Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Toys, Toys and More Toys!

Type: Donation

Age: Any

Summertime movie season is really ramping up now with the release of the much anticipated Shrek 4 and Toy Story 3. In conjunction with the release of Toy Story 3, Toys for Tots will be collecting toys throughout the month of June in selected cities. Check here to see a list of participating locations and to read more information about the promotion. One of the best parts is that the toys will be distributed locally in the communities that they have been donated in!
Those of us who have watched and loved previous Toy Story movies know that the premise is about a boy and his most beloved toys. I am sure that it wouldn't be hard for you and your child to identify those toys of his or hers that are loved up the most as well. Could your child imagine not having that toy! For millions of kids, that is just the case. So encourage your child to help you select a new, unwrapped toy for donation to one of those children in need. Not only will you be enjoying a great movie, you will be bringing a smile to another happy child!

Great to be Back!

Sorry for the long and unexpected hiatus!!! After several weeks of frustrating computer issues, followed by a little vacation with the family, I am back up and ready to blog!

With summertime upon us, I am sure we are all looking for tons of creative ideas to do with our kids. I hope you are inspired with some of the postings to come!

As always, please send your ideas and pictures! Love to post about you and your creative kiddos :)

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Oh No - Computer Issues

I wanted to send a quick note of apology to my readers and followers for being absent for the last week! My computer is having some major issues and despite tons of hours of tech support, they remain unsolved for now :( I wanted to send a quick post that I am thinking of you all though and hope to be back online very soon! In the mean time, if you could continue to send your project ideas that would be great!!

Thanks again for your understanding! Holly

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Armed Forces Day Ideas - The Power of Prayer

Type: prayer
Age: over 2

Recently I was visiting another church in town when a colorful display in the parlor caught my eye. It was a simple table draped in American flags and it contained information about members of the congregation serving in the armed forces. In addition to a display board listing all these heroes, there were similar prayer lists with the names you could take home as well as information about individual soldiers. Listed on a half sheet of paper was the basic information: name, location, rank and then a specific prayer request. Often loved ones had attached emails received from the solider or other updates. I could hardly tear myself away! It was so interesting to read their stories and to know that I could take this piece of paper home and offer a very specific request for him or her through prayer. I have blogged previously about prayer here, but it is certainly worth talking about again, as its impact is so powerful.

I'm sure most of you reading this know someone who is currently serving in our armed forces, so I encourage you and your little heart to begin to pray for that person. Reading the updates from the soldiers, it was apparent how much it meant to them to know that people back home were thinking of them and praying for them daily. Give it a try!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Celebrate Armed Forces Day

On May 15th our country will be recognizing those who have and are currently serving in our armed forces. In celebration of this, the little hearts project will be posting ideas for the next week and a half on how you and your little heart can participate as well.

If you have ideas, stories, projects, organizations or any other related items that we can pass along to others to honor our armed forces, please send ASAP! Check back soon for ideas!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Stamp Out Hunger

Type: donation
Age: over 3

The arrival of the mail carrier at our home each day is a time of excitement for both myself and my daughters. There's something about not knowing what fabulous surprise could be delivered for you that is so enticing! However, rather than just waiting for what the letter carrier could bring for you this week, we have a unique opportunity with our little hearts to give something back.

On Saturday May 8th, letter carriers nationwide will be collecting non-perishable food donations left in your mailboxes. Donations will be given to Feeding America, the nations largest hunger relief organization. In mere minutes, with a little guidance from you, your little one should have no problem finding items in your pantry or kitchen that can be donated. This is also a great time to talk with your kids about the problem of hunger in our country. For some additional information, check out the website here.

It might be a pretty simple project, but be sure that you and your child will have a huge impact 'stamping out hunger!'

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Walking for Others

Type: walk, donation
Age: any

I have been fortunate enough to give birth to two full term babies, and and hoping for another this summer. But for more than half a million other mothers around the country, they can not say the same. Thanks to organizations like March of Dimes, research and support aimed at preventing premature births continues.

With spring in full force and summer around the corner, 'walk' season has officially begun. Nearly every non-profit organization hosts a walk to raise funds to support their causes, and these walks are the perfect opportunity for your little hearts to serve others. I'm sure we take our kids for walks all the time as it is, what better way to spend an afternoon than raising funds for something worthwhile. These events are always family friendly and are usually very moving. Both you and your child will walk away feeling like you have really taken part in something special.

