Becoming a parent has made me realize just how much of young childhood is centered around the seasons and celebrating them. (Thank goodness.) Of course, celebrating seasonal change was already very much my bag, but having a pre-schooler in my midst makes the celebrations all the more festive.
Holidays like Earth Day, which might come and go without much fanfare for many adults, loom large for little kids. And while it’s not a gift giving holiday in the traditional sense, as the day approaches I thought it might be nice to gather a few ideas for marking the occasion with little ones. Because while I won’t fault anyone for celebrating with some worm-shaped gummies tucked into a bed of Oreo soil, I think even little kids can handle a slightly more activist approach to the holiday, and a few ideas for how to hone Earth friendly habits early.
Here are a few things to make or do to celebrate Earth Day, and especially to foster a love of the planet—and a motivation for protecting it—for the littlest among us.
Watering can: Tending to their own precious charges can be a great foray into the world of environmental stewardship. Planting seeds, or tending to houseplants, and taking responsibility for keeping them alive is a lovely excellent place to start. Consider an Earth Day potting party. (Special equipment not required, but for seed starts and other plants that might need a more gentle touch than a toddler with a cup is able to offer, we’ve found the spray nozzle on this can to be helpful.)
Plant identification: There’s nothing like curious kids to urge us all to be better naturalists. Faye loves pointing out trees in our neighborhood, and stumping me with questions I don’t know the answer to. We’ve been reading this book on repeat in our house, which is beautiful and lyrical and has Faye constantly pointing out the seeds in our midst.
Nature table: Country-living folks often bemoan the dearth of nature available to city kids, but I assure you that not a day goes by when my city kids don’t find bits of nature to bring back home. Whether you’ve got country or city mice in your midst, making them a dedicated spot to display Earthly treasures has the two-pronged advantage of encouraging a love of the natural world and wrangling all of the nature-y bits and pieces that filter into homes occupied by small children. Don’t have an available table? Windowsills, bookshelves, or an empty wall and a bit of tape all work, too. (I’ve been considering this shelf for Faye’s growing collection.)
Flower press: Tiny, early spring flowers are some of the best for pressing and small children are experts at picking flowers with nary a stem left in sight. Press them instead and then use them to decorate cards or tape to walls or (A press similar to ours seen here is a lovely thing to have, but a solid stack of old books and some sheets of paper work, too.)
Stainless straws: I’m not sure I’ve ever met a kid who didn’t like a straw. Let Earth Day be the catalyst for curbing your straw habit and invest in a few stainless steel straws instead. To help solve the dining-out straw dilemma, we’ve started bringing our own along with us when we eat out of the house. (If you want to get a little fancy, you can even use a special sleeve to tote yours.)
Napkin rings: If you don’t already use cloth napkins with your little guys, make this the month to embrace the habit. (I promise it will make things easier, not harder.) For our part, we’re thinking about introducing napkin rings to cut back even more on unnecessary laundry.
Recycling duty: Get your little guys on board with recycling by engaging them in the process. Sure, it’s a little gross to have a four-year-old maul the trash cans, but then, their finger was just up their nose anyway. If there’s one thing little ones need to do frequently, it’s wash their hands, so embrace the dirt and get your kid involved. In our house, we carry our basket of recyclables downstairs with Faye and she helps us sort them into the appropriate bins. Giving kids a sense of partnership in family chores isn’t just helpful, it’ll ingrain good recycling habits from an early age.
Trash pick-up: Joining a local park clean-up as a family is a really immediate way of lending people-power to help the Earth, but it also helps to paint a clear picture of human impact on the environment for kids. It only takes a moment for a kid to recognize that trash doesn’t have a good place to go.
Picnic gear: Earth Day marks the beginning of picnic season, that time of year when we eat outside to take advantage of the planet’s splendor. Too bad picnics often also generate a whole lot of trash. This year commit to toting washable and reusable picnic supplies instead. A kid-sized backpack filled with cloth napkins and utensils will help lighten your load. (I always carry my spork with me and we have two of these sets. Next on our list, a family-sized growler so that we’re not needing to tote along four water bottles to every picnic.)
What about you guys? Any ways that you’re planning to celebrate Earth Day? What good environmental practices have you been embracing with kids lately?
Make/Do is a new series of guides on simple giving focused on things you can make and things you can do, to help someone else make do.