As parents, it is up to us to instill in our children a love and concern for our planet and the world around us.
Regardless of our political or environmental beliefs, it is clear that our climate is different than it was generations ago—from the critical California drought to the melting polar ice caps. Our world is rapidly changing, and although there are many theories about where it will go from here, ultimately none of us really know.
We need to teach our children that they are capable of making a difference by making the small changes that precede big improvements.
“Take care of the earth and she will take care of you.” ~ author unknown
The time to start teaching awareness and engagement isn’t once they are older and they can understand words like “climate change” and “decreasing habitats.” It’s now, while they still sit and gaze with wonder at the beauty of the world which surrounds them!
This Earth Day, it’s easy to engage our children in the celebration of our planet with these fun and simple ideas!
1. Say Bye-Bye to paper products!
This seems scary right? No napkins or paper towels? Yikes!
But it is actually surprisingly easy!
Start collecting old hand towels and place in a bin to be used as rags for spills and cleaning. Take our kids to the store, such as Ten Thousand Villages, (which supports crafts people from around the world) and have them pick out cloth napkins. Not only does cloth feel better to use,they’re easy to throw in the washer, when they are dirty.
Reusing cloth napkins cuts our dependence on extraneous paper supplies.
2. Go for an Eco Walk!
Take a walk around the neighborhood, along a wooded path, to a nearby beach or down a bike path.Bring a trash bag (or two), wear gloves and help the environment by cleaning up the community. Make it a game and tell the kids who ever fills up their bag first wins a prize!
3. Make Art!
Using materials, found in the recycling bin, makes great art supplies and up-cycling—turning empty milk gallons into terrariums, or outside stained glass lights, making towers out of plastic containers and mini-planters from old metal cans. If we are short on ideas, check out Pinterest for a host of suggestions to get us making art now!
We can also make earth art while out and about in nature; rock towers or animals from pinecones, even fairy houses! Our imagination is the limit!
4. Play in the Dirt!
Take a trip to the local nursery and pick out a tree, shrub or perennial, that is indigenous to our area (beware of invasive species) and make a day of planting with our kids! Teach them about what plants need to grow, their roots, their leaves and petals, water and sunshine!
5. Grow our Own!
Plant a vegetable garden or even just some tomato or fruit plants in pots, that our children can enjoy! The only thing cooler than gardening is getting to eat what we grow!
6. Go Green!
Find out if our child’s school has a bottle or paper recycling program—if they don’t consider starting a “green club!” The great thing about this is classrooms can have contests on who can bring in and collect the most cans and bottles, and then the school can turn this into money for extracurricular programs and activities, like maybe starting a school garden!
7. Turn it off!
Talk to our kids about the importance of shutting off the lights when they leave a room and turning off the water while they brush their teeth!
Water doesn’t just appear, but comes from somewhere—if children are taught the value of resources then they will be more likely to appreciate them!
Take a trip to a local dam or hydroelectricity facility to show them exactly how important the resource of water is. Discussing the California drought is a great way to tie in current events and help show children why conservation is so important.
8. Go gadget free!
Put away the iPad, iPod, tablets, smart TV’s (and phones) and get back to what life was like, when we weren’t getting text messages every few minutes and checking the scores on the baseball game.
Put away our electronics for 24 hours and play outside, have a board game night, or snuggle up and read some books together. After a few hours it will have us wishing every day could be more tech free!
9. Park the car!
Today, try to go car free and stick to walking and biking!
Take the chance to talk to our kids about how most cars need gasoline to move and where it comes from. Not only is it better for our environment, but kids will love strapping on their bike helmets and hitting the bike paths! It’s all for a good cause!
10. Get wild!
Take a day trip to a local zoo or aquarium to see all the amazing biodiversity that our world has! Most zoos and aquariums have specialized conservation programs for their areas, and will usually host programs on Earth Day! After the visit, ask your kids which animals was their favorite and why–start a discussion, and talk about where their habitat is and what that might mean.
Don’t underestimate kid’s ability to understand—they will be as engaged as we expect them to be!
Above all, on this Earth Day, April 22nd, just get out there!
Go take a hike, plant a tree, plan a picnic and enjoy the beauty that exists around all of us!
“Enjoy Earth’s wonders every day. Her beauty will spark a smile. Plant a seed or tree. Love your planet. A lifelong project, and so worthwhile. “ ~ B. Llewellyn
By engaging our children in fun and socially conscience activities we are showing them that we can’t take our planet for granted— instead we all have to be part of the movement to help conserve our natural resources.
For further reading and a great book to introduce the idea of conservation and Earth Day to our children, check out: One Child, One Planet; Inspiration for the Young Conservationist. by, Bridget McGovern Llewellyn.
Author: Kate Rose
Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock