20+ Ways to Volunteer with Kids in the Bay Area - 510 Families

20+ Ways to Volunteer with Kids in the Bay Area

Plant trees with Urban Releaf
Planting trees feels so good and is great for city neighborhoods | Pictured at Acts Christian Academy | Photo: Urban Releaf

A lot of you have been asking about hands-on volunteer opportunities that you can do with your children. You don’t want to simply write a check for a beloved organization, you want your kids to get involved and really pay attention to helping others. Awesome!

Here are some ideas for volunteering with kids in the East Bay

Please add more in the comments. I love your new ideas.

Volunteering outside with kids, helping the earth

Pick up litter: Start small. Walk around your own neighborhood with your toddler and a trash bag (and gloves!) to leave your block better than you found it. Try going to your favorite park or even your elementary school on the weekend, and play at the playground afterward. A great way for the kids to feel connected to their work and have fun. If you’re in Oakland, check out Adopt A Spot or Adopt a Storm Drain.

Kids Picking up Trash
Grab a bucket and some gloves, it’s as simple as that | Photo Credit: Julie Herson

Plant a tree: Richmond Trees plants trees in Richmond and their website shows lots of happy kid helpers. I did this in San Francisco and found it so meaningful to watch my little sapling take root. (pictured above) The planting season is usually the rainy season, October – March. Check their Facebook page for upcoming planting events.

Clean up the Bay: Sign up with Save SF Bay to find organized group beach clean-ups to restore natural wetland habitats all around San Francisco Bay. Or do a miniature version with your family.

Keep Sausal Creek Clean: The Friends of the Sausal Creek offer many volunteer opportunities including planting, trail stewardship, weeding, seed collection, trash pick-up, water quality and bird monitoring, and more. Check their calendar for upcoming events, including one at the Bridgeview Trail.

Kids Beach Clean Up
Beach clean up is a fun family affair to fill a weekend morning | Photo Credit: Julie Herson

Garden for the community: Kids can, literally, get their hands dirty in a garden and share the wealth with others through some of these community garden projects.

East Bay Regional Park Volunteer Opportunities: There are many kid-friendly opportunities in the East Bay Regional Parks, including Doc Quack’s Wildlife Volunteers, Shoreline cleanup days and habitat restoration. Some require registration, so be sure to plan ahead.  Check their website.


Garden at a community garden
Dig, plant, hoe, release ladybugs, and get dirty | Photo: Heather Flett

Kids are great at showing compassion and helping people

Help prisoners: The Prisoners Literature Project is based in South Berkeley, and they’re always looking for volunteers to help answer letters, send out books, and assist in other ways. Kids age 10+ are welcome with parents. Happens twice weekly. Just make sure to sign up via this google form first.

Deliver meals to senior citizens: Via Meals on Wheels, you (as chauffeur) and your child (as helper) can prepare or deliver meals to homebound seniors in their local communities as well as being a friendly visitor. There are several East Bay locations and specific volunteer duties vary. Most programs deliver meals before noon.

Shop for the food bank: The Alameda Food Bank has seen a huge surge of clients since the pandemic. While they’re not encouraging direct food donations right now to cut down on personal contact, they do have a cool Virtual Food Drive you can do with your kiddos from the comfort of your own own home.  (Another food bank that needs food donations is the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano Counties).

Collect Needed Goods: Use this list provided by the City of Alameda and see if your kids can collect all of them from friends and family. Kids love checking things of off lists. Maybe make it like a scavenger hunt? Drop off at the Alameda Police Department.

Kids can volunteer at Prison Lit Project in Berkeley
Kids can volunteer at Prison Lit Project in Berkeley | Photo: Alissa McLean

Playgroup with a purpose: Order a community service kit from Hands on Bay Area Project in a Box or be inspired to create your own activity with a result that helps others. Focus on your child’s interest by helping babies or children. Could be a fun Birthday or Holiday Party activity.

