More than 100 million people worldwide take part in Earth Day festivities. Why should you and your family be left out? Join in the celebration, and learn about how you can better the Earth with these fun projects and festivities.
Take a Litter Clean-Up Hike
Start by getting the kiddos dressed in appropriate gear (comfortable shoes and clothing), and give them a pair of gloves to wear. Grab a few plastic bags for trash, and a few bags or a container for recyclables. If you’re doing a walk around your neighborhood, you can even put a recycling bin on a wagon, and pull the recycling “station” around town with you. Have the kids help you clean up their environment, and sort through all of the discards. This is an especially fun activity if you include other families and children. Once you’re done, take the kids to the recycling center to let them see how they’re helping the environment by diverting garbage from the dump. (You can also take “before” and “after” photos of the neighborhood, giving the kids a newfound appreciation and sense of pride for keeping their ‘hood clean.) If you’re without children, try and gather your neighbors. It will make the experience more fun and give everyone more incentive to take care of their neighborhood.
Spend the Day “Off-Line”
We don’t just mean turning off the computer and Internet connection. We mean going completely off-line turning off the TV, microwave, telephone, and anything else that requires energy. (Give the refrigerator a pass, though, unless you want to lose everything inside.) Talk with your family about energy-zappers, and take them through the house, helping you unplug or turn off appliances. Bonus: You’ll get to spend a day living Robinson Crusoe style, finding new ways to stay entertained, cook dinner, and even get around. (P.S. The car is also off limits.)
Go for the Birds
Provide food for your neighborhood birds. To build a simple birdfeeder, take an empty milk carton, large plastic bottle, or coffee can and cut a hole in the side large enough to fill the carton with birdseed. Have the kids decorate their birdfeeder with markers, paints, or stickers. Cut a few small holes in the bottom of your birdfeeder so rainwater can run out. If you want the birds to have an extra area to perch, poke a stick through the bottom of the container. Fill the container with birdseed, and hang from a tree branch or outside your door. Different birds like different types of seed, so if you’re particularly interested in attracting a certain bird, you’ll want to choose specific birdseed. Birdfeedersusa.com has a guide for choosing seed for different birds.
Make Your Own Plant Guide
In The Everything Kids’ Environment Book, (Adams Media, 2007) author Sheri Amsel suggests helping your kids make plant guides to their own home turf. Start by having them collect one leaf from each tree in your yard, or for evergreens, collecting a small stem with needles. Place their findings between two pieces of white paper and cover with a heavy book overnight. In the morning, have the kids take the flattened needles or leaves and lay each under a new piece of paper and do a rubbing with a soft-tipped pencil or charcoal. Remove the leaf or needle stem and then use the pencil to darken the outlined leaf drawing and its features. Using a tree or plant guide (or the good old Internet), identify the tree types and write their names underneath each leaf. Punch holes in each sheet and place them in a binder. When you go on walks in your neighborhood, ask your kids if they recognize the plants or trees they see and if not, check out the plant guide they made or create a new page.
Earth Day may be primarily about the environment, but it’s also about the earth’s inhabitants, including animals and people. Give your family a new challenge by asking everyone to figure out how they can “Give More, Take Less.” In A Hot Planet Needs Cool Kids (Green Goat Books, 2007) author Julie Hall suggests creating a chart for tracking give-more and take-less goals. Perhaps you can do without another pair of shoes, or your kids can donate their toys they’ve outgrown to charity. How else can you give? What else can you do to take less? This is a great way to start a conversation with kids about the impact we all have both positively and negatively on the planet, and how we can emphasize the positive.