By Sarah Mahoney

Kids are naturally many things: They're curious, funny and loving. But one thing they're not is thoughtful. Empathy for others is a trait that must be learned -- and you are the best person to teach it.

Volunteering together is an excellent way to increase your child's social and emotional growth while spending quality time together.

Here, some age-by-age ideas for How to Raise Caring Kids

How to Raise Caring Kids Ages 2 Through 5

1. Offer to take care of a neighbor's pet while he or she is sick or away from home.

This gives you the opportunity to teach your child about feeding, walking and playing with animals. Let your child take the lead, and she'll learn an important lesson in responsibility and helping her community.

2. Hold a wish-list drive for your child's nursery school or day care.

Create a sign-up sheet together. Ask your child to help you collect supplies and donations. While you'll have to do most of the legwork, your child can do the heavy lifting. Put him in charge of carrying the supplies to the car.

3. Invite your child to accompany you to the grocery store to shop for an elderly neighbor or family member.

Sit together with the neighbor to make a list of groceries. Shopping for the items on the list, picking out the best fruits and vegetables, checking expiration dates for freshness and putting the groceries away together is a great way to demonstrate the importance of teamwork and the thought and effort that goes into helping others.

How to Raise Caring Kids Ages 6 Through 8

1. Visit a local hospital with your kids.

Whether it's helping to paint a mural on the wall or visiting with sick patients, many hospitals offer programs for young kids. Check with your local hospital for details on volunteering. Also inquire about bringing pets; they can be very therapeutic for patients.

2. Volunteer at a senior citizens home.

Playing board games, reading and simply talking with the residents can make such a difference in their lives. When your kids see the impact they are having, it boosts their self-esteem and gives them an appreciation of just how important their efforts are. Plus, building relationships with the elderly can be an enriching experience -- for everyone.

3. Encourage your kids to lend a hand.

Offer to help a neighbor carry his groceries into the house -- and bring your children with you. Help move furniture or rake leaves or anything else neighbors could use help with. If you're out there shoveling your driveway, do your neighbor's driveway too -- without even asking. While you're busy doing that, have your kids brush snow off the neighbor's car. They'll learn that making someone else's life a little easier does a lot of good.

How to Raise Caring Kids Ages 9 Through 12

1. Give back to your community.

Local libraries can always use volunteers to help complete daily tasks. Sign up for a regular time slot that you and your children can commit to. If they're lucky, your kids may also get the opportunity to read to younger kids or help them navigate around the library.

2. Help out in pinch.

If your child has experience baby-sitting, encourage her to raise her hand when a friend or family member has a last-minute need for coverage. That shows your child that even if you have to change your own plans, it's worth it to put someone's mind at ease.

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Parenting Advice - How to Raise Caring Kids