Category: involved kids

Disasters, Kids, Japan, Helping…

By , March 18, 2011 9:47 pm


The first thing I did on 9/11 was head down to my local Red Cross to join the giant blood donation line, something I had never done before.  Unfortunately there were not enough survivors to need blood, especially mine that was located way far away in New Mexico.  But of course no one knew that at the time.  I felt shocked, confused, helpless.  The only way to regain an illusion of control over life was to attempt to help in some way.

Children are prone to even more confusion and fear than adults when disasters strike somewhere on our planet.  With very young children, avoiding any TV or radio news coverage in their presence is probably the best solution.

With older children, viewing news together (or, in the case of our family, listening together) and answering questions is a better technique.  Children will hear talk at school that might be sensationalist, inaccurate, or incomplete.  Even those who are home schooled and perhaps more sheltered from school-yard talk, need to learn eventually how to analyze news broadcasts and understand the world.  This will be an important learning moment.

  • Stick to facts.  If there is something you don’t understand, research the answer together.
  • Stress that sometimes media coverage can be exaggerated.
  • Reassure them that such extreme events are rare and that they, and family members, are safe.
  • Brainstorm together ways to help, even if only in a small way.

HELPING (my favorite topic!):

Of course this post is inspired by Japan.  Here are some ways for you and your children to help there:

“Hope Letters will find ways to deliver the messages to local schools and school boards.  The messages may be posted electronically if that is available, placed as a hardcopy journal or broadcasted via local news agencies.  (Hope Letters is currently working to establish these distribution channels.  If you have suggestions, please get in touch with Hope Letters at HopeLettersCanada “at” gmail “dot” com.)”

  • Quick Fundraising Ideas (able to be organized within several weeks at most):

For schools – try bake sales, used book sales (like the one we did for Haiti), a penny war, yard sale, car wash, raffle off something cool (shh… for a good cause, people will buy tickets … even if your prize is really not that cool…), 50/50 fundraiser, guessing game.

For home – How about a lemonade stand, garage sale, birthday parties (donations in lieu of presents), street-side bake sale, car wash.

  • Be sure to donate your money to an official disaster relief organization now working in Japan.

It has been exactly one week since the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.  It has taken me one week to attempt to comprehend what has happened there.  My thoughts are with Japan.

Charity Birthday Party Idea: Stuffed Animal Party

By , May 7, 2010 5:51 pm


Birthday parties don’t have to involve a depressing influx of cheap, unwanted (at least by parents!), commercial toys.  If you can convince your children that family gifts suffice, you might be able to turn that excess of birthday party gift generosity into birthday giving generosity.

I really believe that children are charitable by nature.  They just need to be taught about the needs of others and encouraged to engage in charitable work and giving.  My hope is that this will help create more sensitive and socially conscious adults.

My 9 year-old daughter has enjoyed charity birthday parties for many years now.  I already wrote about her first Humane Society birthday party (she has had several of these and one of her friends is doing it now too).  After a few more years of charity parties, I now have more ideas to share with you.


Today’s idea is the Kids-in-Need Stuffed Animal Party.

One year my daughter had a birthday party where she asked the guests to each bring one, new (tags on) stuffed animal to take to our local hospital Emergency Room.  They give them out to very sick or injured children who come in and need a little extra comfort.

I am such a proud mama when I say that she came up with this idea entirely on her own.  My sister is a physician in our local Emergency Room and having visited her aunt there, my daughter knew that they handed out stuffed animals.

In keeping with the stuffed animal theme, our party craft was stuffing our own animals with easy and inexpensive kits that I bought on Amazon.  The kids LOVED this!  My intention was that they add their animals to the donate basket, but this proved to be very unpopular and every single child elected to keep their animal (including my children).  That’s OK, at least they had fun and went home with a much-loved party favor.


  • Make sure you check with your local Emergency Room first to see if they would even want stuffed animals, and if so, what kind.  Ours wanted tags on and no buttons or other things that could be pulled off to become choking hazards.
  • Police and Sheriffs also sometimes carry stuffed animals in their cars to comfort any children they meet in accidents or other bad situations.  See if your local law enforcement departments might be interested, and what they would want.
  • Based on experience, I recommend that the donated animals “disappear” after the party or younger family members might start falling in love with them!

(More ideas to come!)

Book & Bake Sale for Haiti

By , February 2, 2010 11:51 am



That’s how much a class of thirteen 6 to 9 year-olds raised for

Partners in Health’s Haiti relief fund

with a simple Book & Bake Sale!

If they can do it, you can do it too!

How they did it:

Two weeks ahead of time:

  • They hung a sign on the school door asking for donations of books and baked goods for our Haiti fundraiser.
  • They placed an empty box in the school entryway for collecting the books.
  • They also put a sealed box in the lobby for any impromptu donations.

Day before, set-up:

  • The day before the sale they accepted baked goods.
  • After school they sorted the books into children and adult piles.
  • They organized the children’s books into separate boxes and baskets based on level (picture books, readers, chapter books).
  • Everything was set up on tables in our tiny school entryway with a simple pricing system posted.

