April 22 is Earth Day! It’s a day to appreciate nature and our responsibilities to it, but also to commit to environmental awareness and protection.
The challenges to the planet Earth Day brings up can be complex and troubling—everything from climate change to gasoline prices—and parents wishing to teach their kids the basics might feel overwhelmed. At the same time, it’s an important educational opportunity.
Thanks to remote and hybrid learning environments, parents can take extra steps to make this Earth Day a fun and memorable occasion. You just need engaging activities, the right tools to execute them, and a little preparation to pull it off! Here are some ideas to help get you started.
How to explain Earth Day
When it comes to complex, grown-up topics, children are both challenging to talk to and very open to what you have to say. If approached with care, you can make Earth Day into an uplifting educational experience, imparting strong custodial values while having a terrific day.
Start with a single goal in mind: highlight the state of the planet (without scaring them) and emphasize what individuals can do to help. From there, you can plan some fun and appropriate Earth Day activities tailored to your kids’ specific interests.
Power tip: Use Evernote to coordinate your Earth Day activities, and similar educational opportunities. Centralize your notes and plans in one digital location and then sync your agenda to Google Calendar to integrate it with the rest of your busy life.
Earth Day recycling crafts
Recycling as a general practice is nothing new. But Earth Day presents a perfect opportunity to do some fun “upcycling” activities with your kids, repurposing things you might normally throw away. For example, redecorate some empty coffee or oat cans for toy storage, or turn old plastic bags into toy parachutes for action figures. Finding new uses for “trash” beyond the landfill both sparks creativity and helps save the planet, one plastic bag at a time.
Zoom read-together for Earth Day
Remote and distance learning have made Zoom meetings a normal part of every household. Earth Day can be a great reason to arrange a Zoom meeting with family members or friends who can’t meet up face to face and read some age-appropriate books. That can include older stories with ecological themes, like “The Lorax” and “Curious George Plants a Tree,” as well as more modern examples like “The Earth Book” and “We Planted a Tree.” Follow the reading with a short quiz about the contents to keep it educational, or maybe engage in some related long-distance Earth Day crafts.
Virtual field trips
The COVID-19 pandemic complicated in-person visits to many museums and landmarks. In response, many institutions turned to virtual tours and similar efforts to connect with visitors remotely. Virtual field trips open up your options to locations around the world. Use Earth Day to explore some natural wonders with your kids, from the comfort of your couch!
Explore Yellowstone National Park and numerous other national parks and wildlife preserves from your living room with virtual tours. On a more local level, look for live feeds of animal sanctuaries or bird feeders, as well as instructional videos on activities like recycling.
Online games are another way to connect kids remotely for Earth Day activities. You can find any number of online games with an ecological theme, such as Every Day is Earth Day and The Food Chain Game—with enough variety in complexity and engagement to match age levels. Combine these games with reading, quizzes, and other group activities, either as part of an overall schedule of Earth Day activities or as a reward.
Offline games, too
Ideally, the best way to celebrate Earth Day is to get out in nature. Nature walks in local preserves (or even just a day in the park) are perfect Earth Day activities. You can add educational value to the outing by planning activities such as a plant scavenger hunt, or perhaps a discussion of how a basic ecological system works.
Make sure that such outings adhere to any existing COVID-19 protocols about gatherings and mass activities. Plan back-up Earth Day activities in a backyard or similar safe spot, just in case plans need to change.
Plant a tree
Speaking of outdoor Earth Day activities, consider using the day to give back to the Earth directly by doing some gardening. You and the kids can plant a tree (or any plant, really) to add to the global greenery. Size the tree to your yard and follow any given instructions for proper planting. Alternatively, you can start a small vegetable plot in your backyard, checking in on your harvest throughout the year. The point is to give your kids a personal stake in the nature that’s right outside their window.
Start them young
All of us share the same home: a small, delicate blue-and-green ball floating in space, for which we have no replacement. Earth Day is an effort to recognize our common responsibilities to this shared home, as well as better appreciate the ecological wonders it cultivates.
It’s a holiday everyone can participate in, transcending borders, cultures, religions, lifestyles, and ages. We all need to do everything we can to curtail climate change and protect our planet for current and future generations. This universality can help you find great ways to observe the holiday and get your kids to care about their environment. Making an annual event of the day, with planned activities and outings, is a perfect way to instill a sense of wonder and shared responsibility in the ones who will inherit this home from us.