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

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 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

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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