success of our block’s Recycling Event, this has become of the summer of thinking beyond ourselves. Some of their latest ventures involve:

  • A Lemonade stand - all profits going to a Haiti Relief Fund
  • Labor Day weekend yard sale - to raise money for saving animals from kill-shelters
  • Making flowered baby headbands to sale to raise money for the Wish Upon A Star foundation

I’d like to say I have challenged my daughters to come up with ideas of how they can show kindness, help others, and contribute to the world during their summer vacation—but it is more accurate to say that they are stimulating me to keep up with their creative ideas and thoughtful plans for doing good. I can’t wait to read it all through their own words, in their back-to-school “How I Spent My Summer Vacation” stories!

By Signe Whitson, co-author of "The Angry Smile: The Psychology of Passive Aggressive Behavior in Families, Schools, and Workplaces".  You can find her passive aggressive diaries on her blog.  She speaks out about the passive aggressive behaviors of children and adolescents, and is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker.  She contributes her wonderful advice to My Baby Clothes Boutique to share with the parenting community.
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