The Day My 3-Year-Old Did Multiplication (By Giving to Others)


Although that may sound impressive, it’s not exactly what you would think. Perhaps she has learned something even better, though. She used giving to find out what multiplication looks and feels like in real life, and these tangible experiences for young children are a powerful way to learn and reinforce new concepts (like multiplication). When our family was introduced to CommuniGift as her third birthday approached, I already sensed that it was an opportunity to grow the impact of our family giving, but I didn’t anticipate the added bonus of our daughter learning multiplication, too.

CommuniGift was founded upon the belief that all children, no matter their circumstance, deserves to feel special on their birthday. For some families, the opportunity to throw a birthday party, or even purchase a gift for their child is out of reach. Meanwhile, as we selected a play place, ordered food, and chose the cake, the spirit behind CommuniGift reminded me that this was plenty. Simone had more than enough to make her feel special on her birthday.

We discovered that through CommuniGift’s interface, rather than having our guests bring presents to her party, we could invite them to donate gifts to her virtual “birthday buddy” instead. (more…)

Summer of Inclusion

la2015-logoIn just under a month The Special Olympics comes to Los Angeles. From July 25th through August 2nd during #LA2015, parents will have a unique opportunity to live messages of inclusivity and global citizenship with their families, reinforcing the kinds of qualities that we hope will become part of the fabric of our children’s lives. Philanthroparent is happy to coach you through a few exercises to help you embrace the spirit of the games.

The Warm-ups

There are several activities you can do from home to build momentum for the events:

*Make welcome cards or signs for the athletes (in their native tongue if you wish). Check out the delegations list. Or, explore your family’s heritage through the cultural connections the delegations can provide.

*Make a Circle of Inclusion– an official symbol for the games. Take pictures of your family, neighbors and friends within it. Share your snapshots on social media with #ReachUpLA.

*Consider your own family’s stories of determination and explore the #whatsonething series about athletes overcoming things they were told they could never do… but did anyways.

*Support An Athlete. Your support with help assure an athlete’s successful journey at the games.

The Main Event

*Simply attend the games, which are FREE and open to the public!

*Who else can you invite? What people or community organizations that you are already connected with would support the spirit of these games? What sports teams are your family members a part of that could drum up even more support?

*Teens 14 and over can become a “Fans in the Stands” – recruit your own delegation of cheering fans for one of the sporting events.

*Check out the Volunteer Opportunities for teens ages 16 − 18.

The Special Olympics bring an even stronger connection to the valuable lessons that sports can provide. If you have sports fans in your household, you can use #LA2015 to also introduce concepts of acceptance and inclusion into their socially conscious lives. It’s a win-win. See you at the games!

Trick-and-Treat Others the Way You’d Like to Be Treated

If you only had a dollar for every time you heard the word “candy” during Halloween season. You’d be able to make a pretty sizable donation to your favorite charity! Philanthroparent would like to put that word to #socialgood use. Using the acronym CANDY, here’s some smart ideas for helping this Halloween.

Costumes

Start a costume drive with your school, neighborhood or group of friends. Collect new and gently used costumes for a nonprofit that works with local families in need. Costumes could be collected ahead of time for this holiday, or if your residence is a Halloween hub, ask people to bring costumes when they come to trick-or-treat (for kids’ benefit next year). You could also focus on your own costumes. You’ll likely see plenty of superhero costumes being worn. What message of social good could you share with what you wear? Introduce your children to some real-life characters who have been champions for change and social good. I’ve seen Gandhi, Philippe Cousteau and John Wooden costumes get rave reviews. Maybe you can challenge your family or Halloween party guests to a design-your-own superhero theme (invent characters that addresses a real-world cause). You could also just go as a real-world problem. A 2014 pick: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

Advocating

Halloween is a holiday favorite, but perhaps there is a gentle way to discuss with your children some of the potential challenges that come with this occasion. You might start by asking, “Halloween is so much fun for our family, but can you think of any challenges some people might face for this holiday?” The discussion might lead to the topic of sugar overloads, not being able to afford a costume, litter on the street the next morning, or not having proper warm clothes/shoes to stay comfortable while trick-or-treating in the cold. Maybe they will recognize that not everyone has a residence or neighborhood that allows for trick-or-treating. Whatever the need is that they discover, see if you can help them find an organization that supports this cause. Give them a voice to advocate for their socially conscious revelation! Ask the organization for pamphlets that could be handed out with candy or as you’re out and about trick-or-treating.

