It’s a big, beautiful world out there — if only you had more time between loads of laundry and running errands to notice. Celebrating Earth Day gives everyone a chance to slow down, look around and remember why it’s crucial to treat the environment responsibly. When April 22 comes around, dedicate some time to care for the Earth, the way it has cared for you and yours, with Earth Day crafts and activities!
Turn Old Into New
Painting paper plates or foam balls to look like Earth is a pleasant way to spend some time with little ones, but these crafts won’t teach kids much of a lasting lesson. Instead, make crafts out of recyclable materials. Make shaker instruments by decorating paper towel tubes, pouring in handfuls of dry rice and covering each end with cloth secured by a rubber band. Cut apart empty cardboard containers and tape them back together to make a giant castle or obstacle course for your child’s toy figurines. Another option, suggests the National Wildlife Federation: make bird feeders out of plastic milk jugs. Cut a hole in the side of a jug, push sticks through the jug to make a perch for them and let kids decorate the new house with markers, paint and pine needles. Pour in birdseed and hang near a window so little ones can watch birds flock.
Plant New Life
On a day that celebrates the environment, there’s no simpler or more fitting act than nurturing new plant life. Take five minutes to nestle a new basil plant into a pot or take on a bigger project by laying out and planting a backyard garden.The pros at the local garden shop can offer tips and help you pick seeds and shrubs that will flourish in your area. Arm your kids with gardening gloves and teach them how to use a trowel. If you’re looking for a planting project on a smaller scale, work with kids on an indoor garden that’s part craft project, part ecology lesson. Plant grass seed in a coffee can and help children decorate the can with a face, suggests Karen Stephens of the Illinois State University Child Care Center; the grass will become the creature’s hair.
Volunteer Your Time
Maybe your garden is immaculate, or your kids aren’t in the mood for a craft. Someone in your community could surely use your help, so grab your favorite gardening gloves and contact community groups, the local zoo or your child’s school to find volunteer opportunities. Clean up trash along roads and in parks, make phone calls on behalf of a local environmental group or lead a flower-planting initiative at school or an area homeless shelter. Or think smaller and stay on your own block. Offer to sort an elderly neighbor’s recyclables or tend to her garden to show kids that even a small effort can make a big difference in the community.
More Ideas to Try
Ideally, Earth Day projects will make an impression on your family that lasts long beyond April 23. Visit the farmers market for dinner ingredients. While you cook, talk about why buying local ingredients is beneficial for the environment. Install water-efficient shower heads and faucets in every bathroom and buy a compost bin to set up outside or build one with mesh or wood. Elect one child the compost monitor and make it his or her job to deliver scraps of food to the bin after meals. Before Earth Day is over, leave your car at home and take a family walk or bike ride to make a short grocery store trip or to pick up sundaes. You’ll get some exercise and be reminded that getting around doesn’t have to mean polluting the air.