Involving young children in the act of giving at a young age allows traits like social awareness, empathy and kindness to be ingrained.
Most charities only provide volunteer opportunities for over 16-year-olds, which makes getting preschoolers involved in the act of giving a challenge.
“Unfortunately, it isn’t very common for young children to be involved with charities as they just don’t always have opportunities for that age group,” says Sarah Wade, CEO of Kids in Philanthropy (KiP).
“That is why KiP was created. We believe children of all ages and abilities should have the opportunity to volunteer. They just need the opportunity.”
KiP works with local organisations to creates meaningful opportunities for young volunteers.
“Our aim is for the charity to come away with something tangible to help their clients, while participants come away feeling uplifted with increased social awareness and empathy,” she adds.
By involving children in the act of giving at a young age, those traits of social awareness, empathy and kindness can be ingrained into their lives.
“If we could make acts of kindness or volunteering as habitual as children brushing their teeth, we can incorporate teaching children to think about other people as part of their daily routine,” Wade says.
“Ideally, that would be carried through to their adulthood and they would continue to give or get involved in philanthropy which not only positively impacts the community, but also the individual.”
The benefits of giving
The greatest benefit of involving young children in giving is building their social consciousness.
“You are essentially teaching them to think about others and become empathetic,” Wade explains.
“Children learn to accept all kinds of people and they also start to understand other people’s opinions, where they’ve come from and how to help them.
“It sounds like a lot for a preschooler to take in, but you’d be surprised.”
Another benefit is the aftereffects of helping others.
“When you do something nice for someone else, it makes you feel good about yourself,” adds Wade.
It also has potential flow-on effects, where if you do something nice for someone else, like a random act of kindness, the receiver may do something nice for someone else.
Another benefit is that it helps children understand the things they take for granted, like waking up in a warm bed or having a full pantry of food to chose from, are a privilege to some people.
Giving has long-term benefits too.
Researchers are finding that some of today’s teenagers are disconnected from the world, less tolerant of others, are very polarised and are unable to put themselves in other people’s shoes.
“Volunteering allows children to be connected to the larger social world and perhaps be exposed to people and situations they wouldn’t come across in their day-to-day,” Wade says.
“It can really build their empathy for others and understanding of other people’s beliefs.”
A report which reviewed 350 studies found that, “giving social support, either time, effort or goods, is associated with better overall health in older adults and volunteering is associated with delayed mortality”.
They also found that generosity has strong associations with psychological health and well-being.