NKLA kids volunteering at shelter

School’s out for summer! And inevitably, after those first few lazy days at the pool, at least one of your kids will announce, “I’m bored!” 

You can roll your eyes and start handing out chores, or you can suggest that they do something to make the world a better place — like help homeless pets.

There are plenty of things that kids of all ages can do to support shelters and rescues during the summer months (or year-round, for that matter). Here are a few ideas to get your pet-loving kiddos off the couch and out helping the community this summer.

Volunteer at a Shelter or Rescue

Volunteering can be a valuable experience for any kid; it can teach compassion and commitment. Call your local shelter or rescue to ask if it needs volunteers and if it has an age restriction for helpers. Some shelters have volunteer opportunities specifically geared to kids: Sheila McLalin, volunteer coordinator at the Best Friends Animal Society — Los Angeles, says their youth program is extremely popular during the summer months. After a mandatory training session, children ages 12 and up can volunteer as often as they want throughout the summer, with a minimum commitment of five hours a month. Kids love it — and so do their parents. “Parents like it because it’s good and keeps kids active," McLalin says, "and they do something good for the community.”

She adds that there are a variety of areas where kids can help at their facility: walking dogs, interacting with the pets, helping in the spay and neuter clinic and more.

Volunteering can be a family activity, too. McLalin says that at Best Friends, siblings often volunteer together. It’s also a great way for parents and their kids to bond. McLalin describes one mother and her teenage son who come in every week to walk dogs and help wherever is needed. She says it’s clearly something they enjoy doing together.

Raise Funds and Gather Donations

Raising cash is always an exciting summer project for kids. Encourage your kids to clean out the basement and their rooms and hold a tag sale to raise money for a local shelter. (Bonus: The activity benefits you and the shelter!) Some kids might prefer selling lemonade or baked goods; others might like to hold car washes, which are always popular in the summer months, especially for a good cause.

And don’t be afraid to let your kids come up with ideas on their own — you might be surprised how creative they can get. For example, a 12-year-old girl in Chicago sold bracelets and held a tiki party to raise money to buy doggie treadmills for her local shelter.

Most shelters need supplies as well as cash donations. Check out your favorite organization’s website for its donation wish list; you’re likely to find that it needs essentials like towels, blankets, gently used pet supplies, office supplies and more. Your kids can contact neighbors, friends and family and offer to help clean out cupboards, garages and basements to find things the shelter can use.

NKLA kids with dog

Leverage Special Talents and Interests

Another perfect partnership for bored kids and homeless pets is a reading program at your local shelter, says Julie Sonenberg, manager of the ASPCA’s Adoption Center Volunteer Program. Kids visit the pets and practice their reading while attentive dogs and cats listen. Your child will breeze through his summer reading list while the pets get much-needed socialization. This type of interaction is also calming for the animals and can help build confidence in struggling readers, making it a win-win for everyone. Many shelters, like the Animal Rescue League of Berks County in Pennsylvania, have seen great success with these programs.

Sonenberg recommends considering things your kids like to do in their free time and suggesting that they apply those skills to help animals. For example, if your child has a knack for photography, have him contact your local shelter or rescue to see if it could use someone to take quality photos of adoptable pets to post on its website. Or if writing is your child’s strong suit, see if the shelter would be interested in having him write stories about or descriptions of the pets for the shelter website or to hang next to the cages, as a group of Maryland fourth-graders did.

Older kids can tap into their social networks to help pets. “If teens are active on social media, they can ask their local shelter if there are any animals that could use extra promotion and then share their photo and adoption info on their own pages to spread the word to family and friends,” Sonenberg suggests.

No matter how you choose to help, battle boredom this summer by combining fun with community giving. Your kids will be proud of their accomplishments and will have lots of great stories to share with their friends in the fall!

More on Vetstreet.com: