Earth Day Ideas For Kids
Celebrating our Little Corner of the Cosmos
April 22, 2014 by Mark Dye
Earth Day is a great excuse to teach kids ways to respect the world around them. And, as a bonus, it can be a blast for both the kids and the parents!
Crafts are a great way to get youngsters interested in a topic thanks to their hands-on nature. They can use Play-Doh, or crayons and a paper plate, to create a little planet Earth, or match up pictures or toys of animals to what continent they live on. Just get creative! (And if you need more ideas, the Happier Homemaker blog has a few.)
A container garden is easy to create and affordable. A simple bucket with strawberries or some easy-to-grow flowers (such as marigolds) allow kids to get their hands dirty while connecting with nature. Herbs are also a good choice, as they are very hardy and can be grown easily with minimal care.
This is also a good time to start working on conservation skills, such as using less water while brushing their teeth. Starting conservation habits early helps instill a "reduce, re-use, recycle" mindset, which will pay dividends later on in life.
Recycling is a big part of Earth Day’s focus because it’s an easy thing people can do to help. Kids can pitch in by creating a recycling station: Have them choose a good spot for it, and then create pictures of what goes in the different bins or boxes to use as labels. Once done, they can help sort the different types of items.
A way to "re-use" materials is to turn what some might consider trash into treasures. It could be coffee can drums, egg carton bugs, or even a cardboard box pirate ship. Let kids use their imaginations and see what they can create!
Another fun project for the K-5 set is creating a simple indoor “greenhouse” using nothing more than an empty 2-liter bottle, some soil, and seeds. There is a huge assortment of directions and variations of the idea online, including one on eHow that won’t take long to complete (which is great for kids with short attention spans!).
You can also read books or watch a movie about protecting the environment, or that has a nature theme. There are many books out there about Earth Day, and the movie The Lorax is one of the more popular ones focused on protecting the world around us.
Now that the kids are a bit older, you can get a bit more complex and give them more freedom to explore on their own. A great way to do that is to have them go on a nature walk—but with a mission. Instead of just wandering through the woods or frolicking through a field, give them a camera and have them look for specific types of animals, such as birds or bugs. Then, have them take pictures of the ones they find so they can do a search and learn more about them. If you have multiple kids, you could even turn it into a contest to see who found more.
Gardening is once again a great way to get kids hands on, and at this age range most kids can be given a bit more responsibility. So have them create a larger garden (though not huge) that is all their own. They choose what to plant, take care of it, pull the weeds … all of it is theirs. If space is at a premium, you can use something as simple as a few old tires as borders—just fill with dirt and plant the seeds. (You can even paint them if you want!)
Another good project at this age is to start a compost pile or bin. Again, depending on how much space you have, it could a larger area in which all yard and plant waste is placed, or a simple storage bin full of some leaves and grass and other compostable items. (Directions on how to create a storage bin composter can be found at Things to Share and Remember.)
Kids at this age kids can do a lot more and their Earth Day projects should reflect that. It could include joining a group to help plant trees (very common in many communities) or doing some sort of fundraiser for an environmental group or charity.
Something more complex would be to show them how much conserving energy can save not only the planet, but also money! Share the utility bill with them, explaining how you’re charged for each type of energy you use (i.e., gas, electricity, etc.) and when the bill is due. Then see if they can find ways to reduce the amount used for a month and compare the results. It’s a good way to teach them how to conserve energy and save some cash once they’re on their own.
So whether your kids are young, or just young at heart, there are many ways to celebrate the planet we call home.