Wednesday, April 22, 2015

10 Kid Friendly Activities For Earth Day

When is Earth Day?  It falls on April 22nd every year.  This can be a fun time to teach your kids about being environmentally friendly, recycling, pollution, conserving water, or growing your own food or other plants.  Here are 10 easy activities to do with kids on Earth Day.

1) Do A Nature Scavenger Hunt

This can be done in any nearby park, wooded area, or even your yard.  Write out or print a list of 10-30 things in nature for your kids to find.  Give them a clipboard with the list and a pen and send them off on their hunt.  Another variation of this would be to give them a camera and tell them to take pictures of everything on the list, or ask them to collect samples of 5 things on the list, so long as those samples aren't doing any damage to nature. 

What can you put on this scavenger hunt list?  Here are a few ideas: A feather, an animal, a bug, a spider, an ant, a bird's nest, a tree with tree sap, a large pinecone (or other type of cone), a small cone, a budding flower, a flower in full bloom, animal tracks, compacted soil, non-compacted soil, a leaf, mushrooms, a butterfly, a trail of ants, dew (if it's a hunt in the morning), a grass hopper or praying mantis, a fern, an area where humans have changed nature, an area where nature has probably been the same for 20 or more years (a wild or overgrown area would also work), wild animal scat (poop). 

Modify this list to your local area.  Are you doing this hunt on the beach?  Add some beach items to your list.  Are you doing this in a desert region?  Add  things from that region to your list.

2) Do A Litter Walk

Go to a park or walk through your neighborhood with a trash bag wearing rubber gloves.  Set a goal to fill the bag or to pick up 30 pieces of litter to clean up the area.  Be sure to set down guidelines and educate kids (if they are going out on their own) about what is not safe to pick up (weapons, needles, etc).  An adult should go with children on this activity to supervise.  It might be a good idea to take a separate bag for recyclables and then take a trip to the nearest recycling center.  This is a great opportunity to teach kids about recycling!

3) Re-use Boxes, Cans, Jars, Egg cartons, or Other Household Items

Recycling is important, but re-using or upcycling is also important.  Do an art project, make a toy, or find some other way to re-use what is already in the house.  Another idea would be to take old t-shirts and sew them into pillow cases, or cut them up and sew them together into a picnic blanket and then have a picnic on it.

HERE are 20 awesome ideas for upcycling from household items and
HERE are 39 ways to upcycle a t-shirt into something amazing!

4) Read Nature Themed Stories

There are a lot of kids books about nature and you can find hundreds of them at your local library.  Here are some of our favorites to read on Earth Day:

  • The Berenstain Bears' Big Book of Science And Nature (has  a lot of different nature themed stories with real facts!)
  • By Pond And River - A children's classic
  • Backyard Biology - Let me just say that this book is awesome.  It's not in story format, but it has so many activities you can do at home to teach about nature.  It includes making your own mini green house, activities that help kids explore photosynthesis, observing micro organisms, learning about life cycles and ecosystems, and more.
  • Oh Say Can You Seed - These educational Dr Seuss books read like a story, similar to the educational Berenstain Bears books, and are filled with facts that are easy to remember.
  • I Can Name 50 Trees Today - Another fun but informational Dr Seuss Book.
  • The Secret Lives Of Backyard Bugs - This book isn't in story format, but it's packed full of information about bugs and is filled with large colorful photos and easy to understand diagrams of bug life cycles and habitats.
  • Be A Friend To Trees - I love love love the 'Lets Read And Find Out Science' series.  On the outside these look like level readers, but they're not.  It's jam packed with information about it's given subject and has well drawn, colorful pictures and diagrams.  These books really make science fun for my daughter and I, and I would recommend them for first through third grade, though I think fourth graders might also enjoy them.  It makes the information so easy to digest.
  • Ant Cities - Another 'Lets Read and Find Out Science' book.  Love it.
  • Follow The Water From Brook To Ocean - This 'Lets Read And Find Out Science' book is about the water cycle and is awesome.
  • In The Rain Forest - On Earth day children often learn about the area they live in, but this is a great book to help kids explore the rainforest and the role it plays for the entire earth.  Another awesome 'Lets Read And Find Out Science' book.

You can click on any of the book covers above to be taken to that book on Amazon.  These can also be found on .  We own all of these books and love them.

