Children learn a lot about what the adults in their lives value by observing where they spend their time and where they spend their money. In order to help children learn to be good citizens, getting them involved in activities that give back to their communities is a way to start the process. Summer is a great time, when most children have some time off from their studies. Many of the activities with which they may become involved will also induce enthusiasm as they learn to feel powerful in having an impact right in their own community.
In Grand Prairie, we have Creek Cleanup activities that include children of all ages. Children as young as two or three may participate if an adult is able to keep a close watch and help the little one. For children four and up, this is a very positive experience as these children are old enough to safely gather trash using gloves and sticks provided by the City. Seeing the local greenbelt begin to look free of plastic and debris is a very positive result. The City also offers incentives, prizes, tee shirts, and hosts a post-cleanup barbecue and award ceremony. Even if your community does not offer formal events, gathering up plastic bags (use some to keep hands clean, too, if you do not have gloves) and finding a park or creek to clean up will be sure to make an impact on the children.
If your children or grandchildren are naturally drawn to part of the community, whether it be to nature, gardening, animals, or music, there is sure to be a city or county program which would love to have their participation. Our local animal shelter allows for children as young as 10 to volunteer, but even younger children can help out by saving newspapers or collecting donations. Keep stacks of unfolded papers in your garage and purchase occasional items from the shelter's wish list. When you children are available, have them help you take the donation to the local shelter. A little instruction about our community's problems with unwanted pets (age appropriate of course) will be an educational and rewarding day for all concerned.
Participating in the Community Garden is another way to introduce children to participation in community activities. Emphasizing the importance of eating local, the independence of growing ones own food, and eliminating transportation and environmental costs all help children learn what their communities have to offer to them and how they can help others. Classes are available for adults in xeriscaping, composting, rainwater harvesting, shademaking community forestry. There is also an experiential garden which is run in cooperation with local schools.
Youth for Environmental Action - Grand Prairie
Environmental Programs - Grand Prairie