When you get to be a certain age, you put down your GI Joes and Barbies and before you know it you are working a 9 to 5, paying a mortgage, and reminiscing your fondest childhood memories. But your inner child is still active, and aching for an outlet so he can escape, and play.
Adapted Child’s Play is your perfect venue for bringing out the 10-year old version on yourself. AT ACP children with special needs learn though adapted physical education how to kick a soccer ball, engage in games that promote leadership and teamwork skills, use their imaginations to create magical worlds on the playground, and they improve their gross motor skills as they beam with joy and laughter. When you volunteer and work with these amazing kids you don’t just become their buddy and role model; you become a kid again, and the reward of engaging in a game of tag, rolling in the grass, and diving into the pool can fill you with enough excitement to last a life time. This article will examine the benefits volunteers receive from working with special kids like our ACP gang, and will also look at the ways it benefits the children all within the context of living a life of joy and love.
The Health Benefits of Volunteering
Let’s start with the basics. We all know that volunteering is a way to get active and fight off the feeling of loneliness—two things that help boost one’s mood, and the better the mood you are in, the better your blood pressure is. In a Carnegie Mellon University study that examined the health benefits to volunteering, researchers discovered that men and women aged over 50 who regularly volunteered were less likely to develop high blood pressure than non-volunteers who shared the same health profiles. High blood pressure is a major cause for heart attacks, strokes, and premature death. Of course eating a healthy diet and getting exercise plays a huge role, but when you donate your time you give yourself a positive mindset, and staying positive is equally important.
Now imagine volunteering in a place where you can be active according to your own abilities, be outdoors, and play with children. Not only is adapted play soul gratifying, it keeps the body moving while you benefit from fresh air.
In addition, you will learn valuable skills that will look great on a resume. When you volunteer to work with children, and for children at ACP, you will:
- Enhance your teamwork skills
- Build better communication skills
- Develop your self-improvement skills
- Learn about various disabilities and how to leverage the person’s strengths
- Gain valuable information that can lead you to getting career and educational certificates
Are you planning to go to school for a degree in special education? What about school psychology? Volunteering with Adapted Child’s Play will give you a head start with real experience. Perhaps you dream of starting your own day care or school for kids with special needs. When you volunteer with our staff you can watch how we successfully operate at the administration level, from finding ways to help teachers save money on supplies, to fundraising, and marketing. At the end of the day you are having fun, feeling good, and learning some incredible skills you can take almost anywhere!
How Children Benefit from Adult Volunteers
Kids love to play with members of their own peer groups, but (and here’s the secret) they also love to play with adults. Our kids at ACP look up to coaches, teachers and volunteers. They crave guidance, education, and they know that children their own age can’t provide this. When you help a child internalize a value system, and then reward them for good behavior reflecting it, such as praising a child for allowing a peer to take a turn on the swing, or high-fiving a kid who decided to share his cookie with a little girl who had no treats, the kids love that approval from a grown-up and they are inspired to continue that behavior. They can also pick up on your energy, and they can tell when your child at heart is present and in control.
Kids also love to build bridges between adults and themselves; they look for ways they can relate to bigger people because it encourages them to live big dreams. For example, if you see a little girl playing with Xena the Therapy Dog, and then Xena needs to go work with a little boy who relies on her to encourage him to complete his jumping exercises, the little girl may not understand and feel sad. When an adult sits down, empathizes, and tells a story about having to share a beloved pet’s time with their sibling when they were younger, the child feels a connection and is encouraged to handle the situation in a more mature manner. You feel rewarded simply by making a little girl smile, but also from helping her see the value in sharing, and why Xena is needed to help all the kids. The child will love it because you are helping her understand from her level, and not one above her.
Make the Young at Heart Connection Today!
There are a lot of amazing kids waiting to be paired with volunteers who are willing to let their inner child out to play. Adapted Child’s Play is a place where kids engaging in traditional play and interact with children who have special needs, and it is a place where kids can come together and play with peers who face the same challenges that children from traditional physical education classes don’t have to deal with. All that is missing is someone like you; a playful, caring soul who deserves to have fun, nurture the heart, and make a difference in a child’s life!