So whether it is March of Dimes (find more information about participating in a walk here) or another great cause - hit the streets with your little one and get your walk on!

Have you participated in a walk with your little heart? Would love to see pics - please send my way!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

From Pictures to Pennies

Type: art, fundraising
Age: over 2

This adorable idea comes from a reader named Sarah with the cutest blog, Sprout Reviews, which can be found here. Sarah and her daughter recently participated in a school fundraiser which turns your children's beautiful creations into magnets, mugs, note cards and other practical and sentimental items.

How often is your little one coming home from preschool carrying the most precious drawing you would love to keep forever - now is your chance, and an opportunity to help others! Check out the Art to Remember website for details on how to sign up your child's class for this wonderful fundraising opportunity.

If you take advantage of this fun project, or already have, I'd love to see your masterpieces and hear your stories. So please pass along!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Happy Earth Day

Hope that where ever you are reading this from, the sun is shining and you and your little heart are able to enjoy this day together! For some additional information on Earth Day, check out this link as well as this one. Also, don't forget about the opening week of Disney's Oceans (I blogged about it previously here), where a portion of the admission price will go towards saving the coral reefs. Happy Earth Day!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Earth Day Ideas - Reduce, Reuse, Recyle

Type: activity, advocacy
Age: over 2

Earth day is right around the corner, so I wanted to sneak in one more posting on ways that you and your little heart can serve our Earth. Recycling is a concept that I am sure is second nature to most of us, but I must admit, though we put things in our bin everyday, I haven't ever really had a conversation with my girls about why. Now is the perfect chance! Check out this link for great kids friendly explanations about reducing, reusing and recycling.

Once our kids understand how and why we help our Earth, they are sure to be ready to put the ideas in action. After explaining to my four year old about reusing, she promptly told me that maybe it was better to take one of her water bottles of juice to the park rather than a juice box so we wouldn't have to throw the box away! It is never too early to start fostering little green advocates and to serve our Mother Earth.

I hope you enjoyed the Earth Day ideas! Would love to hear how you and your little one celebrated, so please email or comment with your successes!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Earth Day Ideas - Recycling Garden Pots

Type: recycling
Age: over 2

Admit it, with a couple of nice days days here and there and the sunshine teasing us into thinking it is warmer than it really is, we are all ready for full fledged SPRINGTIME! For most people that means getting out the patio furniture, dusting off the lawn mower, and of course, beginning some spring planting. Gardening is a great kids activity (one that I blogged about before here) - I mean dirt - love it! But did you know that after you get all those flowers in the ground the pots and containers they come in can do little more than be thrown away? That's where your little heart and you come in!

Thanks to an organization Peace, Love and Planet, you are able to recycle all these containers that may not otherwise be reused. Check out their website for lots of interesting information on our earth, recycling and other lessons for your kids. Peace, Love and Planet is a local operation, meaning all their recycling drop off locations are in Michigan, but if you check out this page they suggest that farmers markets, plant centers or nurseries are often happy to help.

So gather your little ones, maybe a wagon and some of that spring sunshine and collect all those extra potting containers. You'll be doing yourself, your little heart and Mother Earth a HUGE service!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Earth Day Ideas - Park Spring Clean Up

Type: gardening, activity
Age: over 4
Here in Michigan we are blessed with an abundance of city, state and federally owned parks. Just last night my family and I were enjoying our first BBQ of the year at one of these local parks and it was amazing. Staying that way certainly doesn't come without lots of effort however, and there is more to be done than the staff alone can handle. Looking at various websites, it seems just about every park is hosting an "Earth Day Habitat Restoration" or "Spring Clean Up" of some sort. Most are VERY encouraging of families to come together and lend a hand. Whether pulling weeds, picking up liter or maybe doing some raking, there is sure to be lots your little hearts can help with.

So support our local parks this Earth Day with some labor of love with your little one!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Earth Day Ideas - Light Patrol

Type: Activity
Age: Over 2

Today marks the first installment of ideas to celebrate Earth Day with your little hearts. This project came from one of our readers, Cara, and her blog which can be found here.

I can totally remember when my oldest, Schuler, was able to turn on and off lights herself. No room could be entered or exited without lifting her up to hit the lights. Now that she is older the novelty has worn off, but the idea of turning switching off lights into a game - now that would be right up her alley. Give a kid a mission and they are usually all for it!

Try assigning one of your little ones as the "Light Patrol" for the day and make it a contest to see who can find and turn off the most lights left on in the house during the day. A prize could be involved for the winner, or just the prize of knowing all the good you are doing for our Earth.
More Earth Day ideas - share them with us!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Pink it Up

Type: Craft, Advocacy
Age: Over 2

I can't tell you how happy I was to open my email and find the following article sent to me by a reader. Thanks to Jeanine for sharing this inspirational story about some school-age children getting involved with breast cancer awareness. While the kids featured are a bit older, the idea of supporting Race for a Cure is certainly one that can be done with our little hearts. Universally recognizable, by decorating pink ribbons with markers, stickers, glitters or any other bits, you and your child can do your part to raise awareness for this most important cause.

So get crafting - and send pics! We'd love to see your creations :)

Monday, April 5, 2010

Pinwheels for Prevention

Type: craft, advocacy
Age: Over 4

As a parent, I find the reality of child abuse in our country both disheartening and disturbing. April is National Child Abuse Prevention month and a time to raise awareness of child abuse and neglect in our communities. As one means of doing this, Prevent Child Abuse America has initiated the Pinwheels for Prevention campaign to raise awareness.

In addition to discussing with your child about what abuse is, Prevent Child Abuse America has several pinwheel related crafts to enjoy with your child. You can go here for directions on how to make these adorable and meaningful pinwheels. Displaying these pinwheels lend support and create awareness for this very important cause.

We would love to see the results of your little hearts pinwheel projects! Please send pictures and we will post right away :)

Friday, April 2, 2010

Happy Easter

With the sun shining warm on us in Michigan right now and Good Friday upon us - there is MUCH to be thankful for! In that spirit I want to say thanks for your support with the little hearts project - I hope you enjoy and continue to share your ideas and stories with us! Have a wonderful Easter weekend spending time family and friends!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Movies Can Make a Difference

Type: activity, donation
Age: over 3

Leave it Disney to combine 2 wonderful children's activities - watching movies and serving others! You may have heard of Disney's new movie Oceans coming to theatres on April 22nd. But did you know that by seeing it the opening week a donation will be made in your child's name by Disneynature to help save the coral reefs? After watching the majestic cinematography, I'm sure your child will understand the importance of not only helping people, but helping our planet as well.

Check it out and let us know what you think!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Soups On

Type: craft
Age: over 2

Last night I had the opportunity to serve dinner at a local soup kitchen. It was amazing - we were able to serve 178 hot meals in an hour!! Truly a testament to the organization of the place we were serving. Unfortunately, soup kitchens and food banks in general are not able to accommodate small children due to safety issues and the like. However, that doesn't mean there isn't anything your little heart can do to get involved!

The organization we were working with last night near our home was one called Food Gatherers. They were started by a local restaurant and are supported by donations from local restaurants, food retailers and food distributors. With over 300 donation sources, there are a lot of people to thank for all the support. That is where our little ones can make an impact. One of the Food Gatherers volunteer opportunities is for families to make thank you cards to give a personal message to all their supporters. I can picture a collage project now full of magazine pictures of food pasted to a colorful card! So contact your local food bank or soup kitchen and find out if making special thank yous could be an opportunity for you!

Friday, March 26, 2010

A Call for Ideas - Earth Day

This year Earth Day is April 22nd and I think very few other holiday observations lend themselves to acts of service more than Earth Day. Ready to break out of winter, put our hands in some dirt, spend some time outside - the perfect opportunity to volunteer!

So please send ideas of project, past or present, for our little hearts to undertake! I will begin posting the beginning-ish of April to get your creative juices flowing on all those great ways to help our Earth this year!

