We live on a giant whirling rock of wonders. Our planet offers clouds of migrating Monarch butterflies, fresh strawberries, giant squids, seasons, bumblebees, well, everything. All too often we don’t pay much attention. A little appreciation for Ma Earth isn’t just nice, it’s essential.
Here are some ways we can celebrate Earth Day or any day.
Learn about leaf respiration with these two experiments easy enough for a preschooler.
Make a crystalized Earth using pipe cleaners and borax.
Go outside with tools to investigate like a magnifying glass, sketch book, and binoculars.
Look up to learn more about clouds and find out how you can become cloud collectors.
Let yeast blow up a balloon. Have kids write their names on balloons with a permanent marker. Using a funnel, let them fill each balloon with 1 teaspoon sugar and 1 teaspoon dry yeast. Add a little warm water to each balloon, tie shut, and shake to mix. Then put them outside on a hot sunny day. Check to see how big the balloons have gotten every ten minutes or so. Guess what might happen to balloons that get too big.
Experiment with different ways to grow plants from food scraps.
Predict the weather using pine cones.
Draw the solar system with sidewalk chalk.
Investigate solar power. Make solar prints by arranging objects on photo-sensitive sheets in a SunPrint Paper Kit, then set outside to print like magic. Build a solar-powered cockroach using these Instructables directions. Assemble your own solar cooker and make lunch using only the sun’s rays for heat. You can find all sorts of plans here.
Save worn-out sneakers to donate to a recycling program. Heck, start a Stinky Shoe Drive so your family can work toward a goal of 25 pounds of shoes or more. Here are organizations that recycle them.
Collect cardboard boxes and make a day of robot-building with ideas from Welcome to Your Awesome Robot.
Find even bigger boxes to throw a kids BYOB party (bring-your-own-box).
Re-use bottle caps by making a perpetual calendar.
Repurpose empty glass jars by painting them to make vases and artful storage containers.
Make instruments out of recycled materials for a little child’s band.
Use cereal boxes and magazine pages to make blocks.
Set up a swap party with friends and neighbors. It’s a great way to clear your home of toys, movies, games, books, and other items your family is no longer using while getting “new” amusements.
Go hiking. Before leaving, decide what each of you will keep your eyes open to see. Your son might decide to look for things that fly. Your daughter might decide to look for what’s blooming. It’s interesting how much more cued all of you will be to your surroundings when really looking.
Play tic-tac-toe on a stump or the front step using just sticks and rocks.
Designate an area of the yard where kids can play right in the dirt. They might want to use it to build mountains and valleys for their toy dinosaurs, cars, or action figures. They might want to dig holes, perhaps looking for archaeological finds using Hands-On Archaeology: Real-Life Activities for Kids as a guide. For a real mess, give them enough water to make a mud pit. Your status as an epic parent will linger (so will the stains).
Spend time outside after dark. Take a full moon walk, hang up a sheet and shine a light on it to make a shadow puppet theater, play flashlight games, and more. Here are 11 delightful ways to play outside in the dark.
Learn about Georgia O’Keeffe by making your own drawing of blossoms, up close.
Make homemade sidewalk chalk.
Paint a fingerprint tree.
Use tea and coffee as natural paints.
Even the smallest toddler can put together a nature collage on a sticky board.
Make miniature “stone” carvings.
Twist a paper bag into a tree sculpture.
Put together an Audubon approved bat shelter kit.
Pick up litter in your neighborhood or wildlife area. It’s safest to do this wearing gloves and using a pick up tool or a reacher. Put each piece of trash in a box or garbage bag, then recycle or throw away when you’re done.
Make seed bombs.
Make a worm tower or indoor worm farm. For more information, check out Worms Eat My Garbage: How to Set Up and Maintain a Worm Composting System.
Set up regular unplugged time, say every Sunday or every evening from dinner to bedtime. It spurs your family to get moving and connect with each other.
Start a dandelion-munching tradition with these recipes.
Cook a whole meal outdoors. Everything tastes better whether on the grill, over a fire pit, or over a real campfire. Slice a few inches open on an unpeeled banana, stuff in a dollop of peanut butter and a few chocolate chips, then grill till it becomes a warm pudding in its own banana container. Bake brownies or cake inside hollowed out oranges over a fire pit. For more ideas check out Campfire Cooking, Scout’s Outdoor Cookbook, and Easy Campfire Cooking.
Cut tortillas into earth shapes like leaves, insects, or clouds. Brush with olive oil and bake until crispy, then serve with salsa. Here’s how.
Go to a farmer’s market and pick your next meal based on what you buy.
Put together the classic snack, Ants on a Log. Just spread nut butter on celery stalks and line up raisins for “ants.” We also make Ants on a Picnic, pretty much the same thing except using apple slices instead of celery.
Make burp juice. Show kids how to mix a quarter cup or so of juice concentrate (undiluted) into eight ounces of unsweetened seltzer water. Adjust to taste with more juice or seltzer. Add ice cubes, then drink. It has the same carbonation level as soda without sugar or food coloring. We call it burp juice in our house because quick gulps bring on burps.
Make plant markers out of spoons using your kids’ drawings.
Grow an indoor meadow. It may be a good place for toy dinosaurs to roam.
Make a fairy garden together, better yet, geek it up with miniature robots or superheroes.
Plant extra seeds and share the plants.
Grow sprouts. It’s a speedy way to harvest a windowsill crop and perfect year-round to add sprouts to salads, sandwiches, and stir-fries.
Let each child plant one “crop” in the garden that is his or hers to tend. Fast-growing plants like sugar snap peas, radishes, and green beans are ideal. Let the kid farmer in charge be the one to check regularly for weeds, watering needs, and harvest times. For more ideas check out Gardening Projects for Kids and for those of you without yards or community garden plots, try Kids’ Container Gardening.