How to Plan a Summer Service Project Idea
“What I Did On My Summer Vacation.” As cliché as that sounds, I distinctly remember each September (back in the days when school started after Labor Day) writing an account of the most memorable events from the previous June through August. I typically discussed the family vacation, afternoons spent at the pool, and evenings playing bike tag with what seemed like an entire subdivision of screaming children on wheels. One summer, my best friend, her four sisters, and I organized a backyard carnival to raise money for a summer service project idea we had–putting more in the offering at church. We got more excitement than we planned when the boy next door stole our money box and got caught red-handed. This was more than a carnival; it was a lesson in humility and forgiveness.
Fast-forward to the end of this upcoming summer. If come autumn your children were to reflect back on the summer and write about their memories from those lazy, hazy days, what would they share? A family outing? Crazy antics shared with siblings? Books they read? Would they recall a summer service project idea they had planned and carried out?
As you start to plan your schedule for June through August, especially if you take this time off from school or implement a reduced schedule, consider including a service project idea in your family’s summer plans. Below are a few ideas to get you started.
Organize your summer activities with a Summer Fun center. Repurpose an old frame and gather some inexpensive (or free) craft supplies to create a Summer Fun station. Brainstorm activity ideas as a family and tuck them into each pocket. Activities can be selected on Sunday, and the week planned in advance. You may opt to select activities throughout the week. This is a unique way to keep from hearing, “I’m bored!” Directions for making your own family activity center are here.
Chalk boxes make a fun and unique gift to deliver to a children’s hospital ward or a children’s hospice facility. This is a fun use for old shoeboxes or those hinged, cardboard school supply boxes. Paint the box inside and out with chalkboard paint (found at home improvement or craft supply stores) with two to three coats. Let dry thoroughly for 48 hours. Place a box of chalk or several pieces of new chalk inside the box, wrap with white craft paper (purchase on rolls), and have your children color with crayons on the wrapping paper.
Tend the flower gardens at a nursing home or hospice facility. Nursing homes and hospice facilities often have garden areas within viewing distance of patient rooms, and these gardens need a little extra TLC during the hot summer months. Help keep these bright spots watered and weeded when others just don’t want to be out in the heat and humidity. Get permission from the activities director and, as an added courtesy, call ahead the day before your visit.
Take this service project idea one step further! If the gardens have flowering plants, purchase some vases at a thrift store and create some fresh-cut arrangements to place in family waiting areas in the facility. Again, obtain permission before doing this.
Prepare scarves or blankets to donate during the winter months. With plenty of time before the return of cold weather, summer is a great time for children to make fleece scarves or fringed blankets to donate to shelters, cancer patients, or military members. Consider organizing a blanket-making event with a group of other families. Points of Light has a free guide to help you organize a volunteer day.
Check out the “Resources” section at the bottom of the guide for tutorial links and other important forms to help make your event run smoothly.
Older children might enjoy crocheting a scarf to donate through organizations such as Crochet for Cancer. Here are some links to step-by-step tutorials on learning to crochet and how to make fleece scarves and blankets:
Each service project idea makes good math lessons too!
Create easy and inexpensive jigsaw puzzles and gift bags to deliver to a children’s hospital. Here is a simple YouTube tutorial. Using Microsoft Word and some card stock, the possibilities are endless! Place the puzzle pieces in white lunch bags your children can decorate with drawings, stickers, or other craft items. Use a single-hole punch so the bags can be tied shut with a length of colorful curling ribbon from the dollar store. Older children can format and cut the puzzle pieces, while preschoolers and toddlers can decorate the gift bags.
Here are some other resources where you can print puzzles templates:
Activity Village has a daffodil jigsaw.
DLTK has a variety of jigsaw puzzle templates, including puzzles for the four seasons, sports, transportation, and more.
Another fun service project idea is to organize a puppet show to raise money for a charity. Or take the show on the road to nursing homes, libraries, Vacation Bible Schools, or children’s hospitals in your area. There are some very simple and inexpensive puppet-making techniques out there. The Internet abounds with free scripts and puppet-making ideas. Here are just a few:
Free puppet show scripts:
• Milk jug puppets provide a sturdier puppet body and a handle to make it easier to maneuver the puppet. (The site is in French but your browser may prompt for an English translation.) The photos alone provide inspiration and direction for trying this on your own.
• Paper lunch bags always are a fun choice for puppets. There are endless possibilities for decorating them!
Pack Hot-Weather Care Packages makes for a cool summer service project idea. Before going out to run errands, place some ice and frozen bottles of water into a soft-pack insulated cooler pack (our pack holds 6 bottles of water). Pack a few zip-lock food storage bags with travel-size wipes and small boxes of raisins. As you are driving around in the heat and humidity, as you see someone in need, hand them a frozen water bottle and a bag so they can rehydrate and refresh.
This can also be a way to help say thanks to the waste collection crew who picks up your home trash. Leave them a cooler stocked with cold bottled water and a thank-you note.
Before the summer months—and the homeschool planning season—arrives, take a few minutes to discuss how your children and family can serve others as part of your summer vacation plans. You may also want to incorporate family devotional time as part of your service efforts. Who Is My Neighbor? and What on Earth Can I Do? from Apologia’s award-winning What We Believe Series, are great ways to help you and your family become effective servants and good stewards of God’s gifts.
Michelle Eichhorn is a homeschooling mom and the marketing director for Apologia Educational Ministries.