Earth Day Activities!

April, 22nd! Celebrate Earth Day!

kidspaintearth000009189704XSmallEarth Day is a time to be more aware of the environment. It is a good opportunity to connect kids with nature, foster appreciation of our world, and begin to develop “green” habits. Start at a basic level and help kids understand why and how we take care of the earth.

Take a “Hike”

What better way to celebrate the earth than getting outdoors! Kids will enjoy an exploration in a city park or even your back yard. You can look closely at flowers, weeds, and bugs (a magnifying glass is great for this!). You can hunt for specific things, such as animal signs like holes, or just look for interesting leaves or rocks. Challenge each other playing “I Spy.” You may want to take pictures of your discoveries or have your child draw a picture in a “field book.”

If you decide to take a real hike, keep it short and plan on frequent breaks for rest, water, and snacks. Play games, such as who can find the most different animals or plants. If kids get tired, try picking a spot ahead to walk to before stopping for a break. Be sure to discuss leaving nature the way you found it.

recycle000007631930XSmallLearn About Trash and Recycling

Make recycling into a game! Have kids look into the kitchen wastebasket and tell different items they see. Ask what happens to the trash, and explain where it goes after the truck takes it away. Discuss how some items are made from materials that can be used again instead of being buried underground. Then have kids play a sorting game with recyclables that don’t have sharp edges to see who can put the items in the right bin fastest. An alternative is to cut pictures of various items from ads and tape them to index cards to sort.

Learn About Endangered Animals

Earth Day is a good time to teach children about endangered species. Look up a list for your state and talk about species you have seen. (Kids may also be curious to search for images of ones they have never heard of.) Use the information you locate to explain why these animals are endangered: they may have been hunted too much, for example, or the places they live may have been destroyed by clearing or pollution.

Many zoos help preserve endangered animals. Visiting a zoo is a fun excursion to celebrate the variety of animals and perhaps see some that are threatened. Ahead of time, ask children which animals they most want to see, and find those locations on the zoo map. Also check the web site for the program schedule. For example, a talk by keepers can be interesting since some animals may be hiding or napping. At the zoo, kids may enjoy looking for animals of a certain color, etc. Talk about the kind of habitat each animal lives in. Later, children could make a mask of their favorite animal by decorating a paper plate or brown paper bag.

Make Recycled Paper

Children may be curious about how recyclable items can be used again. Point out how much of your household waste is different kinds of paper, and use some of it to make new paper! Tear discarded scraps of paper (or a sheet from an old newspaper) into small pieces. Soak the torn paper in hot water for half an hour. Then put it in the blender in batches with a little cornstarch. Strain the mixture and spread it evenly on aluminum foil. Place a dishtowel on top and roll over it with a rolling pin to squeeze out excess water. Take the towel off and let the paper mixture dry thoroughly (about a day).

Lightbulb in handsEnergy Quest

Walk around your home and point out things that use energy: lights, appliances, television and computer. Less obvious examples are “invisible” things like heating/cooling systems and running water. Talk about ways we sometimes use energy when we don’t need to, such as leaving the television on when nobody is watching. Brainstorm with children ways you could save energy at home. Kids may enjoy testing items, such as comparing a regular light bulb with a compact fluorescent. You can test for drafts by holding a ribbon next to the window, and test the refrigerator seal by pulling on a dollar bill closed in the door. Collect the water a dripping faucet loses in a certain amount of time and measure it.

It can be fun to try and see how little energy your family can use in a day. Turn the thermostat down and dress accordingly. Keep track of how long you spend in the shower and how many times you open the refrigerator door. Decide on only one television program you will watch, or play a game instead. Eat dinner by candlelight. Afterwards, talk about which ideas you might do on a regular basis. Pick one goal and try it for the next month!

Fun Activity Ideas for Spring Break with Kids

kids looking in

It’s almost here! Spring break!  If you’re not going away during this break, filling kids’ time during spring break is always a challenge. Here are a few ideas for active, creative fun.