Nutrition

It’s easy for parents to develop a love/hate relationship with this holiday. Kids are bubbling with excitement and imagination. Tons of priceless family photos are captured in costume. However, there’s late bedtimes, lost costume accessories and… the dreaded battle over how much candy is collected and consumed. Discuss with your family how to balance this day of candy gluttony with good nutrition.  What other healthy habits can be reinforced on this day? Maybe toothbrushes could be a quirky party favor or hostess gift. Plan the Halloween menu with your children so that they are coming up with creative, healthy food options too. A printed menu with your nutritious ideas could be passed out to families visiting your door or party guests. If you can’t seem to conjure up your own menu ideas, this Pinterest page has you covered!

Donate

Haunted houses and creepy costumes are scary, but they don’t compare to the real-world concerns of some families, like a parent struggling to provide clean water or nutritious food for their children. Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF is a fundraising campaign to help address the basic needs of children all over the world. You can set up your own fundraising page that can be shared with friends and family. UNICEF also has teaching tools that can help you explain these concepts to your children. These world issues might be a bit scary for kids to think about but (as the campaign says), it’s also a chance for them to realize it’s “scary how much good you can do.”

Yard Sale

Beware! This is the most daring of all the service ideas here. Think of all the people coming back and forth towards your door, especially if you live in a well-trafficked trick-or-treating neighborhood. You wouldn’t have to do any advertising for a yard sale- the customers are already coming to you anyway! This could be a joint operation amongst families or a social group you’re a part of. Money from items sold could be donated to a local charity. You could even make it Halloween themed by selling secondhand decorations or costumes. It doesn’t have to be a “yard sale” per se. A witches brew lemonade stand or haunted labyrinth in your front yard might spark your kids’ interests more.

Halloween is a holiday for the imagination. These ideas are a starting point, but more importantly, let your child’s cauldron of creativity bubble over. We’d love for you to share your own family’s ideas in the comments. Wishing you a happy, healthy (and helpful) Halloween!

Rain Checks that Pay It Forward

iCalPicjpegTwice now our volunteer activities have been thrown off course. Our World Oceans Day project was trumped by a fever. The next mishap came as we headed to our summer service commitment visiting with seniors. President Obama was in town, and as we approached our destination… BAM! Road closure gridlock. Impatience from the backseat ensued. I decided it was in everyone’s best interest to head to the park down the street until the traffic dissipated. By that point, the toddler tiredness wouldn’t amount to a cordial visit with our elderly companions.

From an early age, I hope to model the importance of accountability with our daughter. Yet, toddlerhood inevitably leads to some volatility, and this sometimes wreaks havoc on our commitments. Being prompt was something I prided myself on. Now I’m consistently 10 minutes late (Hey, at least I’m consistent). Before kids, If I said I would be somewhere, I rarely would cancel. Now, a later than expected nap or mini-meltdown can thwart our best-laid plans.

Generally when I can’t honor a commitment due to unforeseen toddler tribulations, there is resounding understanding from the hosts and organizers, and this was no exception from the Big Sunday staff when we cancelled our visit with seniors. Yet, something still didn’t sit right about missing this event. What we were providing was valuable and necessary. I still felt accountable.

The good news is that accountability can still exist even if the unexpectedness of life with kids takes over an occasional commitment. Philanthroparents can use rain checks to their advantage in their quest to make a positive impact on the world through their parenting. Usually a rain check means rescheduling your plans, but what if we used rain checks as an opportunity to do even more? Rain checks with a purpose!

