The first Earth Day was celebrated on April 22nd, 1970 and approximately 20 million people took part nationwide. Born in the 1970s myself, I can honestly say I have no memory of celebrating Earth Day in my younger years. I have vague memories of people talking about planting a tree for Arbor Day, but that’s it. As a mom, I believe it’s my responsibility to incorporate being kind to the Earth into my children’s lives, which includes celebrating Earth Day.
There are a number of ways to teach your children about Earth Day, but I believe the most effective way is to teach by example. That said, I also make sure that whatever I want my children to learn is put into terms that they can easily understand. The first thing I do is to liken the day to a birthday, or as we think of it—B-Earth Day! When it’s someone’s birthday in my house, we dedicate the day to things that make that person happy, so why should it be any different with the Earth? Here’s what I plan to do on Earth Day to help my kids learn about and celebrate this special holiday.
1. Give the Earth gifts.
When I think about what the Earth would really like, I think of plants, and in particular, I think the Earth would love if I got my vegetable garden started. This Earth Day, my kids and I will be adding some (organic) soil to our garden and transplanting the vegetables we’ve already started, as well as planting new seeds. While working on our garden, I’ll be sure to incorporate conversations with my kids about why it’s good to grow our own vegetables—the benefits to our family in addition to the environment.
2. Make some “party favors”
What’s a party without favors, right? Earth Day is a great time to take part in a craft project that will help the environment. For Earth Day, I like taking the opportunity to build a craft that will serve as more than a decoration—perhaps a craft that can benefit the ecosystem or at least be useful in our home. Some ideas I have are to build a bird feeder, tin can herb pots, magazine holder, animal jars, and a compost container,.
3. Plan a special meal.
Whenever it’s someone’s birthday in my family, we serve that person’s favorite meal for dinner. On Earth Day, we’ll have a meal that the environment can appreciate—one that will have minimal impact. We’ll choose to eat locally grown veggies (to cut down on emissions and wasted gas from transporting the food). We’ll also be eating organic meat to help minimize our footprint. We’ll eat on our regular, every day dishes (no paper plates here!), and we’ll drink our water from glasses (no plastic water bottles in this house!) Remember, to talk about all the earth-friendly decisions you make. This is how kids learn why we do the things we do, instead of just falling into the pattern of “this is just the way we’ve always done it.”
4.Teach kids about the benefits of second hand items.
My family has a number of second-hand items—many of which no one is aware of. Some of our favorite toys were hand-me-downs from friends, or ones I purchased pre-owned either on ebay or from members of local buy/sell groups on Facebook. There are also a number of thrift stores and other websites where you can get gently-used clothing for yourself and your kids. On Earth Day, the church affiliated with my son’s Nursery School is hosting a Rummage Sale. Since it coincides with Earth Day, I think this will offer the perfect opportunity to discuss the many benefits of second-hand items.
Enjoy Earth Day, and remember every moment can be a teachable one. Kids are like sponges, and if you explain to them the why’s of everything you do, then they’ll understand and take pride in following in your gentle footsteps.