Kids are sprouting into environmental stewards and are looking for ways to appreciate the natural world that surrounds them. Celebrating Earth Day (April 22) is the perfect way to teach your children more about the Earth and how to care for the environment.
Looking for some great activities to boost your Earth Day participation? The Jane Goodall Institute is a wonderful resource for information about our global environment, and Jane Goodall's Roots & Shoots is all about youth making positive change happen — for communities, animals and the environment. Check out some of the inspiring ways that youth are jumping in to save our planet and create your own Earth Day activities that your family can enjoy.
No place is quite as beautiful as the beach. Don't live close enough to the beach to visit? You can recreate a piece of the coast's serene atmosphere in the sandbox in your backyard! Scatter shells, rocks and other items in the sand for an easy scavenger hunt, or just add water, pails and shovels for a sandcastle contest. Adults can supervise from beach chairs or towels on the grass. Older kids can experiment with the sand and water, showing younger kids how the water cuts channels through the sand. Add a picnic lunch to your homemade beach to celebrate the outdoors even longer.
Get to know your local farmer and enlist the kids to join you at the local farmers' markets. Better yet, plant your own garden that everyone can care for and enjoy all season long. Supporting local produce growers and other products that are locally made is a green way to shop. Some cities even allow urban chicken coops — for fresh eggs right in your own backyard! Choosing locally grown fruits and vegetables not only helps the planet, but it teaches your children about how their food is grown. Often kids are more interested in trying new foods that they grew or cooked themselves, which is a great strategy for picky eaters.
Show the kids how to soar into a colorful sky with only the force of nature to power your kite. A centuries-old activity, kite flying can be enjoyed at any age — with a little wind, of course! We don't usually think much about the wind and climate on any given day, so flying a kite gives your kids a different perspective on the weather systems that surround our planet. And who doesn't love to fly a kite? Admit it or not, this is fun for the kid inside you, too.
Butterflies are some of nature's most beautiful creatures, although they aren't easy to observe when they flutter in the sky. Using an insect or butterfly net, capture them and show the kids how to appreciate their beauty up close. Then let them loose. Anything from grasshoppers to slugs can be an interesting lesson in nature, and all the creatures — no matter how small — that we share our planet with.
Gather the family for a volunteer day dedicated to beautifying the earth. Many communities have organizations that champion environmental protection and regularly organize events like stream and trail clean-ups. Choose something that is local, or just near-and-dear to your heart. Does your family love to walk the neighborhood trails? Cleaning up litter — either with an organized group or on your own — is a great way to give back locally, and enjoy a cleaner trail. If camping in the mountains is a family favorite activity, rangers may have organized trail crews to mend broken fences or collect litter.
Invite the neighbors to create bubble wands out of objects found around the house like straws, pipe cleaners, strawberry baskets and coat hangers. Take the kids outside and have your own bubble party! Not only are bubbles fun, but they are a great way for your kids to grasp the concept of wind and air movement. Make sure your bubble solution is eco-friendly too. You can find products at the store, or make your own earth-conscious bubbles yourself using eco-friendly dish soap and corn syrup. Kids of all ages (and adults too!) will love some fun in the sun with a bubble party.
Locate a nature trail near you and take the kids on a woodsy adventure. Hiking is a group activity that provides great exercise and hands-on experiences with the natural world. Getting out together as a family and experiencing nature is not only a great Earth Day celebration, but a perfect way for the whole family to exercise together. Plan on taking more hikes (weekly or monthly) throughout the year.
At the end of the day, wind down with your kids by watching a movie that is perfect for Earth Day viewing. The Planet Earth DVDs from Discovery are a good place to start. Depending on the ages of your children, there are a number of other good titles for Earth Day including Avatar, The Lorax, WALL-E, What's on Your Plate? and Where the Green Ants Dream. BBC's The Blue Planet series is also terrific.
In celebration of Earth Day — and every day — consider what you and your family can do to incorporate outdoor and eco-friendly activities into your own routine. Walk your kids to school instead of driving. Grab sidewalk chalk and color on the driveway instead of sitting inside and using an entire package of construction paper. Turn off the television and head outside with roller skates or a ball. It's easy — and fun — to green your routine.
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