Earth Day is an annual celebration of the environment, which occurs on April 22. Here are some fun and educational ways to celebrate it with your children.
By Wendy Priesnitz
Earth Day began on April 22, 1970, in San Francisco, California. Now, people in over one hundred different countries join together in what has become the largest, most celebrated environmental event worldwide. For many people, though, it has ceased to have much meaning and sometimes appears to be just one more corporate-sponsored greenwash.
However, Earth Day can be a great opportunity to reinforce the concept of green living for young children and have some fun at the same time. And everybody loves a holiday! Here are ten ways to make Earth Day a new tradition with your young family and friends.
1. Plant a tree in your back yard. Besides being a fun activity for your family, trees help to lower greenhouse gas emissions, and they provide a habitat for a variety of birds. Go to your local nursery and pick out the perfect tree for your yard.
2. Do some natural crafts. Pine cone bird feeders are easy even for young children. (cover cones with shortening or peanut butter mixed with an equal amount of oatmeal or corn meal, roll in birdseed, hang on a tree branch.) Or make collages with paper from the recycling bin or fabric scraps. Or plant some herb or grass seeds in potting soil in a half eggshell, and sit in egg cups or a base made from rolled and decorated card stock. Or make a birdhouse out of a milk carton.
3. If you live in the part of the world where April is Spring, begin to plant a vegetable garden. If you don’t have a yard, window boxes and large pots work just as well. Let the children choose new types of fruits or vegetables to try out each year, and give them responsibilities in the garden.
4. Mix up some homemade nontoxic cleansers and hold a family Spring cleaning bee. Follow it up with a festive lunch or outdoor picnic if it’s warm enough.
5. Take a Nature hike. Whether you walk for an hour in your local park or further afield on an organized trail, or simply have a picnic amongst Nature’s beauty, any time not spent inside is time well-spent. Don’t forget your camera to capture the scenery and to take a group shot of your “First Annual Earth Day Hike.” (Try to leave all other electronic devices at home.)
6. Clean up litter at a local park. Parks provide places for everyone in the community to enjoy Nature. Bring trash bags and wear gloves.
7. Have an Earth Day party. Cook a special meal using healthy, organic, vegan foods. Decorate with leaves or potted plants, and let each guest take a plant home to add to their garden. For the kids, put out some green toys or environmentally-themed books like The Lorax. Use cloth napkins and tablecloths, canning jars filled with early wildflowers, and china plates and real cutlery.
8. Go camping. Get in touch with Nature on a camping trip. An overnight trip into the woods provides perspective on the importance of protecting Mother Nature, and gets you away from the noises and nuisances of the city. (And leave the electronic devices at home, or at least turn them off.) Not a fan of roughing it or think your children are too young? Plan an eco-vacation instead.
9. Spend the day like your ancestors. Go without electricity, unplugging everything to eliminate phantom power use and the urge to turn anything on. Use candles when it gets dark; eat raw, locally grown foods; if you cook, use an open fire, woodstove, or grill. Play cards or board games, go for a bike ride, or simply chat among yourselves.
10. Make every day Earth Day.