Yes, you can absolutely reschedule the missed play date, dinner party, or trip to the zoo. Bravo for showing your kids accountability. But, what if you shifted the focus instead? Rather than rescheduling plans in the exact same manner, you and your child could think of ways to do something similar that is also of value to others or the community.

  • A missed a sports practice becomes a donation to a child’s Make-A-Wish campaign helping them meet their athletic role-model.
  • A pesky virus thwarts your dinner with friends and turns into serving a meal at your local shelter.
  • Your toddler wakes up on the wrong side of the crib. The trip to the botanical gardens is out. Buy a kid’s guide on composting and start up a system at home, or volunteer at the closest community garden.

Just think of accountability as the “ability to make something count.” You can acknowledge and honor the missed commitment with a rain check that pays back … or pays it forward! Make your rain check count.

Share the concept with the world. How did you add value to your rain check?

#PayForwardRainCheck to @philanthroparnt

5 Steps Towards More Meaningful Service

Imagine yourself without a skeleton. You’d be a big blob of tissue on the floor. While strange and uncomfortable to think about, this is an important analogy to consider in terms of your family’s service efforts. Philanthropy by itself without adding structure and context might not fully serve its purpose—like a body without a skeleton. Adding structure to your service process can help you get the most out of the experience. In addition to the important support you’re providing to others, there is much for your child to gain from service: becoming a more informed citizen, a sense of gratitude, a leadership opportunity, a chance to practice organization, social skills, advocacy, and seeing family members in new roles. The list goes on. What steps do we take to make the most of these opportunities for learning and growth? 5 Steps

I’d like to share a framework that many teachers use to add substance and context to their class’ service learning curriculum. Looked at through the eyes of a parent, this structure offers a supportive guideline to help you get the most meaning possible out of your family’s philanthropy endeavors. This framework was developed by leading service learning advocate, author and consultant, Cathryn Berger Kaye. The steps are summarized here (with adaptations for a parent’s perspective).

Stage One: Investigation
What’s up?! Take time before you volunteer to define and get to know the community you will be serving. What do you know or need to know about this community and the social issue in order to be most helpful? This question can help you distinguish what actions will lead to a meaningful contribution. And most importantly, what topics interest your child? Do they comment on trash in the park or people who appear to be in need as you are driving home from school.

Stage Two: Preparation & Planning
Get organized! When your child has an idea all their own for helping people, animals or the planet, this is especially important so that when it comes time to act, they’re most effective. Have your child consider the “5W and H” questions many of us were taught as young writers to help guide their efforts: Who? What? When? Where? Why? How?

Stage Three: Action
Act Up! Provide a service. Keep in mind that there are many types of actions to choose from. You can directly impact a community or organization by working face-to-face or alongside whom you are trying to support. You can indirectly contribute to an issue through drives, collections, or making things. You can advocate for a cause. You can research an issue and discover important information that will motivate others to act or that an organization focusing on the same cause can benefit from knowing about.

Stage Four: Reflection
Press pause and ponder! Often times, people see reflection as something you do when an experience is complete. Reflection can actually happen amidst all of the stages listed above.  Simply modeling your own reflections throughout the experience can be an effective and subtle way to help your child think about their participation. You can describe what you thought was special about the shared experience, what you learned or what emotions came about for you during the process. Hearing about everyone’s part in the process shows how valuable each family member’s contribution is.

Stage Five: Demonstration
Get the word out! Your story isn’t over when the activity is complete. Share your process with others. This is a great place for your child to practice advocacy. Tell people about what you’ve done. You can start with your inner circle of family and friends, however others in the community will benefit from knowing what you’re up to also. What media resources could you use to spread the news? Remember that stories can be told through words, images, or even more action for the cause.

Put together, these five stages for service offer your family a chance to build meaningful experiences that not only enact change, but also incorporate personal growth and learning too. Instead of a standalone philanthropy activity, you can use these five stages to develop your child’s voice for a cause they care about and that they are knowledgeable of too. Most of all, celebrate the joy of family time spent together contributing to your community.