Host a drive: Whether it is for One Warm Coat (outerwear) or Help a Mother Out (diapers), let your children tap into their community of friends to fill the collection bin and make a difference. (Here’s a local drop of location).

Donate hair to help sick kids: Though this is a one-time thing, it is a really big impact for your long-haired child and the kid they help. Check out Wigs for Kids for details about how to do it.

Repair and donate your own used items such as toys, household goods, bikes, or computers. Bring them to a shelter or a community group in need. Due to Covid-19 precautions, some groups are not currently accepting item donations, but Bananas is facilitating a Virtual Boutique where you can donate your gently used goods.

Oakland Temple Hill is launching a cool knew Giving Machine on November 27, 2021, just in time for the holidays. You can select from 30 different items, from meals to laundry pods for homeless high school students to dental treatments for children to two hens and a rooster for a family in a developing country. So come for the beautiful holiday lights, and stay for the feel good Giving Machine experience.

Project Night Night- Kids helping kids providing comforts to homeless children in shelters
Project Night Night donation kit made by children | Photo: Becky Matthews

Collect security items for homeless children: Our contributor Becky and her daughters helped 72 families through Project Night Night by gathering new blankets, books, and stuffed animals for those in need by teaming up with their neighborhood friends.

Teen Volunteering at the Library: Oakland Public Library loves their teen volunteers. In fact, 66% of their volunteers are teens! How cool!

Join a Packaging Event: Kids Against Hunger Bay Area offers 1 1/2 hour packaging events for 10+ people at their warehouse in Pleasanton. Younger kids are welcome, but 4th grade and up seem to get the most out of it. Check out their upcoming packaging events.

Volunteer to help animals

Care for animals in need: Kids older than age 10 can join the volunteers at East Bay SPCA for activities relating to the medical needs of animals, behavior & training, animal advocacy and animal themed careers. Activities for parent/child teams are limited; participants in the youth volunteer club (ages 10+) pay a fee and have more predictable participation.

Foster animals in your home: Talk about hands-on! Whitney shared details of her experience fostering kittens. Other animals need homes for short and long terms. You can foster older dogs waiting for their forever home through Muttville.

Volunteer for the arts with kids

Usher for local theater companies: Be a helper with some of the children’s theater companies by collecting tickets, seating guests, or selling snacks. As a perk, your family can see the show. See how fun it can be to help out? Try The Bay Area Children’s Theater. (Covid-19 Note: This type of volunteering may be on hold for now, but keep your eye out for more opportunities as theaters start to reopen.)

Children’s Theater is a great introduction to the arts | Photo Credit: Julie Herson

Even more resources for volunteering with kids:

  • Sign up with Hands On Bay Area which offers families with children 12 and under an array of opportunities. This site seems perfect to find more regular scheduled volunteer gigs. I saw a diverse set of educational and athletic options on the first page.
  • Run! Sign up for a 1k fun walk or run (or 5k for older kids) that raises money for a cause that you care about. The Berkeley Family 1k offers the chance to raise money for the Berkeley Public Schools.
Kids running race
A family fun run is a great way to feel good inside and out | Photo Credit: Julie Herson
  • Pick a project on DoSomething that can be done from home. I noticed clever ideas like posting surprise positive messages around town to boost others’ self esteem, or making a five minute playlist to help friends take shorter showers. Search by your child’s interest and time available to find the best match.
  • Search VolunteerMatch.org for current needs in the area. This site seems great for finding something specific and time-bound to fit in your schedule. You can filter on kids to see (theoretically) appropriate opportunities. Among many others, I saw requests for people to pull weeds at Point Isabel as well as hosting foreign exchange students.
  • Both Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts focus on teaching children to be of service to others; kids who go through these programs will participate in many volunteer activities with increasing responsibility as they get older.
Boy Scouts Flags at Cemetery Memorial Day
Boy Scouts place flags at a local cemetery on Memorial Day | Photo Credit: Andrew Herson

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