Relax And Have Fun Volunteering Outdoors With Your Grandkids
By Sandi Schwartz
Looking for a way to spend more quality time with your busy grandkids while also pulling them away from their screens? Try volunteering outside in nature together. You’ll be combining two activities that will help you feel happier, healthier, and calmer—being outdoors and giving back to your community.
Volunteering provides many social, emotional, and health benefits, according to science. When we give back to our community, we can experience a physiological change called a helper’s high. This euphoric physical sensation happens when our brain releases endorphins, making us feel elated and excited. As a result, we can experience positive health changes including less stress and anxiety. Volunteering can also help us stay healthy and live longer. According to Psychology Today, volunteers are happier and healthier than non-volunteers, and volunteering later in life can have a bigger impact on health than even exercising or eating well.
Additionally, spending time in and around nature is beneficial to our health and well-being. The natural world offers solace and comfort, calming us down when we are feeling stressed and uplifting our mood when we are feeling sad. In fact, spending time outdoors has been proven to naturally reduce our stress response and help us recover from stressful situations more quickly. A series of reports by the Wildlife Trusts in the last couple of years not only found that volunteering outdoors enhances positive emotions and increases general health, but new information just released in their 2019 report shows that engaging in nature in this way can save money by preventing avoidable health problems and illnesses from developing or getting worse.
Children love to spend time outdoors, even if they aren’t doing it as much these days. Next time you are asked to babysit your grandkids or looking for a fun activity for you to enjoy together, invite them to one of these outdoor volunteer activities:
Tree Or Flower Planting
A lovely way to help beautify your community is to plant trees, flowers, or other vegetation. This is such a positive, hands-on activity for children because they will get to see the impact they can have. Many towns host planting events and have goals to plant a certain number of trees annually. Check out Tree City USA for information in your area.
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Beach and Park Cleanups
One way to keep beaches and parks pristine is to participate in a trash cleanup. Many volunteers feel more connected to nature and less stressed after spending time outside cleaning up their local beach or park. This is a really easy activity to do with your grandkids either on your own or through an organized group. Hank Barnet of Florida has made beachcombing his passion hobby in retirement. “The sights, sounds, and smells of our beaches have always been special to me, so I started picking up trash during my walks along the shoreline. When our triplet grandchildren started spending weekends with us as toddlers, I naturally made trips to the beach a feature of their time with Pop Pop. They are 14 now, and although they don’t come as often, the trip to the beach to clean it up is still an important part of our time together.”
Look for opportunities to volunteer in community gardens, which increase green space, build positive community interaction, and many even provide fresh produce to those in need. Gardening in itself is known to improve health, so take your grandchildren along for a pleasant afternoon of planting seeds, watering the garden, weeding, and picking fresh produce.
Work With Animals
Most children love to spend time with animals, so this is a wonderful option for a family-friendly volunteer project. Caring for and spending time with a lovable creature has so many positive benefits for all ages. There are many ways to volunteer your time to help animals outdoors, whether it be at a nature center, zoo, horse ranch, or animal shelter. For example, many animal shelters need volunteers to walk the dogs at their facility. This is a great activity to do with your grandchildren and get some exercise at the same time.
Check out these resources to find outdoor volunteering opportunities for your family:
- Contact your city’s sustainability or environmental director.
- Search for environmental organizations in your area.
- Find beach cleanups here: Ocean Conservancy, Surfrider Foundation, org.
- Check websites like Idealist, Volunteer Match, Create The Good, and Just Serve.
Participating in nature-related volunteer projects gives you an incredible opportunity to spend quality time with your grandchildren doing something positive and inspiring. You will both feel happier and healthier, and you’ll be giving them a special experience that they will treasure forever.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR – SANDI SCHWARTZ
I am a freelance writer and blogger focusing on parenting, wellness, and environmental issues. My bylines have appeared in Chicken Soup for the Soul, Very Well Family, Scary Mommy, Parent.Co, Motherly, Environmental Defense Fund’s Moms Clean Air Force, Your Teen For Parents, and The Gottman Institute blog.