5) Take A Field Trip To A Local Refuge Or Wildlife Area

Most states have areas that are designated as protected for birds and other wildlife.  These areas are usually called refuges and can be a great place to visit.  Many of them are free or only cost a couple of dollars for parking fees.  HERE is a list of National Wildlife Refuges by state.  You may also want to search out Wildlife Areas in your state.  These are similar to refuges but are protected on the state level instead of the national level.  If you can't visit a wildlife area or refuge, consider heading out to a State Park or National Park.

6) Take A Trip To See Local Waterfalls Or Natural Features

Are there waterfalls within driving distance?  What about caves?  Or how about a spectacular lake or river, or a place to go rock hounding?  What about the beach?  Whatever your local area has to offer, take your kids out and wow them with nature. Sunset or sunrise is a great time to be out and be inspired.  It's a great motivator to get them to keep our environment clean, to not litter, and to recycle or to reduce our carbon footprint.

7) Have Nature Quite Time

When I was in 6th grade and went to outdoor school, one of the things they had us do each day that always stuck with me, was taking a half hour and just sitting alone in nature.  We were told that we could draw, read, write, or just sit and reflect, so long as we were sitting quietly.  They spaced us out about 20 feet apart from each other.  At first kids may seem uncertain about why they are doing this, but once they are alone and quiet they can start to observe what's going on around them... they can hear the birds and bugs, feel the wind and hear it as it rustles leaves around them, observe small bugs as they pass by, and more.  At the end of the set quiet time (try to make it more than 10 minutes), have them tell you, or write down 10 things that they observed about nature.  Ask them what they saw that was cool or interesting.  This can be done at a park, or even in the yard.  If it's sunny out, be sure to take them to a shaded place to sit and give them a bottle of water.  Also make sure they don't have to go to the bathroom before they start.  The goal is to avoid distractions so they can enjoy nature.

8) Draw/Write Nature

Give kids a drawing pad, a pencil and an eraser (you could also give them crayons or colored pencils in a pencil case), take them outside to a park or the yard, and tell them to find one interesting thing in nature to draw.  Tell them it doesn't have to be perfect, and it doesn't have to look exactly like it does in real life.  Tell them to observe the object and to draw what it is about the object that is interesting or special.  You could also tell them to sit and draw the object in two or even three different ways.  Something else you could have them do is write a poem about an object in nature.  Depending on where you are, this could be a poem or drawing of a mushroom, a pine cone, a feather, a birds nest, a river, a lake, trees, grass, flowers, bees, ants, or even the dirt!  Let them choose something that's of interest to them and let them have fun with it!

9) Go On A Nature Hike

Take your kids on a nature hike in a park or wild area.  Tell them you're looking for interesting things like animal tracks, or cool plants or bugs.  Point things out along the way that you find interesting.  Take your time as you walk and spend at least a half hour really observing nature and stopping to look at things.  The kids might have fun taking photos of different things they find, or keeping a list of things so they can go home and research more about them.  If you have a field guide of plants and wildlife in your state or region it can be fun for the kids to look things up if they aren't sure what the names of plants or bugs are.  There are hundreds of these guides for sale.  Four of my favorites are:

  • Reader's Digest North American Wildlife An Illustrated Guide To 2,000 Plants And Animals - This book has plants, birds, bugs, animals, trees, and other wildlife.  This book does not say what is edible or medicinal.
  • Field Guide To Edible Wild Plants
  • Field Guide To Medicinal Wild Plants
  • Field Guide To The Cascades And Olympics (specific to to the Pacific Northwest, but does not tell you what plants are edible or medicinal) - This book also includes plants, trees, bugs, birds, fish, and a variety of animals. 
You can click the above book covers to be taken to these books on Amazon.  Your local library should also have similar books.

10) Go Rock Hounding

Each area of the world has their own special rocks and minerals.  Do some research and find out where you can go nearby to find rocks like: agates, geodes, thundereggs, obsidian, gold, sunstones, opal, petrified wood, jade, jasper, pumice, and others.  HERE is one site to get you started, but there are many many more.

Whichever of these activities you choose to go out and do, be sure to teach your kids about low impact hiking (staying on the trail to avoid compacting soil, taking out what you hike in with... trash etc, and trying not to disturb animals or ruin their habitats).  You can also take the opportunity with any of the above activities to talk to your kids about protecting nature and animal habitats, as well as talking about how man manages nature in a positive way (talk about BLM and Forest Service), and how sometimes man has negative impacts on nature.

Have other ideas for Earth Day?  Let us know in a comment below.

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