The Sale:

  • The morning of the sale, they set up the baked goods outside the door on a table (it was so cold and snowy that there was no danger of spoilage!).
  • The school is on a side street, so they put out a sign on the main road nearby.  They also put signs in the grocery store and the library.  All signs said clearly that proceeds would be for Haiti.
  • The sealed box went to a prominent location on the book table, with a basket nearby with a few small bills and coins for making change.
  • They hung a Haitian flag and also posted some information about Partners in Health so any interested people could read more about where their money would be going.


  • I helped them sort through the leftover books and we separated the ones that were fairly recent and looked pretty new.
  • We took these “good” leftovers to our local bookstore so the owner could buy any that would work for her used book section. She ended up buying almost all of them, and even gave us more than her normal cash price since we were doing this for Haiti!  (Be sure to let a bookstore know that you are selling for Haiti)
  • The kids packed up the other books and we put them in storage for our annual school yard sale.


  • Practical math lesson:  The children counted the cash and were SO excited, especially when they found a $100 bill in the box!
  • Their teacher counted the checks for privacy reasons (NOTE:  For ease of accounting, we made sure people made their checks out directly to Partners in Health and not to our school).
  • I took the cash to the bank and traded it in for a cashiers check made out to Partners in Health.

And voilà!  Not a whole lot of effort really, but now we have a nice donation to send off to Partners in Health and the kids feel GREAT!

Why not try it with your school?

Stand With Haiti

For more fundraising ideas, please read Help Your Kids Help Haiti.

Help Your Kids Help Haiti

By , January 15, 2010 5:12 pm

My children’s elementary class is organizing an emergency “Book and Bake Bonanza” to take place next week.  They are frantically trying to collect books and baked goods to sell in order to raise money for Haiti.  Obviously money is needed NOW, so they must act quickly and there is no time for an elaborate fundraiser.

Will used books sell?  We don’t know, but we need to try something and one of the kids came up with the idea.  Anything we can earn will help, no matter how small.

(UPDATE:  The result of our little fundraiser?  A whopping $1,350.03!!  Read here for more details about how we did it.)

Why not organize a speedy fundraiser for your children’s school?  If you homeschool, then combine a quick study of Haiti with a smaller scale family-style fundraiser.

Here are some quick and easy fundraising ideas:

  • Bake sale
  • Lemonade or hot chocolate or cookie stand in your driveway
  • Garage Sale (if you can put it together fast, yard sales can be very time consuming)
  • Used book sale
  • Raffle something off
  • Car wash (or an interior car detailing day if it is too cold for a car wash, or you don’t want to use water)
  • A simple donation box in your school or workplace
  • A penny drive in your children’s school (Thanks very much to Jen for this simple yet effective idea!)

And here are a few less obvious ones that could possibly be put together fairly rapidly:

  • Board Game Competition:  Charge an entry fee for each team or individual.  If you want, give a small portion of this as a prize, or give a donated prize.
  • Dog Wash (if you can do it indoors or you live somewhere warm).
  • How Many in the Jar?:  Fill a jar with M&Ms, marbles, rocks, anything small!  Have people guess how many objects are in the jar.  Sell guess forms for $1 or $2 a piece and split the earnings with the person who gets the closest.
  • Show Up in Your Jammies Day:  (For schools) Sell tickets entitling the purchaser  to wear your pajamas to school for a day.  Encourage teachers and administrators to join in also.  Sell donuts and bagels before school for breakfast.
  • Traveling Hobo Band:  I can’t really explain this one, but it is pretty funny and spontaneous.  Read more here.
  • Windshield Washing

Who to give to?

The NPR website published a list of aid organizations that are helping Haiti during this disaster.

Remember, even a small amount of money can make a big difference!


Don’t underestimate the power of even a simple bake sale. In December, my children’s Montessori School class raised over $870 for Heifer International with a one day bake sale!

It’s Halloween: Dust Off Your Candy Bank

By , October 30, 2009 9:45 pm


Get your Candy Bank ready, it’s Halloween tomorrow!

If you are unsure about what to do with an influx of massive amounts of candy into your house, then read on.

If your children are young (younger than maybe 4 or 5?) you can probably get away with the “Hide It and They’ll Forget About It” method.

If you have older children, take it from me, that will not work.  Either let them have it all in moderated doses (and “lose” a few bits here and there and hope they don’t notice), or try a Candy Bank.

We have a jar into which all extra candy is put (as well as any junky little toys that somehow show up).  We use it throughout the year for birthday party candy, but Halloween is where it really comes in useful.

Once the Candy Bank is full, the kids get money for charity in exchange for the candy.  The first time I did this, I let them each choose a small present in exchange for the candy.  Ever since then, I have given them $10.00 collectively to donate to a charity of their choice.

I like that it goes to charity (rather than just more junk to fill the house) and I also like that they must agree amongst themselves as to how the money will be applied.  I can only hope that this will encourage a lifetime of negotiation and cooperation!

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