As always, please email your ideas to thelittleheartsproject@gmail.com

Thursday, March 25, 2010

A Simple Act of Service

Type: prayer
Age: any
Recently a a women's group I am a member of and I were discussing different types of service. It is easy to get focused on deeds and acts of service, but there are many other types as well. One of the most profound ways we can serve others is through prayer. A fellow group member shared how whenever she sees a firetruck or ambulance, she always says a quick prayer for those in need of their help. This is something that I do with my girls as well. Taking a quick moment to ask for prayer and support for those in need, whether friend, family or stranger is a simple act, but one that can have a HUGE impact. So next time your little one is thrilled by the sight of the flashing lights and the sound of sirens, use this opportunity to remember someone else.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Spring Cards for Seniors

Type: craft, senior
Age: over 2

I recently heard about this service project from fellow mom Katey who decided to enlisted her playgroup friends to join in the fun. Before I go any farther, let me say that I LOVE this! What a wonderful way for playgroups to mix up the 'playdate' routine a little bit by taking on a service project. Inspired to do something nice for an elderly woman in her church, Katey and the playgroup created personalized cards to be delivered to the nursing home where the woman resided.

The finished product can be seen here:
These cute cards were created by photographing each child hugging a teddy pair. Pictures were glued into muffin liners and then stems and other embellishments were added. Depending on your child's skill level, the sky is the limit on the decorations. The cards and bear were then delivered to the nursing home with the message that the teddy bear was "bearing" hugs from all the kids. How cute is that! For complete instructions, you can visit Katey's blog at
A little crafting can certainly go a long way in making someone else's day 'beary' special :)

Friday, March 19, 2010

A note of thanks and a little reward

I can't believe that it has already been over a month since I first created this blog! It has been absolutely amazing finding out that people are reading, and to receive the emails filled with new ideas. I am truly inspired to see the work that is being done out there and I hope that you are as well!

The continued success of the little hearts project does rely so much on you, its readers, so as a thank you I have created the 'featured' button shown to the right. While certainly not all, many people who have emailed me with project ideas have blogs of their own. So from now on, any one who sends in ideas will receive this button to put on their blog as a thank you for their great idea, and as encouragement for their readers to check us out. So please continue to send in your pictures, your ideas, your suggestions and thoughts - I love to read it all and I hope that in the months to come I get to send out lots of my new buttons!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Easter Ideas - Coin Box for Lent

Type: donation
Age: over 2

During this Lenten season many of us have chosen to go without or to do more - relying on God's strength to help us when we are weak. Surely there is a lesson in this for our little hearts as well. Thanks to reader Jessica for providing this example from her son!

During Sunday School, Jessica's son was given a small box to collect coins which would be used for mission work. I thought it was touching (and quite funny) how she explained it in her message to me, so I will include Jessica's words here...

"My son is desperate to put money in "for Jesus" every chance he can get - so he asks me quite frequently if we have any. He was excited to find some foreign money in his play wallet today and sooo wanted to put it in there. I had to keep a constant eye on it, because what in the world would the church do with all that strange coinage?"

Don't you love that passion and excitement at the prospect of giving!!!! Thanks for sharing this wonderful story and great idea Jessica!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Easter Ideas - Palm Sunday

Type: service
Age: 3 and over

Though many years removed, I can still remember Palm Sunday at my hometown church. The altar was always festooned in rich purple fabric and at the close of the service, each attender received a small palm cross much like the ones shown to the right. I can picture my Dad tucking his into the jacket pocket of his coat, and I bet if I looked, there might still be one of these crossespressed into the pages of my youth Bible.
Reflecting on this, I thought it could be a perfect opportunity for our children to get involved in celebrating the Easter holiday. While making the crosses might be a bit challenging for little hands, distributing them certainly would not be. If your place of worship has a similar palm Sunday tradition, consider asking if you and your little one could hand out these symbols at the close of service. Imagine the joy it would bring the worshipers to see your little one serving, and what better way to help reinforce the message of Easter to your child.
As always, please let me know if you give this project a try. I'd love to hear about the results!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Crayons for Haiti

Type: craft, donation
Age: over 1

I was so excited when my sister-in-law forwarded me a link to Ashley's beautiful blog and saw this amazing project she undertook with her boys. Filled with an overwhelming need to do something to help the children of Haiti, and with her husband boarding a plane to do just that, Ashley created this fun project to bring a little joy into the otherwise devastated hearts of the Haitian children.

