The sun is higher in the sky, and the trees are beginning to bloom. Flowers, vegetables and fruit abound in a cornucopia of colors, tastes and smells. Spring has sprung. And your kids are ready to go outside and take it all in.
Earth Day comes each spring (April 22) and with it, a reminder of the fragile state of our planet. (To be clear, the planet isn't in danger, so much as the natural environment of the people on it.) What better time to reflect upon our place in the world and instill some good habits in the next generation? This is a prime teaching moment because, after all, it's their planet too.
Here are some simple kid-oriented activities to help them understand and appreciate Earth Day, and practice its lessons every day:
Nature Clothes. Wear green and brown to remind kids of the importance of trees in our environment. Dress in a nature scene outfit and read The Giving Tree, a Shel Silverstein story about a little boy and a tree. Preschoolers will get a lot out of this activity.
Learn the environmental message behind 'The Lorax.'
Earth Day Poem. Nature has inspired reams of poetry. Talk with your kids about their favorite part of nature. This could be anything from waves and beaches to ants and caterpillars to clouds and the blue sky. Have your kids write a poem or help them write a poem about whatever part they choose. Post the poems on the fridge; send them around to relatives and friends.
Clean Up a Park. Going to the park is always a fun activity. On Earth Day, organize a group play date at a local park for a different kind of fun. Everybody gets rubber gloves and a trash bag to pick up garbage. Make it into a game; whoever fills their bag the most wins! Everyone should wear clothes that can get dirty and rain boots that can handle soggy ground.
Learn how to be green as you spring clean.
Recycle Water. Families go through a lot of water. But there are a variety of ways to use a little less. Encourage kids to shower quickly rather than take a bath. Leftover drinking water and rainwater collected in buckets can be used to water household plants. Let them be creative with ways to conserve.
Pesticide Awareness. The "Dirty Dozen" is the list of foods that pesticides have made most dangerous to eat. The list includes staples like apples, strawberries, spinach and lettuce. Discuss organics and the Dirty Dozen with children, turning it into a memory game to see how many they remember.
Make an Ecofriendly Meal. Create a menu and cook with the kiddies. Help them choose fruits and vegetables that are in season, and start a discussion about why seasonal foods are fresher and tastier, and require less fuel to get to your table. The meal (and the discussion) can include local, grass-fed meat for the same reasons.
Meatless Monday. Meatless Monday is a great way to get children on board with eating more plant-based foods. This weekly activity will improve their diet and reduce your family's carbon footprint in the process. Make it extra fun by experimenting with different vegetarian options. Challenge your kids to come up with as many meatless meals as they can; the winner gets to cook a meatless meal for their family or friends.
Mother Earth should be nurtured and cared for. Planting that seed with your kids may result in a sense of responsibility that they carry forward in their lives. Earth Day is the perfect opportunity to improve awareness and create good habits. Have a good one!
For more outdoor activities for kids, check out 'Get Outside: The Kids Guide to Fun in the Great Outdoors.'
Visit the Earth Day section at CBS Local.