Earth Day is April 22, and if you’re like most of us, you expect the topic to be covered in school with an obligatory leaf-adorned project. But let’s be real. Earth Day deserves at least a portion of the time taken up by the big commercialized holidays. We could live without ghosts on Halloween or leprechauns on St. Patty’s Day, but without our planet, we’d be….well, we wouldn’t be anywhere. So this year, start a tradition of celebrating Earth Day.
Get Up Close and Personal with Nature
There’s no better way to get kids to appreciate nature than to expose them to it with a day of old-fashioned fun. Pack an environmentally friendly picnic, leave the electronics at home and head to your nearest park or wildlife refuge. You can take a hike and encourage the whole family to point out the interesting things they see along the trail. Or pack a ball or Frisbee for a spirited family game. The idea is to cultivate an appreciation of nature and the many wonderful things it has to offer.
Start a Green Game
Here’s a great way to spark creativity and healthy competition: Give each child an item that would have ended up in the trash, such as an empty egg carton, container or bottle—cleaned, of course. Next, discuss the importance of reusing things and challenge each child to come up with a creative way to reuse the items they’ve been given. They can even go online for ideas and inspiration. Afterwards, discuss the ideas, choose a winner and reward everyone with a special Earth Day prize, such as a plant for their room or a trip to the local farmers’ market.
Make a Tradition of Change
Gather your family together after dinner and assign someone to take notes. Together, come up with ways you can make your home less wasteful and more environmentally friendly—swapping paper towels for reusable rags, using solar-powered chargers, cutting down on washing by keeping clean clothes out of the hamper. After you have about 15 ideas, read the entire list and collectively vote on three to five actions you can take to make your everyday life a little easier on the environment. Incorporate the changes as soon as possible and repeat the process every year on Earth Day, while reviewing your family’s progress from the previous year.
Join in on the Fun with Neighbors
Earth Day celebrations take place everywhere around the world. To find one near you, simply do an online search of “Earth Day celebrations” and “[your city name]”. Depending on the size of your city, you should see plenty of family-friendly options at local venues—from tree-planting and recycling events to live concerts and educational Earth Day fairs. Some restaurants and food trucks even feature sustainable menus in honor of Earth Day.
If you’re really feeling inspired, start an Earth Day tradition with the people in your community. Have your neighbors and children get together for a community swap. Each person can bring clean, reusable, portable items such as clothing, housewares, games, books and toys to designated locations, and take home something new-to-them, for free! Other great ideas include starting a community recycling program, conducting an energy audit to reveal ways to save within the community, and hosting a get-together to discuss all the ways you can live a more green and sustainable life. Not only will your community benefit, but it will be a great learning opportunity for the kiddos to get inspired by others.
Grow Together with a Garden
Earth Day is the perfect day to start planning—and planting—a garden. Get the whole family together every Earth Day to discuss what to plant and why. Does one of your children love tomatoes? Have you always wanted to can green beans? Is your youngest a fan of flowers? Whatever the reason, your family will spend quality time together outdoors while learning how to live sustainably. Just be sure to start your garden at the correct time and choose the right plants for your climate.
Regardless of how you celebrate, Earth Day is the perfect time to teach your little Earthlings the importance of caring for and conserving the environment. Because we all need to work together to protect this phenomenal planet we call home.