Ashely has done an amazing job of including step-by-step directions on how to make this craft, so please check it out at her blog found here: http://ashleyannphotography.com/blog/2010/02/15/diy-notebooks-crayons-to-haiti-with-love/

Essentially she and her boys took small memo pads of paper, affixed elastic to the back to hold the crayons, put the crayons in each and decorated the covers. My description certainly doesn't do it justice, so please check out her amazing photos of this project. As you can see from the photos, there were jobs for the older children (cutting, gluing, decorating) as well as the youngest (drawing and decorating).

In preparation for their Dad's trip and while making the craft, Ashley took the opportunity to talk with her boys about the effects of the earthquake and the great need the country currently has. This act of giving is certain to have a lasting impact on them all. Thanks again Ashley for the awesome idea!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

National Reading Month Ideas - Birthday Books

Type: donation, books
Age: any

I have written several times about my older daughter, but this particular idea features an idea appropriate for any age child. In this case it is my 1 year old daughter, Brier. When it came time for her first birthday in December, I looked around at the mountains of girly things we already owned and couldn't conjure up any ideas for what family could get her for this occasion. So instead, we decided having guests bring gifts to donate would be the perfect idea!

Each guest to Brier's party brought a book personalized for her to commemorate this big day, and another book that would be donated. As I have previously posted, we LOVE books, and you can always add to your collection, so Brier happily opened all her specially selected new books. Afterwards we wrapped up the dozen or so donated books and headed to Detroit and and a place called the Matrix Organization which has a Headstart program in the heart of the city. For my husband, myself, Schuler and Brier, it was an amazing experience touring the facility and seeing how excited they were to be receiving this gift.

For your child's next birthday, consider making a donation in your child's name. Not only will you be impacting your community, but yours and your child's lives as well.

Monday, March 8, 2010

National Reading Month Ideas - Milk + Bookies

You never know where inspiration is going to come from - and this post is no exception as it came from, of all places, a celebrity mom blog! Seems that many of the cool Hollywood mom's (including my personal fav Jennifer Garner) are supporting an organization called Milk + Bookies. According to their website:

"Milk + Bookies is a non-profit organization that teaches young children how great it feels to give back while celebrating the love of a good book"

I can't think of a mission statement that touches my 'little heart' more - as in addition to identifying with the service portion, I am an avid reader and lover of books. So in honor of National Reading Month, I wanted to highlight the work of this organization.

If you and your little one decide to support Milk + Bookies, please let us know. We'd love to hear how it went. As always, we love your ideas, comments and feedback!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Baking up a storm

Type: baking, donation
Age: 2 and over

My daughters and I LOVE to bake! It seems every week we are whipping up a batch of cookies, brownies, muffins, bread - you name it! We love eating almost as much, but let's be honest, there's probably a limit on how many cookies one child (or mom!) should be eating. So it seemed like a great idea to find someone else who might benefit from our baking extravaganzas.

I was able to hook up with a local hospice group who was looking for just what we had - baked goods! Many of the hospice patients have lots of family and visitors coming and going, and they thought it would be nice to have some treats available for all those special people. With the help of one of our small groups at church, we enlisted parents and kids age 2 - 16 to help in the baking and decorating of 4 dozen different goodies. The beauty of this activity was that there was truly something for every skill level to participate in from rolling to frosting to adding sprinkles.

So whether a Sunday afternoon at home baking with the kids or an organized group effort, you're sure to find someone in your community who would benefit from some sweet treats!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Pet for a week

Type: service, animals
Age: 3 and up

When your preschooler first poses the question "Can we get a (fill in the blank with any adorable, furry, lovable creature)" it is one not easily answered. Of course your little one would be interested for the first week, but what happens after that? Having your own pet is a large responsibility. But what about having a pet for a week?

We have had several opportunities to help out family members and neighbors by babysitting their cat and fish. Both are pretty low maintenance and require basically daily feedings. It has been a great experience for us! For that week Schuler is eager to feed the pets everyday and great about remembering it. Just about the time they need their bowl or litter box cleaned, it seems its time for the pets to go home and our responsibility to be over.

