How do you teach kids about recycling and Earth-friendly living? Read on for a few ideas!

kidsrecycle.jpg Children of all ages are like sponges – they soak up information and memories at an incredible rate. Our kids look to us to learn everything, from tying their shoes to learning to drive. They are watching our every move, whether we realize it or not. This makes modeling positive behavior a must. However, this may not always be easy. Adults aren’t perfect – we text at the table, gossip and maybe even throw a curse word around here and there. For the most part though, we try our best and encourage our kids to do the same. Modeling appropriate and compassionate behavior includes teaching kids about earth-friendly and sustainable practices. Involve the entire family in volunteer park cleanups; make toys and crafts out of recyclable materials or maybe even plant a tree. By showing children the importance of keeping the Earth healthy, it will teach them many important core values, including empathy and the benefit of doing good for others. In this case, all human and animal creatures of Earth – and Earth itself – can benefit from these fun crafts and activities.

Outside Activities

  • Adopt a park or highway – This is a great way for families, church groups or even entire neighborhoods to work together for a common cause. When you adopt a property, you and your group are promising to keep it clean and tidy. This could mean picking up litter or raking leaves every so often, so make sure you can commit to a long-term project before jumping into this.
  • Plant a tree – This activity can be extra special for young children, as will being able to watch the tree as they both grow. Many local organizations exist that can help you find the best place in your community to plant your new family member. Visit your tree every year to mark its progress, and reflect on how your family has grown with it. Check out the Arbor Day website to find out more!
  • Participate in a community garden – If you or one of your children has a green thumb, getting a small plot in a community garden might be a fabulous idea. Kids will get the chance to grow their own food, and see exactly where their dinners come from. One big bonus of this activity is that it will teach your child patience, caretaking and teamwork.

Inside Activities

  • Conduct Earth-related science experiments – Kids of all ages love to do science experiments, especially messy ones! If you’re stuck inside on a rainy day and want to entertain and teach at the same time – try the “polluted water” experiment. Fill a bin with clean water and then have your kids find trash to put in (add vegetable oil to represent oil spills). Then encourage them to try to “clean” the water. See full instructions here.
  • Write a letter – Okay, so this one doesn’t sound that glamorous, but encouraging your children to voice their opinions in a positive way is a useful lesson. Talk to your children and neighbors about a particular environmental issue in your community – maybe it’s the vacant lot that people dump trash in or write graffiti on a building. Help your children find the names of local council members or state representatives. Then work together to write a personal letter about the issue you found. To make it a bit more interesting, try challenging your kids to get neighbors’ signatures on the letter.
  • Make natural birdfeeders – This cute activity could be done inside or outside, but either way it’s a fun way to connect with the animal world. Have your kids gather some pinecones and put them in a container. Meanwhile, put some creamy peanut butter in a small bowl and birdseed in a large bowl. Once the pinecones are gathered, encourage everyone to choose one and “paint” it with peanut butter. Once coated, the pinecones can be rolled in birdseed and hung up outside, sure to please all of the neighborhood songbirds.

Arts and Crafts

  • DIY bubble wands – Challenge your family member to find items around the house that could be turned into bubble wands or blowers. Ideas may include the top of a water bottle or milk jug, a potato masher or silly straws. Make your own bubble mix out of dish soap and liquid glycerin and then go to town! See full instructions here.
  • Milk jug igloo – This craft will take some time and storage space, so it may be better suited as a neighborhood or school activity. Save up gallon milk jugs and adhere them together using non-toxic glue in an igloo shape, as this photo exhibits. This website features full instructions and a video to create your new Artic play house.
  • Create a family band with recycled instruments – Feeling a little musical? Why not have a good old sing-along using DIY instruments! Encourage your kids to gather items from the recycling bin to see what they could make. A tissue box with some rubber bands around it could be a cool guitar, while a paper towel roll and wax paper make a lovely kazoo. After everyone completes their instruments, show them off with a living room concert. This website has tons of great ideas for homemade instruments.

Use those teachable moments…

All right, so not every day is Earth Day, and sometimes we just don’t have time to participate in the annual neighborhood cleanup. Luckily, there are still plenty of ways to model sustainable, earth-friendly behaviors for your children. Remember to recycle as much as possible and be cognizant of your family’s waste output and energy consumption. Turn off the lights when you leave the room and turn the water off while brushing your teeth – then encourage your kids to do the same. Remember, children are sponges and watch your every move. If you act like a litter bug, they may as well.