Mark your calendars for April 22—another Earth Day is here!
Earth Day provides many opportunities to appreciate the wonder of our planet and to teach young children how to conserve our natural resources. Celebrate this year with one of these fun, family-friendly and educational activities.
Visit a National or State Park1 of 10
According to Earth Day Network President, Kathleen Rogers, the best thing you can do for your kids is to get them outside. And what better place to celebrate the outdoors than your closest national park?
National Park Week (April 21-29) envelops Earth Day, and all national parks will have free entry on April 21. Take advantage of this deal and take the kids to your nearest national park for a day of exploring in nature.
Get Crafty—and Eco-friendly2 of 10
This Earth Day, use crafts to engage your child and teach them about conservation. Make a bird feeder out of an old toilet paper roll, pot flowers in old water bottles or simply draw on recycled paper—the options are limitless.
Get Your Hands Dirty3 of 10
"Engage kids in something that gets their hands dirty," Rogers says. "Spring is a great time to plant seeds."
Start a family garden and talk about where food actually comes from, or purchase seeds for your child's favorite flowers and start planting. Be sure to select plants appropriate to your climate, which you can find at a local farmer's market or plant shop.
For an activity that will stay with you for a lifetime, choose a tree together as a family and plant it in your yard. You can take pictures with it every Earth Day: A baby picture with the baby tree, a first day of school picture with a tiny tree and (sob) a graduation picture with a full-grown tree.
Set a Family Earth Day Resolution4 of 10
This idea comes to us from Southern Methodist University Environmental Engineering student Cristina Barrera. "I always come up with an Earth Day resolution, just like for New Year's," Barrera says. "Last year, I vowed to bring my own bag everywhere and never use plastic bags."
Bring the family together to brainstorm a resolution everyone can do together. Starting a family compost bin, holding each other accountable for recycling and committing to cleaning up a park once a month are all good starting points.
Do Some Math5 of 10
Many local water management districts provide free online calculators to assess water usage for families. Help your child fill out the form, go over the results and then discuss the water-saving tips typically provided after.
"It is exciting to see how children take the tools we have today to solve old and new problems," says Southwest Florida Water Management District Environmental Scientist, Vivianna M. Bendixson. "Or how they might create new tools to solve these same problems."
Volunteer6 of 10
Kids ages 7 to 10 will get the most out of a volunteer activity, such as cleaning up a nearby park or assisting at a recycling center. Check your city's event calendar to find a local activity for outreach. You can also organize your own clean-up event with your church, school or neighborhood.
Unplug for a Day7 of 10
Not only does unplugging all of your chargers, computers and televisions save energy (and money), but a new distraction-free environment will make your child more likely to hop on their bike for a ride outside rather than scroll through social media.
Spend your Earth Day without technology. Observe and identify the trees in your neighborhood or spot minnows on a family kayaking adventure at a nearby stream. See how much more entertaining the outdoors can be than a screen.
At the end of the day, only plug in what you need. You don't have to plug back in that basement VCR you haven't used in years.
Go Thrift Shopping8 of 10
Many of us use recycled materials all the time, so why not use recycled clothing, too? Purchasing from a thrift shop instead of a large retailer full of new clothing cuts down on waste, just like reusing containers to pack your lunch.
If you have little fashionistas in your family, make a day out of checking out local thrift shops and seeing what treasures you can find. Stock up on summer wardrobe essentials and donate the clothes your children have outgrown.
Visit a Farmer's Market9 of 10
Many cities and towns hold farmer's markets during the week, and you might find a special one open for Earth Day. Check your city's website to confirm.
At the market, talk to your children about how their food is grown and delivered. Buy a carrot and let them taste how fresh it is compared to store-bought carrots. Discuss which foods grow near your home and why that might be. Teach your kids how to choose the best produce and discuss what healthy meals you could make together with your finds.