So next time your neighbor is going on vacation, maybe you and your little one can volunteer to do some pet sitting. Not only will your child learn the responsibility of caring for something else, he or she will also feel proud and important for helping out a neighbor in need. Has your child ever pet sit? If so, we'd love to hear your story!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Caring Cans

Type: donation/recycling
Age: 3 and up

My oldest, Schuler, loves to return cans. Odd I know. Like most people, returning cans isn't exactly a job I relish, so to have such an enthusiastic partner definitely makes the job much more enjoyable. Once our recycling bin hits about 6 bottles, she is clamoring to head to the store to take care of them. Up until now I have just used the money towards whatever items I was purchasing, but because of Schuler's interest in it, giving her the use of the money seemed like a good idea.

She is just now grasping the concept of how money is used to purchase things and how we need to save it, etc. So she was very excited when I told her that she would get to have all the money we get from the cans to use to help other people however she wanted. We got a little container and she decorated it with stickers to hold all her earnings.

I debated if we should decide up front what cause, or who would receive the money, but I thought it would take awhile to accumulate much, so maybe it was better to wait until we had some to give before deciding where. We did make it very clear that it was to go to other people who needed it "Like people who don't go to work a lot or go to the bank" she asked me? Exactly! In the meantime we told her she could use her 'can money' to make an offering at church. I'll keep you posted when we make our first official donation, but in the meantime, if you and your little one try this activity, I'd love to hear about it!

Friday, February 19, 2010

A call for ideas - Easter

The other morning I was flipping through a cooking magazine when I saw an ad asking for people to send in their favorite recipes related to an upcoming theme in their magazine. Brilliant I thought, it is so much easier to think of an idea when someone already gives you a topic - I should totally do that with tlhp! Project ideas are so much more meaningful when they come with a story and a child behind them, so I can't wait to see yours!

It seems fitting that the first request for ideas would center around a holiday celebrating the ultimate gift that was given to each one of us. So in the spirit of that sacrifice, please send me all your fabulous ideas and projects related to Easter! They could be things you've done, seen, thought about - any inspirations at all. I hope to begin posting in Mid-March to give you all plenty of time to try the ideas out.

As always, please email all ideas (and photos please!!!) to thelittleheartsproject@gmail.com

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Blanket Bliss

Type: Craft

Age: 4 and over

Thanks to Danielle for discovering a great organization to support with her daughter Lani - Project Linus. According to their website, Project Linus's mission is as follows:

First, it is our mission to provide love, a sense of security, warmth and comfort to children who are seriously ill, traumatized, or otherwise in need through the gifts of new, handmade blankets and afghans, lovingly created by volunteer “blanketeers.”Second, it is our mission to provide a rewarding and fun service opportunity for interested individuals and groups in local communities, for the benefit of children.

Sounds perfect for the little hearts project! According to Danielle, one of Lani's favorite parts of the project was heading to the fabric store to pick out the perfect snugly fleece for their blanket. Project Linus's website http://www.projectlinus.org/ has several blanket patterns, including a 'no sew' option which is perfect for our youngsters. Depending on the ability of your child, you may need to do the cutting for them, but together you can finish the fringe on the blanket. It is also the perfect opportunity to talk together about the child who might get this blanket and how much comfort it will bring them.

While her original plan may have just been to enjoy a nice craft project with her daughter, Danielle mentioned how much she enjoyed making the blanket as well! Project Linus is located nationwide, so once your blanket is complete you can send it to your local chapter. Good luck Blanketeers!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The benefits of service

I wanted to share some words of encouragement for us all that I received from one of the readers of the little hearts project. As a staff member of the National Kidney Foundation of Michigan, she has some first hand insight on the power of volunteering.

"From someone who works in the non-profit world I can tell you that you're giving your kids more than just the gift of time spent with you. I can't begin to tell you how valuable our volunteers are to us . . . especially the little ones."

Thanks for your support Marcie!

Monday, February 15, 2010

The gift of you

Type: Time/Seniors
Age: All

After many consecutive minutes, hours, days, weeks (you get the idea) spent exclusively with your kids, the notion that for other people this time with young minds would be a precious commodity could easily be lost on us. However, when I recently chatted with Shawn, a Director at Silver Maples of Chelsea, she indicated that time was one of the best gifts of service young children could give for her residents.

