Earth Day is coming (Wed. April 22) and there are many ways to celebrate, especially with the little ones. This is a great opportunity to expose our kids, even the wee folk, to the importance of protecting the earth and environment.
First, if it’s nice outside, I encourage you to go out and play. What better way to celebrate the earth, and to show your kids how important it is to protect nature by letting them experience it. Go for a walk and talk about the birds, the worms, the leaves – anything to help their love of the earth. This way, as they get older and you focus more on ways they too can help, why we try to keep our waters clean etc. they can really connect to it. If you can, consider planting something in the garden so they can help watch it grow (or plant something inside if the weather doesn’t cooperate!)
Aside from a little nature discussion and good old fashioned outdoorsiness (okay, not a word but you know what I mean!), below are a few other ideas to do with the wee ones.
No Time For Flashcards is a fantastic blog promoting play and learning for young children. Her post about making a ‘town’ out of cereal or cracker boxes is fantastic, and a lot of fun, especially for the kids that like to drive those cars. And, if your children are like my son, eventually the cars will make all the buildings go ‘boom’. Make different buildings, roads – use your imagination and talk about how great it is that you recycled to make it! Also, check her site for some great books about not polluting and the earth.
Since I mentioned books, let’s be sure to include reading in our Earth Day activities. I recently picked up 2 books from Scholastic (April Elf and SeeSaw Issues but both are available on Chapters.ca as well) that we will be reading on Earth Day (and any other day for that matter).
The first, for the younger set, is called Big Earth, Little Me by Thom Wiley. It’s a flap book with fun drawings and very simple instructions on what the little ones can do to help the earth. For example, one page is ‘I can use both sides of the paper’ and has a picture of a child colouring on a piece of paper – lift the flap to see that he has already used the other side! Simple, but perfect for wee ones.
The second can be for the little ones too, but older children will appreciate Why Should I Recycle? by Jen Green. This is a fantastic text with great illustrations that discusses through the perspective of a school-aged child their family’s transition from wastefulness to reducing, reusing and recycling. The book talks about the environmental impacts of waste, what happens to recycled items, composting and ways to help (there’s a mention about bringing their own bags to the grocery store which is a great thing for kids to remember when you go shopping!) It’s written in child-friendly language and includes further suggested readings at the end and a ‘Notes for Parents and Teachers’ page with further discussion points.
Once you’ve done your ‘build a town’ craft and read some great books, maybe you’re looking for a game? How about recyclables basketball? This can be done inside or out. Take your blue bin and put it at a certain distance. Gather up the items in the recycle bin you want to use as the ‘ball’. I would recommend the plastic containers, toilet paper rolls, boxes etc. but avoid sharp items like tin cans or pop cans. For the smaller ones, you can just play by tossing the items in the bin, trying to get as many in as you can. To mix it up, move the blue bin back after so many ‘scores’ until it’s further and further. You can talk about what the item first was (ie. Remember we drank juice out of this jug? Now we can recycle it!) to further emphasize your points.
Music can easily be made with preschoolers just by rummaging in your recycle bin. Take old plastic jars or bottles (e.g. mayo, 2L pop bottles) and wash and dry completely. Add some dry beans, rice or small pasta into the bottle and seal. Decorate with ribbon, coloured paper, tissue paper etc. To be really resourceful, colour or paint newspaper from the recycle bin, or for older ones, cut and paste bright, fun pictures from old magazines. Shake and enjoy your new band!
Are your kids fans of Handy Manny? Check out the Handy Manny gets Handy with the Earth website for colouring pages, information sheets and fun online activities with Manny and the Tools for something a little special. Have you seen the episode about solar panels? Great episode explaining how the panels create electricity!
Still looking for more ideas? Check out this site. It has loads of printable activities and colouring pages for almost any theme – including Earth Day.
When Wednesday, April 22 rolls around don’t worry about what to do with the kids. Grab a few of the above activities and enjoy Earth Day. They’ll have fun and you’ll feel good about introducing them to the wonderful thing called earth we all share.
Got some great ideas or resources about recycling or Earth Day? Please share them!