It’s¬†#GivingTuesday,¬†a day we look forward to every year because we’re happy to¬†share some of our favorite ways to give back. And while we love a dedicated day that nudges people to do good,¬†we also love to help you find ways to give back as a family on this day — and any day¬†of the year.

While making donations to charities you support gives¬†fulfillment to you, and a lifeline to the recipients, giving your time as a family can offer¬†that, plus some really good bonding time. There’s something special that happens when you serve someone a meal, play some music for the residents at an assisted living home, deliver groceries to¬†someone who is homebound, or even give a¬†shelter cat some cuddles. And when you do it together, as a family, it’s even better.

Related: 35 truly fabulous gifts that give back to 35 fabulous causes | Cool Mom Picks Holiday Gift Guide 2016

I started volunteering with my family when my daughters’ school began organizing opportunities to give back on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. We all took so much pride in working together to give back to our community¬†that we decided to do it¬†much more often.

So in honor of #GivingTuesday, I pulled together five wonderful ways to give back as a family all year long. I love these ideas, and hope you find something that speaks to you too.

1. Bake dog biscuits for pups in your local animal shelter

If you have animal lovers in your family, consider baking canine cookies together. Dogs at your local animal shelter will be thrilled to receive special treats made lovingly by your family. Call your nearest animal shelter first to make sure they can use your homemade treats and whether they have specific parameters for ingredients that can or should not be used. Ask when to drop them off and whether you can get a tour or visit with the animals. Then roll up your sleeves and get to baking. But first! Check out these fun recipes for canine cookies on the Kitchn blog.


Another great way to give back is to organize a family letter writing event to your elected officials and teach kids that their voices matter.

2. Organize a Letter Writing Workshop and put words into action

Make a difference in your community by sharing your opinions with your elected officials. And, in doing so, you can teach your children about being engaged citizens. My family recently organized an event to get local families together to write their concerns¬†and/or their support¬†to our representatives and it was successful in more ways than one. We had over 70 letters written from kids of all ages. Your writing workshop¬†can be as small as a group gathering around your dining room table or a larger community event at your local library or other meeting place. Supply plenty of paper, notecards, pencils, pens, or typewriter and laptops for older kids. Have a list of elected officials and their addresses available and you’re on your way to making your voices heard!


There are so many ways your family can give back at a local Ronald McDonald House.

3. Spend time with kids coping with serious illnesses

Brighten the day of a child who is coping with a serious illness¬†by visiting your local¬†Ronald McDonald House, an organization that¬†works to keep families with sick children close to each other while providing¬†the care and resources the children and their families need. Your family can¬†volunteer in so many ways: cooking meals; hosting a movie night; playing music for the residents; playing board games with the children and their families; and so much more. And when you work together as a family, helping another family in need, the¬†little life lesson — what matters most is helping those you love¬†— won’t be lost on your kids. Trust me.


Give back by decorating lunch bags for Meals on Wheels and brighten a senior's day.

4. Make meals more special by decorating lunch bags

Meals on Wheels America fights hunger for more than 5,000 community-based senior nutrition programs across the country. Families with older children can actually help deliver meals (and smiles) to seniors. But for families with younger children, travel can be challenging. So I love the idea of having your kids decorate paper lunch bags with their art, stickers, and kind messages. Then, just drop them off at your local Meals on Wheels center (you can find your local chapter here). The delivered meals, when presented in a special paper bag, will make everything taste sweeter.


Give back by raising money to fight childhood cancers with a lemonade stand for Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation.

5. Turn lemons into lemonade and raise money to fight childhood cancer

Your family can help fight childhood cancer, one cup at a time, by running a lemonade stand to raise money for¬†Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation (ALSF). What I love about this organization is that they encourage children to¬†get involved and make a difference for other children. ASLF¬†offers helpful tips, resources, and even a fundraising kit to help you have a successful and joyful give-back experience. But really, all you have to do to get started is choose a¬†location, date and time, and register your Alex‚Äôs Lemonade Stand — and your family will be all set for some serious do-gooding.

Need some more ideas on how to give back¬†together? Plug in your zip code on the¬†Volunteer Match search page to see where your town could use a helping hand.¬†Choose¬†your areas of interest — arts and culture, homeless and housing, animals, seniors, or the environment — and click the ‚Äúkids‚ÄĚ checkbox to find a project that‚Äôs just right for your¬†family.

Looking for even more ways to ways to give back this holiday season? Check out our archives and a great list of gifts that give back in our Holiday Gift Guide 2016.