A popular activity at Silver Maples is to have a children's parade, and as highlighted in the picture, an activity appropriate for kids of any age. Almost any occasion or holiday can easily be transformed into a reason to get into a costume and visit a local senior center (in our house you are just as likely to see princess costumes on my girls as regular clothes pretty much any day!) You could certainly organize a small group of friends to have a parade, or you and your child could simply visit the dining room during meal time and hand out drawings, cards or smiles. All are certain to be appreciated by the recipients!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Giving a little love

Type: Craft
Age: 2 and up

It's an exciting day at the little hearts project - we have our first official guest submitter! Thank you to Jeanine for her fabulous Valentine's idea. Perfect timing!

Already accustomed to 'sticker time' with her son Hunter, Jeanine thought it would be an easy transition to turn this activity into a Valentine's service project. Inspired by a local store who was collecting these Valentine's to be delivered to a senior living facility, the crafting began.

With any craft project, you can easily adapt the tasks to be oriented to the age of your child. In this case, since Hunter is only 2, Jeanine made the front of the cards herself using doilies and construction paper. The little guy went to town decorating with stickers - lovingly placed I'm sure! If your child is a little older, they may be able to handle the cutting, coloring or even writing on your valentine.

It is easy to get caught up making lots of Valentine's for friends and classmates, but why not deliver a few extra to a senior center in your area. It is sure to make them feel very loved to know your little helper was thinking of them!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Sowing the seeds of service

Type: Gardening
Age: 2 and up

Thinking back on the first service project I tackled as a new mom, I can't help but smile. It was the summer that my oldest daughter Schuler was 2, and I got the idea that working in our church's community garden would be the perfect opportunity for us. Idealistic for sure, but I figured, how much trouble could she get into playing outside in the dirt?

Before we left I explained to Schuler that we would be going to a garden to help grow food to give to others. This community garden worked with local food banks to provide fresh produce - a hot commodity for food banks! She was confused why people would need food, but I tried to explain that not everyone was able to just open their fridge and get food to eat. By giving our time in the garden, we would be helping to make sure that there would be lots of food to give to others.

Work clothes and crocs on, we made our way across a grassy field to an enormous garden. And boy was it picturesque! The late afternoon sun was high and hot in the sky, a dozen other volunteers danced around the garden pulling weeds - engrossed in their work. A peaceful quiet settled over the group. That is until a chatty 2 year old decided to get involved!

The woman organizing the volunteers was full of energy and happy to see us. We quickly got to work pulling weeds, and despite a few looks wondering how much a 2 year old could accomplish, I managed to pull lots of weeds, and Schuler managed to make one large pile out of them!

We stayed about an hour and then treated ourselves to popsicles afterward. It was a great start to building a foundation of serving! It's not difficult to see how you might be able to adapt this idea to meet the needs of your family. Even in the city, gardens and 'urban farms' are everywhere. This particular project is great because there is no beginning or end - there is always work to do in a garden. When your little one tires out, you can just finish up for the day. So grab your gardening gloves and your toddlers and get gardening!

Monday, February 8, 2010

It's just the beginning!

I can't tell you how excited I am for the inaugural posting, and thus beginning, of the little hearts project! The purpose of this blog is simple - post ideas, stories, pictures, etc. that give parents ideas of how their young child can begin serving in their communities.

As a mother of two children under the age of 4, time is certainly at a premium. Yet finding the time to give back and serve others is something my husband and I really would like to do more of. So the trick becomes finding things that even the smallest hands and littlest hearts can do with us. By making serving a family affair, not only will we have fun together, but we can help instill compassion and kindness into our children as well.

It seems however, that finding volunteer opportunities for kids under 6 is not always easy. I certainly don't have all the answers, and that is where you, the new followers of the little hearts project blog, come in! Please email me project ideas that you have done, have heard about, think sound fun, anything at all, and I will post them all here for others to enjoy and be inspired by! I will be posting my own personal stories, along with all those that I receive. All emails should be sent to thelittleheartsproject@gmail.com.

There are so many books, websites and articles out there with craft projects, cooking ideas, games and activities for young children. My hope is that this blog can be added to your list of parenting resources as an opportunity to give back and serve others. Enjoy.

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