Earth Day was founded in 1970 by U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson to bring about more environmental awareness and to urge both the government and the public to make stronger conservation efforts. We celebrate the day on April 22nd every year, and with each passing year, it seems to be more important that we do so. Because education is the cornerstone of this day, what better way to celebrate than by teaching our children? Here’s how to celebrate Earth Day with kids.
Get into nature. If kids are expected to understand and care about the environment, they have to actually be a part of it. They need to get out from behind the screens and explore the outdoors. Take them to a nature center, a wildlife conservation center, an aquarium, or even on a hike ending in a picnic! Go to the beach. Plant a garden with them. Make a birdfeeder, fill it, hang it in a special spot in your yard and encourage your child to keep an eye out for the different types of feathered friends who’ll come to visit. Children are naturally inquisitive and hands-on. If they can see what it is we’re trying to preserve, they’ll grasp the concepts better. And if they fall in love with something, they’ll be more inclined to do everything in their power to protect it.
Teach them where their food comes from. Many of us completely take for granted where the food in the grocery store actually comes from. Depending on age, you can explain how the food we eat gets from the farm (or factory or lab) to our table. How many miles does it travel and what’s the environmental implication there? How much unnecessary packaging is it wrapped in? What does organic really mean? From very early on, you can expose your kids to new fruits and vegetables in the grocery store. Go around naming items and make a scavenger hunt out of your usual shopping trip. Visit a farm, grove or ranch in your area and talk to the workers. This idea can extend beyond food. Where do all of the items we buy come from? They don’t magically multiply back in the stock room! How can we be more conscious consumers? You might actually learn something in the process, and make different choices as a result.
Introduce the three R’s: Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. Now that you’ve shown your children what it is we want to protect and how our choices might be impacting the planet, teach them how to cut back and start thinking of their own creative solutions to the problem. What would it look like if we reduced the amount of things we bought? Do we need to keep the electricity running to everything in the house at all times? How about the water? Ask open-ended questions to get your kids thinking for themselves. They’ll probably find they aren’t really going without anything by tweaking a few habits. Next, show them how to reuse everything possible. What disposable items can we stop using now, and what can we repurpose for, say, arts and crafts? Explain that there are times when buying something new will be appropriate, but often, we can reuse what we have. Talk about where things go when we throw them out. Can you go see a landfill for yourself? Visit a recycling plant. Watch a documentary (which can be something short that you find on YouTube) about all of the garbage that ends up in the ocean. Best yet, take them to help clean up litter in your neighborhood, at a park or the beach. Teach them how easy it is to recycle instead of mindlessly throwing something in the trash.
When we get our kids involved we are teaching them at an early age that the world that they live in matter.