My kids are still young, ages (3 ½ and 19 months), but I know that when it comes to teaching them about green-practices, the younger the better. With summer in full swing, I’m looking for ways to help our family make the summer a bit greener. The beautiful weather makes it easy to live green without even giving it a thought. In fact, it’s as easy as turning off the television and going outside!
That said, my favorite thing about summer is being outside and getting fresh air. Kids like to be entertained, and without other kids around, it’s helpful if we have activities and toys for them to play with. In addition to an array of different types of balls, play lawn mowers and ride on toys we’ve inherited from friends and family, we have some great stationary toys. In fact, my husband jokes that my backyard looks like a park because I have to so many things for the kids to do. I like to keep a variety, of things but certainly my kids are most partial to their wooden swing set. While I wasn’t as environmentally conscious when we bought the set a few years ago, I have since learned to look for FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certification, which ensures genuine sustainable practices are used when harvesting wood for building materials. So, if you don’t have a swing set yet, this is one thing to look for when deciding what to purchase.
I mentioned that my yard looks like a park. We have a lot of toys, which may seem less than green, but I did not buy most of our toys new. We have a great playhouse that I purchased from someone on Craigslist.com, and we have a Talking Dora Kitchen that I rescued from the trash. Both items just needed a good cleaning and now they are well-loved and played with regularly by my children. By getting your children second-hand outdoor toys, you are keeping the items out of the landfill. This is a double bonus! Incidentally, I have noticed many people getting rid of their wooden swing sets on Craigslist.com and on local Freecycle.org message boards.
I also involve my children in yard work. From planting a vegetable garden, to planting flowers in our flower boxes and planters around the yard, my kids love to help out. This past weekend we even picked the first bunch of green beans from our garden. When planting our garden, I involved my son from start to finish. He helped me build the raised box using wood left over from another outdoor project, and I let him choose which vegetables to plant. He helped me dig holes and sprinkle the seeds in the holes. And now, he’s helping me pick the vegetables. Every day we go over to our garden and admire it. He’s so proud of it, and I think it’s a wonderful learning experience for him.
Since my kids are still young, we go for walks a lot, but if your kids are a little older you can also take them for bike rides. We are fortunate to live close to a lot of stores, so often times we will take a stroller and walk rather than drive. I actually find it easier to walk than it is to deal with getting two kids in and out of their car seats. When walking, my children and I talk more than we would in the car and we also have gotten to know a lot of our neighbors just by walking instead of driving places!
Even though most summer days are begging for us to come outside, there are always a few rainy days that keep us indoors. For the days when we are stuck inside, I keep a slew of special indoor activities. Kids love doing arts and crafts and keeping special projects only for rainy days makes them special days too. Some ideas for rainy day indoor crafts that we have done include: making and decorating a bird feeder, painting pictures and making animals out of toilet paper.
When you’re outside this summer, don’t forget about sunscreen. There are several green options out there comparable in price to the ones we are all most familiar with, and they will offer you and your children great sun protection. For more information on some of the brands available, you can check out this article on eco18: Summer Fun in the Sun—Au Naturale. And while you’re at it, don’t forget about natural bug repellents to keep your family free from mosquito bites! There are several available, and I plan to be able to give you some reviews in the near future.
So remember, turn off the TV, the lights and the air conditioner and head outside this summer. You and your children will enjoy the fresh air and you’ll be minimizing your carbon footprint. It’s so easy, and as an added advantage, I find the kids sleep better after being outide all day!