22 Earth Day projects to get kids good and dirty

by Lisa Fogarty
Apr 2, 2016 at 12:30 p.m. ET

Earth Day is coming up (April 22), and, with it, fun opportunities to teach children about our planet and how they can protect it for generations to come. Since kids learn best by playing and getting their hands dirty, they'll flip for these 22 Earth Day activities — and they'll have so much fun coloring, cutting, baking, planting and creating that they won't even realize they're learning. 

Gather up your art supplies and prepare to be amazed at the beauty — and simplicity — of these Earth Day projects for kids. 

1 /23: Yarn earth activity

1/23 :Yarn earth activity

Grab blue, green and brown yarn, glue, scissors, wax paper and a bowl, and let kids get their hands dirty while creating a colorful yarn mosaic tribute to Mother Earth. Made with Happy provides a simple step-by-step guide to mastering this DIY globe — which can be hung up and displayed by the window and will inspire you to engage in all kinds of fascinating conversations about the planet. 

2 /23: DIY Earth Day tree T-shirt

2/23 :DIY Earth Day tree T-shirt

What's better than creating wearable art with your kids while enjoying the Great Outdoors? DIY Earth Day tree T-shirts can be easily made using fabric paint in brown and green, a piece of cardboard, sponge paintbrushes, baby wipes (for quick clean-ups) and a prewashed white T-shirt — and who doesn't have one of those kicking around? You needn't even know how to paint happy little trees to get started. Your child's forearm serves as the perfect tree trunk model and their little hands are ideal branches and leaves. 

3 /23: DIY recycling center

3/23 :DIY recycling center

Help your children create their very own colorful and fun recycling center, which doubles as an art station, with amazing tips from Handmade Charlotte. Before you throw away used milk cartons, consider repurposing them to store colored pencils, markers and crayons — or turn small juice cartons and plastic bottle caps into toy cars. Their personal recycling center is the perfect place for children to store all of their supplies for future artistic expression.

4 /23: Earth Day Rice Krispies cake pops

4/23 :Earth Day Rice Krispies cake pops

There's just something more fun about eating anything on a stick — and these Earth Day Rice Krispies cake pops are no exception. Blue food coloring and green icing create mini globes and lollipop sticks allow your kids to tote these around while making minimal mess. Bake-free desserts are always welcome when the weather heats up. 

5 /23: Earth Day pendant necklaces

5/23 :Earth Day pendant necklaces

Don't even think about throwing away all of that annoying junk mail you receive — those colorful papers and envelopes make for beautiful pendant necklaces, as Michele Made Me proves to us. Using circle pendants cut out from cereal boxes, string, glue and piles of junk mail, kids can make cool, artsy necklaces and rings for themselves and their friends, while learning about upcycled fashion.

6 /23: Biosphere in a bottle

6/23 :Biosphere in a bottle

To teach children how everything on Earth is connected in some way, Expect More Arizona suggests creating your own biosphere in a bottle: a fascinating and complex mini-world that consists of soil, plants and "pond" water within an empty soda bottle. The best part about this project is that it continues to give back long after Earth Day. Kids will find something new and interesting to marvel at each day as they observe how their ecosystem continues to transform and evolve. 

7 /23: Earth Day ice cream

7/23 :Earth Day ice cream

Celebrate the Earth and its creepy inhabitants by surprising your kids with a DIY Earth Day ice cream treat — complete with the most delicious dirt (um, Oreo cookies) and gummy worms. Here's your chance to remind your children just how important worms are to helping maintain a beautiful garden — assuming they can pull away from their ice cream long enough to pay attention. 

8 /23: Egg carton wreath

8/23 :Egg carton wreath

Empty egg cartons can be repurposed and turned into gorgeous, colorful egg wreaths — perfect for springtime. Homemade Serenity shows us how to cut egg holders into various floral shapes and paint them using vivid tempera paints (she even offers handy tips on how to help your kids keep paint off the table). Once assembled on a cardboard frame, the bright and beautiful wreath will liven up your home, make your child smile from ear to ear and serve as an awesome conversation starter with guests. 

9 /23: Earth Day clean-up bags

9/23 :Earth Day clean-up bags

Cleaning up your yard or neighborhood is a lot more exciting and enjoyable when you make customized Earth Day clean-up bags before you set out to help beautify the planet. Instead of tossing a brown paper bag in the trash (the kind that boasts attached handles), repurpose it by showing your child how to turn it inside out and use markers to create flowers, trees — anything that inspires them to think about nature. This is one craft children of all ages can enjoy (and the bonus perk is that they make even become enthusiastic about helping you clean). 

10 /23: Discovery bottles

10/23 :Discovery bottles

You know those adorable VOSS water bottles at the store? Little Bins for Little Hands recommends investing in five of them, drinking their delicious and healthy water and then saving those babies to help your kids make discovery bottles — which make for the most gorgeous science experiments you can imagine. Use one bottle to create an oil and water density experiment, another to make an inexpensive glitter sensory bottle, and another to experiment with water, magnets and paper clips. The possibilities are endless and children will be left excited about storing, displaying and referring back to their discovery bottles. 