*This 5-stage model originates from The Complete Guide to Service Learning (2nd Edition), by Cathryn Berger Kaye, Free Spirit Publishing, copyright 2010. For a more in-depth look at her curriculum visit her website and check out The Complete Guide to Service Learning.

*This article is adapted from a previous post.

Walking the Walk: Our Summer of Service

IMG_1953We’ve done our fair share of putting our feet up this summer. It’s time to walk the walk. I’ve been talking the talk on Philanthroparent about ways families can serve this summer, and now it’s time to put some things into action for ourselves. This will be our first attempt at creating PhilanthroTot summer service opportunities. I’m excited to share what we’ll be up to in the next few months!

When considering ways to get out and give this summer, my first criteria was something toddler friendly. My 20-month-old’s favorite summer pastime seems to be wandering. I can’t guarantee the quality of my effectiveness at any of these events. I’m going to try to be of the mind frame that simply being present is still a valid way to support a cause. (more…)

A Philanthroparent’s Game Plan for The World Cup

France Soccer Kids     You may know soccer (or perhaps you call it football) as “the world’s sport” and”the beautiful game.” Now combine these ideas: How could you make the world more beautiful through the game? There are many ways to use this sport to create a philanthropy opportunity with your family. In honor of the World Cup, here are some ideas to get the ball rolling (so to speak). May your World Cup runneth over with opportunities for good!

The Warm-ups

Philanthroparents see the value in developing character traits that go hand-in-hand with volunteerism. Lessons discovered through teamwork and sportsmanship could be worth discussing and reinforcing. These conversation starters might prompt the kind of meaningful dialogue that leads to a service idea.

  • FIFA’s slogan: “My game is fair play.”
  • 2014 World Cup motto: ” All in One Rhythm™ “
  • Pope Francis’ comments at the start of the 2014 tournament: Football as “a game and at the same time an opportunity for dialogue, understanding and reciprocal human enrichment.”

The Game Plan

The World Cup is an excellent opportunity for crowdsourcing. If you’re planning to gather together to watch a game, how could you reframe it to benefit others?

  • Your child could rally their own sports team around The World Cup. Collect sports equipment for an organization that supports underserved youth in your area.
  • Host a foosball tournament with entry fees that go towards a sports-based charity. Don’t have the means or space for a foosball table? How about a mini table top foosball tournament with these 20 inch tables?
  • For older kids or adults in your life who are willing to wager, have them predict the outcomes for the remainder of the teams/games in the tournament.  Each person in the pool can fill in their own brackets, but collect donations instead of bets.

The Lineup of Causes

Sports-minded charities address a multitude of issues: leadership and empowerment through sports, disabled athletes, equal opportunity and access to sports, to name a few. Here are a few key players related to The World Cup this year.

  • FIFA has partnered with streetfootballworld. They aim to unite and support organizations all over the world that are promoting social change through football. This organization is a great way to see the host of ways people are igniting change through the beautiful game.
  • Support a social issue within the region or host country where the tournament takes place. Or, choose a cause that is important to one of the participating athletes. Brazil player Neymar Jr. (partnering with Waves for Water and PayPal), has helped initiate a campaign that addresses the lack of access to clean water within underserved communities in Brazil.
  • Check out the #TeamUNICEF campaign reinforcing that “All children have the right to play regardless of their background/abilities/gender.” They provide two soccer balls in their recreation kit, noting that sports and play can be an effective therapy for trauma when children encounter disasters and violence.

The World Cup is underway until July 13th, but the values of teamwork and sportsmanship and how they intersect with philanthropy, along with sports-based charities, will continue on. If you have a sports fan in your family, how can you reframe these ideas to make a difference year-round?

