On April 22, 2020, it will mark the 50th year that Earth Day is recognized, now worldwide. The first earth day in 1970 helped spark a movement to create environmental laws to help preserve our natural resources, and our world. The Clean Air, Clean Water and Endangered Species Acts all stemmed from people taking a stand to demand a change.
Earth Day this year may look much different than anyone expected, but it does not mean that we can't take steps to educate and inspire ourselves and our children to learn about the impact we have, and what we can each do to make a difference. We at Wildlife Tree want to connect and create a community of people striving to support a healthy world where all things can thrive, and we believe that teaching our children will create a strong foundation for the future. Below are 10 different cheap, and even free activities you can do with your family to celebrate earth day right from your home or local neighborhood. All with social distancing and staying safe in mind.
1. Start Your Day with Global Warming Toast
Breakfast, a craft, and some environmental learning nicely wrapped in some yummy bread. Global warming is a heavy and real topic and can be hard for some kids to understand. We found the cutest earth day activity (and snack) from Left Brain Craft Brain where you make your own Earth Toast.
You can help your kids visualize how this is happening by making their own earth toast. Supplies you will need include:
- White bread
- Blue and green food coloring
- Circular cookie cutter (Or just cut a hole in the middle with a knife)
- Toppings to add such as cinnamon sugar, butter, etc.
You make your “paint” by combining a drop of food coloring and a few tablespoons of milk. After you cut the circle out from the center of the bread, paint it with the blue and green milk, making sure not to use too much milk or it won’t toast well. Lastly, toast your earth bread in a toaster oven or oven, keeping an eye to make sure it doesn’t burn. Throw whatever toppings you prefer and have a chat about global climate change.
For a how to video and more theories and lessons you can talk with your kids about, check out Left Brain Craft Brain.
2. Plant an Eggshell Garden
Have you eaten eggs recently? Well save those eggshells and plant your next seedlings (or save them for the compost bin you make down below). Teach a lesson on recycling and let your kids watch their plants grow. From herbs and vegetables, to native wildflowers that can help you make your own backyard habitat.
Try and crack the narrow end and leave two-thirds to half of the base. Rinse the shell, fill with potting soil, add seeds, and you’re set. Save the egg carton to hold you plants as they sprout. Once they start to outgrow their shell, plant the whole thing, including the shell, straight into the ground. Some people gently crack the shell before to help release nutrients the shell contains to your soil and your plant.
3. Nature Scavenger Hunt
This activity is completely free, just grab a pen and paper and head outside for some fresh air, and appreciate nature with a scavenger hunt. Make up your own parameters based on where you live to encourage kids to explore. Examples include:
- Flower (You can specify a color)
- Spider Web
Take it a step further and ask what the species of the items you found are, or what they could be used for by animals that are native to your area.
4. Join a Citizen Science Project
Your family can be part of important projects that help other researchers collect data. From taking pictures of plants, animals, and other organisms to add to a global database of biodiversity through iNaturalist, listening to frog and toad calls for FrogWatch USA, and even just observing birds you see in your urban environment and sharing with scientists at the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, anyone can be a scientist in their own backyard.
Look into National Geographic Citizen Science Projects to find one that fits your family and area.
5. Create a Compost Bin
Recycle organic materials and food scraps to make your own nutrient rich soil to add to your plants and garden. Teach your kids young on ways to reduce landfill waste, the natural cycle of life and decay, and how recycling can help save our planet.
For step by step instructions including the do's and don’ts of composting checkout Better Homes and Gardens "How to Make Compost."
6. A Walk to Pick Up Trash
While you have probably already taken countless walks around the block or through a park in your area, praying your kids use all their energy, this time take along some gloves and a trash bag. As you pick up the small pieces of trash and plastic you see, you can connect it to how waste is affecting our planet. From polluting our rivers and oceans, to poisoning and even killing our birds and whales. Kids can learn the importance of recycling and making sure our waste ends up in the proper place. You can even make it a competition to see who can find the most pieces of trash.
7. Dinner by Candlelight
Save energy (and money) and turn off lights and electronics that aren’t being used while you eat. When you consume less power, you reduce the amount of toxic fumes released by power plants, conserve the earth’s natural resources and protect ecosystems from destruction. By taking steps to reduce your energy intake, you’ll contribute to a healthier and happier world. Talk around the table and ways each person can cut down on energy use.
Make the lights out last a little longer and play some family games. Candlelight card and board games can be a fun twist for the family (my favorite growing up was always hide and seek).
8. DIY Bird Feeders
Making your own bird feeders is a fun activity for all ages, and it continues to give back as you get to watch wildlife enjoy it after. An easy DIY feeder can be made with a few simple supplies that you most likely have around the house.
You will need:
- Toilet Paper or Paper Towel Rolls
- String or Yarn
- Peanut Butter (Organic is even better. Sunflower butter or almond butter can also be used)
- Bird Seed (Look for wild bird seed suitable for species around you)
- Plates or plastic bin to put bird seed in
- Plastic knifes or popsicle sticks work great
- Start by spreading a layer of peanut butter around the entire outside of the toilet paper roll. It does not need to be extremely thick, but you do want it covered so that the seed will stick.
- Next, roll it thoroughly in seed in a bin or on a plate to have the seeds stick.
- Run string or yarn through toilet paper roll and tie in a knot. Leave at least 4 inches to hang on on a branch.
- Let them dry for around 45 minutes to make sure the peanut butter isn’t still sticky, and hang for birds to enjoy! Try placing next to branches or bushes so that the birds have some perching to sit on while they eat.
*If you want to make it a little more creative, use a hole punch and stick two sticks criss cross through one end to make your own perching. Then punch two holes through the other side and run string through them so it hangs perpendicular to the ground. *
9. Mock Oil Spill Activity
This mock oil spill activity comes from Heidi at Create, Dream, Explore.
Items needed include:
- Feathers (1 per person)
- Tub or tupperware
- Oil (vegetable oil, olive oil, whatever you have on hand)
- Rocks, toy frogs, or any other “pond” toys can be added to make it more realistic
Fill tub or tupperware with water and whatever accessories you like. A simple tub of just water works great too. Add a half cup of oil and watch as they seperate. Next, dip feather into the pond and swirl around. Once kids pull it out they can talk about what they see and feel. You can have them try to wash the feather with water and talk about what could happen to birds and other animals that might come in contact with an oil spill in the wild.
You can also discuss other ways oil and pollutants can end up in our water systems including motor oil and chemicals we use for cleaning. Think about switching to eco-friendly cleaning supplies.
10. Recycled Animal
Give your kids a selection of items you might be getting rid of or don't need from around the home, such as boxes, ribbons, extra buttons, sandwich bag ties, etc. Have them create an animal out of the materials and then share how their creation's adaptations would help them survive. Encourage their imagination to run wild, even making up their own new species of animal.
Though we may be physically apart, we all share the planet. However you choose to recognize Earth Day this year, everyone at Wildlife Tree hopes that you are safe and healthy and able to appreciate the wonders of the world outside. By teaching and encouraging our kids to get outside and learn about the world around them, we can develop future wildlife protectors and conservationists that will make a difference.
Find a digital earth day event near you with earthday.org, follow on social media with #EarthDay and #EarthDay2020, and let us know how you are choosing to celebrate earth day this year in the comments below. Let’s make everyday earth day