11 /23: Coffee filter and handprint activity

11/23 :Coffee filter and handprint activity

There's a good chance you already have the six tools needed to complete your very own coffee filter and handprint activity, courtesy of Mom to 2 Posh Lil Divas: coffee filters, green and blue markers, water, construction paper and scissors. After coloring a picture of the Earth on coffee filters, a little water magic and hand tracing creates a personalized, abstract poster that you can display, save and compare with the many others you'll create every Earth Day from now until they're adults. 

12 /23: Earth Day crayons

12/23 :Earth Day crayons

Why use two separate green and blue crayons for all of your Earth Day art needs when you can combine the two and make Earth Day crayons? You'll need to supervise your kids, as you'll have to cut blue and green crayons into small pieces and an oven is needed to "bake" the shades together. The result is one super, megacrayon that resembles the planet and boasts a unique design. 

13 /23: Earth Day agamograph

13/23 :Earth Day agamograph

This Earth Day agamograph, created by Art with Jenny K., isn't what it seems. Depending on the angle in which you view it, it can look like the planet or a recycling symbol. A second agamograph art project features images spliced together to show either the Earth or water drops transforming into a tree. Kids will love all of the creative cutting and coloring they'll get to do, and parents will thank their lucky stars Jenny K. includes both video and written instructions for the project on her site. The final product looks incredibly impressive — and a lot more difficult to create than it really is (promise). 

14 /23: Candy-filled Rice Krispies treats

14/23 :Candy-filled Rice Krispies treats

Most kids are crazy about Rice Krispies treats. Give them the Earth Day "treat"-ment by separating your Rice Krispies mixture into two "globes" (using identical-size bowls) and adding some blue food coloring for a sweet earthy effect. You can then fill your treat with the candy of your choice and use green frosting to fashion continents on your Rice Krispies globe. The best part is, of course, the look on your kids' faces when you cut into their candy Earth and even more treats come spilling out. Get the recipe here. 

15 /23: Grass crowns

15/23 :Grass crowns

Little princesses and princes will love making grass crowns using old paper grocery sacks. Delia Creates suggests using crayons in various shades of green and letting your little ones practice their cutting skills to fashion adorable grass crowns they can (and will beg you to let them) wear everywhere. The best part: To achieve perfectly imperfect choppy grass, kids needn't be miniature Picassos. 

16 /23: Earth Day cookies

16/23 :Earth Day cookies

These blue-and-green happy face Earth Day cookies are almost too cute to eat. Using just eight ingredients (and relying on sugar cookie mix, which will make those of us pressed for time sigh with relief), you can whip up these yummy treats in about 15 minutes. Green and blue food coloring create an Earth-inspired design. Click here for the recipe. 

17 /23: Earth Day promise hands

17/23 :Earth Day promise hands

Encourage your entire family to make a promise to the Earth with this fun Earth Day promise hands project. Trace your child's hand on a piece of paper, color it with green and blue crayons to resemble the Earth and cut around the hand outline. Next, draw a circle on another piece of paper, cut it out, and have your child write one thing he promises to do this year (recycle, plant a tree, etc.) before pasting the circle to the hand. Hang up all of the hands in a place in your house where you'll be able to see them and remind one another of your new commitments. 

18 /23: Watercolor flowers

18/23 :Watercolor flowers

Bookmark this project for Earth Day, Mother's Day — and, basically, any other day when you and your kids want to feel happy and one with nature. You'll need to take a trip to the craft store to stock up on watercolor paper, watercolor paints, awl, craft wire, a hole punch and a few other materials you may not already have, but it's so worth it. Momtastic provides a step-by-step guide to cutting your paper and creating the sweetest wire stems you've ever seen. 

19 /23: Plant craft

19/23 :Plant craft

Encourage your children to talk to plants (seriously, it works!) by teaching them this simple plant craft, which gives ordinary terracotta pots fun and expressive faces. Each of your plants can have a different personality with the help of acrylic paint colors, a paintbrush and clear acrylic spray. Need hair? A houseplant with long leaves will do the trick. 

20 /23: Northern lights activity

20/23 :Northern lights activity

Encourage your children to learn about and pay homage to one of the most natural, breathtaking treasures in the United States: Alaska. Get kids curious about its spectacular northern lights by researching why the aurora borealis occurs in the northern hemisphere and then recreating the scene using watercolor paints and silhouettes of animals found in Alaska. Little Passports provides great tips that are perfect for kids of all ages, as well as a link to an Alaskan animal printable. 

21 /23: Recycled-paper flower magnets

21/23 :Recycled-paper flower magnets

Old magazines and magnets combine to make magic in this recycled-paper flower magnets craft. After cutting various-sized circles in the magazine paper, "petals" can be glued together, along with stick-on jewels and magnets, to make adorable floral magnets you can use on your fridge or memo board. 

22 /23: Earth Day paper plates

22/23 :Earth Day paper plates

Children see the world in unique and often unexpected ways. Bring out their artistic sides and recycle old plates in the process by showing them a picture of the Earth, turning their plates wrong side up and asking them to use markers or paint to recreate exactly what they see in the picture. Earth Day paper plates can keep young children busy and provide older kids with a challenge: Just how accurately can they draw the continents, archipelagos and bodies of water?

23 /23: Getting green

23/23 :Getting green

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