Simple Kite

You can make this kite together and then try flying it! You will need wooden dowels, one shorter and one longer (such as 2 and 3 feet), a large brown paper or white plastic trash bag, and ribbon. Tie or tape the shorter dowel partway down the longer dowel to make a cross. Cut the trash bag open, flatten it, and draw an outline around the dowels. Have children decorate inside this kite shape. Then cut out the kite, leaving a margin. Tape the dowels to the back of the decorated paper or plastic with packing tape. Fold the edges over and tape them down, making sure the ends of the dowels are taped securely. Cut ribbon about twice as long as the kite and tape it to the bottom point. Tie several short pieces at intervals along the tail. Attach the end of a roll of string to the kite where the dowels cross.

Obstacle Course

A fun activity easily adjusted to children’s abilities is an obstacle course. This is ideal outdoors but also works indoors. You can make the course just a few “stations” or longer. Create obstacles and other supplies from whatever is available: sofa cushions, stuffed animals, etc.

The course can incorporate various movements. Walking can be following a marked path, stepping over something (or inside a hula hoop), “walking a tightrope” (a line on the floor), or squeezing between two objects. Kids can crawl under a table, between cushions, or through a large box. Add jumping/hopping too: children could proceed to a certain spot and then do several jumping jacks or a somersault. Other actions include pushing/pulling/carrying something, bouncing a ball, or tossing beanbags into a trash can. As children get the hang of the activity, they may enjoy timing themselves.

Putting on a Play

Kids love to put on a show! Spring break is a great time to do a longer activity, or you can keep this simple. Have children pick a favorite story and list the characters. Talk about what they say and do at the beginning and then what happens next until the end. Decide who will play each character (children can play more than one part). One character can be a narrator who remembers the story well (or follows a picture book). Others should practice listening to the story until their character is mentioned and then walking “on stage” and saying their part. Remind children to sound and behave like the character (e.g. big and scary, sleepy).

To make the activity more theatrical, choose an area that has a place the audience can sit and a way for kids to enter and exit the “stage.” Kids can use their imagination with props and scenery or draw some on chart paper. They may want to make a mask for their character(s) and find a “costume” to wear. However simple or elaborate, this is a fun activity to videotape!

Paper Bag Pinata

You don’t have to wait for Cinco de Mayo to enjoy a piñata, especially this easy version! You can use a paper lunch bag, gift bag, or grocery bag. Decide how children will decorate the piñata before you fill it – drawing is easier on a flat surface, but wrapping streamers around it may be easier when full. The piñata should be filled only partially so it is not too heavy; fill the remaining space with crumpled paper. Fold and staple the bag closed, or punch holes and gather it.

For a traditional Mexican look, kids can use tissue paper strips with a wide fringe cut on one side, gluing them around the bag (starting at the bottom) and attaching crepe paper streamers that hang down. Make sure to let the glue dry well before hitting the piñata!

easter egg huntEaster Egg Hunt

A traditional spring favorite, a simple egg hunt can work in your own space with little planning. The activity can be done in a park, a front or back yard, or designated rooms indoors. Hunting in snow can be fun as long as it’s not deep or slushy. For any location, think about safety issues like nearby traffic and tripping hazards.

You will need about 10 eggs per child. There’s no need to buy Easter baskets; kids can use any container or could decorate a basic bag, basket, or pail. And think outside the candy box – treats inside eggs can include stickers, small toys, or a ticket for a special prize.

You can adjust for age in several ways: give smaller children a head start, limit the eggs a child can find, create teams, or have different ages search in different areas/rooms or for different-colored eggs. Hide the eggs in obvious or trickier places depending on age, and make sure kids understand the rules (including off-limits areas where none are hidden).

To lengthen the activity, have children take turns looking. (You can also hide the eggs more than once.) Vary the activity by giving kids a simple picture “map” of where eggs are or having them look for an egg marked with the letter their name begins with.

And, remember to have fun~