By Mike Davin for Care
Kids love dirt. They love water, grass, animals and all the natural resources the planet provides. In honor of Earth Day, point out what they really love: Mama Earth. Show the importance of nurturing nature by doing some of these earthy activities -- while sharing why they're important and getting a little dirty at the same time. These activities are also great for your nanny or babysitter to do with your child.
Whether it's your front yard or a neighborhood eye-sore that needs a little sprucing, nothing helps decorate more than flowers. Head down to your local garden center (preferably by bike, it's Earth Day, after all!) and buy some blooms. Then get planting. Tip: A perennial flower will allow your kids to see their hard work year after year.
Clean-up Your Play
Who wants to play a game? Take some trash bags and rubber gloves and let's see who fills their bag the fastest! Sound like fun? Picking up is never the best part of a playdate>, but putting kids to work cleaning up an area they use often teaches a fantastic lesson on giving back and helping the planet. Plus, they get to play when they're done.
Give Your Plants A Treat
Nothing makes plants grow like some fresh compost. Get dirty by collecting weeds, leaves, dying plants and some kitchen waste like veggies, fruits and coffee grinds. Mix them all up. Place them in an area of your yard to let them decompose. This will be the perfect treat to spread over your plants and grass during the spring and summer.
Re-create The World
Finding an excuse to make Rice Krispies treats is always great. Your kids will love sculpting a globe out of the yummy cereal and covering it with green and blue sugar. As a sweet bonus, try putting some gummy creatures on the earth too!
Reduce Your Footprint
Today is the day to dust off those bikes, fill up the tires and pedal around town -- instead of drive. Head to a park, stream or nature center for a picnic. Also try doing your errands by foot or two (or three) wheels. And make sure to explain why this helps the planet. All the (healthy) sweat is for a reason, after all.
Re-use And Recycle Nature
Here's a project you haven't done since preschool. Grab a pinecone from the yard; tie about a 12-inch piece of yarn or ribbon in a tight knot around the top so that the ends hang evenly (these will then be tied around a tree). Spread peanut butter or honey all over the pine cone. Then pour bird seed onto a plate and roll the sticky pinecone over it. Hang the pinecone on a tree -- and tie another knot. Gather around and wait for the birds to come.
Take A Look In Your Own Backyard
Who doesn't love playing a detective? Go to the same spot of your yard or front steps three different times during the day breakfast, lunch and dinner, and take notice of nature around you. What do you hear? See? Smell? How are the leaves? Where is the sun? What animals do you see -- find any tracks? Have kids discuss or draw a picture at each time. Then compare the differences.
Nothing beats freshly grown local veggies and fruit. Try creating an organic meal from your local farm stand. Need a smaller goal? Try zucchini bread. Have the kids find the eggs, butter and green squashes for your recipe. Then go home and bake. Also, try saving leftover vegetables from one week of dinners, and cook up a stir fry. This reduces waste and tastes great. Be sure to check out some other recipes your kids will eat!
Set A Family Challenge
Everyone loves some competitive family fun. See who can make the least amount of trash in a week or collect the most cans. Tip: Create a grand prize to increase competition. Want a harder challenge? Try to get everyone to reduce your electricity bill for the month. Kids can go around turning off lights and you know, doing less laundry! If the family is successful, suggest spending the money on something fun -- or saving it for a big trip (Disney anyone?).