 

 

School’s Out for Summer! Integrate Service into Your Child’s Favorite Pastimes

Summer PastimesAh, summer. That time when quintessential pastimes have a good chance of working their way into your child’s daily activities. Now might also be a good chance to work volunteerism into the hobbies, talents and interests which your kids will be exploring. The ideas below need not be the exact choices you make as a family, but may they give you inspiration. Give your child a chance to see that their passions have value beyond just their own enjoyment of them. Have fun AND enact change. It’s like having your cake (ice cream, lemonade, popsicle, watermelon… or whatever their favorite summer snack is) and eating it too!

For the Bookworm
Host a book swap: Help your voracious reader find new reading material by hosting a book swap amongst friends. Highlight their use of one of the “3 R’s” – reusing instead of buying new. They can also ask their peers to bring 3, exchange 2, and donate the extra book to an organization that distributes to others in need of quality reading materials.

For the Naturalist
Appreciate: The headlines about children being nature-deprived can be harrowing, especially when raising children in an urban community. Schedule a few “Appreciation Days” (to our beaches, deserts, rivers, forests, etc.). Make time beforehand to research the special features and animals of this region. Also discuss humans’ impact on these spaces. Knowledge (and arguably appreciation too) is power towards wanting to make a positive impact.

For the Sports Fan
Host a tournament: Put the fun in fundraising by hosting a tournament surrounding a favorite sport. Or try a new sport on for size.. foosball, ping pong, croquet? Your child will gain some summer math practice when adding up scores and funds, and the activity goes from tournament to tourna-meaningful.

For the Artist
Donate your talent: Learning a new dance routine or song? Perform it at a Veteran or Senior Center. Painting faster than there is wall space for in your home? Donate it to a community outreach center to brighten the decor. What connections can you make with the community to share your child’s creativity with those in need?

For the Techie
Tell a story: There are so many applications out there that let your child tell a story: iMovie, Prezi, PowerPoint, Kid Pix, GarageBand, Comic Life, and the list goes on. What cause, fact, inspirational organization or change maker can be brought to light (on a computer screen)?

Nowadays, even summer comes with structure. If your child’s summer weeks are already booked with activities, see if you and your child can discuss how to integrate a service or philanthropic component into their planned camp or vacation. Perhaps camp staff, summer instructors or an organization at your travel destination is available to help your child see service as a valued summer pastime too.

Philanthroparent.com is dedicated to helping parents raise socially and environmentally conscious kids. It provides resources and activities that allow families to use their talents and passions to do good both locally and globally. For support with your family’s service endeavors, to find out about organizations that go hand-in-hand with the activities mentioned above, and to learn more about the project, contact the Chief Philanthroparent, Marissa Nadjarian, at mnadjarian@me.com.

Saving Our Seas from My “Sea”t

Fay Bainbridge BeachWorld Oceans Day is tomorrow, and we were planning on spending this afternoon repurposing cast-off plastic materials into a fish collage at the reDiscover Center in Los Angeles. I liked that it was a kid-friendly way to recognize harrowing facts, like how 80% of plastic pollution in the ocean comes from land-based sources, primarily litter.

However, the tides have changed. Our toddler is sick today. She will likely be better within a few days, unlike our oceans that have been sick for some time now. Instead of throwing in the (beach) towel, I’m doing my own personal mini campaign… Saving Our Seas from my “Sea”t.

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Lessons from School: How to Use a Photo to Discover Service

When you’re a Philanthroparent, you see potential for service around every corner, and sometimes it is hard to choose which social issue to focus on. Instead of choosing philanthropy activities for your family every time, try seeing the social issues we’re surrounded by on a daily basis through your child’s eyes…. or through their viewfinder!

DSC_0379This lesson (written for a service-learning organization that helps teachers integrate service into their curriculum) can also be utilized by parents, as well. Offer your child a chance to be a budding photo journalist. Hand over your camera, smartphone, or tablet. Let them document their surroundings. As you look back on what they’ve captured, there’s a good chance you’ll find a multitude of social issues in your immediate community, and this can drive a service idea. (more…)