Wednesday is the 50th anniversary of Earth Day! Each year on April 22, we celebrate nature and try to make positive change in our environment. This year, however, Earth Day comes in the midst of a pandemic.
Quarantine has been a struggle for so many families trying to manage the stress of homeschooling, working from home, and social distancing, but it has also provided some folks with the opportunity to slow down and notice more about their surroundings. With schools, playgrounds, and lots of public places closed, families are increasingly turning to nature to engage and entertain their kids. From backyard scavenger hunts to growing seeds in the windowsill, nature activities are becoming a popular way to spend the long hours at home.
So while some of the usual Earth Day activities like visiting a national park or starting a recycling program at school might be off-limits these days, there are still plenty of ways to celebrate inside your own home! Here are some kid-friendly ideas to get you started:
- Set up a nature station: If your home has a window to the outdoors, you can find nature right there! Birds, plants, and even bugs and rocks are all part of your local ecosystem. Head out to the yard or, if you don’t have access to the outdoor space, set up a seat and small table right by a window. Your kid can draw, categorize, or research all the things from nature that they see, and find out how local wildlife plays an important role in your environment, from backyard squirrels to birds roosting on city rooftops.
- Reduce, reuse, recycle. The quarantine can be a great opportunity to teach your kids about conserving resources. Go room by room together and make a pile of items that can be recycled and a pile of items that can be donated. This can help your family take a big chunk out of the amount of potential garbage from your own home that could end up in landfills or oceans.
- Have a safari! Hide stuffed animals around the house and have the kids find them all! This is extra fun if you play some good exploring music in the background (or even nature sounds, to make it feel more realistic). Afterwards, you can look up fun facts about each of the animals they found, or even use Google’s 3D animals feature to bring realistic creatures to life right in your living room!
- Watch the weather. The weather is an important part of our environment. Learning about the weather and how it’s connected to the ecosystem is a great way to honor nature on Earth Day. Use your windows or outdoor space to watch the clouds and try to figure out what type they are, then call or message friends and family to ask for photos of the sky where they live, to see what the weather is like in different places. You can also help your kid make their very own barometer!
- Pay it forward. Allocate a small amount of money to your kids, and let them research a conservation organization or environmental cause to donate it to. Or, have them write a letter to that organization about why a cause like conservation or climate change is important to them.
- Pro tip: Let them lead the way. Give your child the tools and resources they need to learn about the environment, and let them guide the way! Putting your kid in the driver’s seat and letting them choose which animal to read about or which nature games they’d like to play will keep them engaged longer. National Geographic Kids and Environment America are great places to start!
While things may be very different this year, Earth Day can still be a great opportunity to pause and appreciate the nature around us. Raising nature-lovers is a huge contribution parents can make to the conservation of our environment. Nature is all around us, so on this Earth Day your family can celebrate safely even these uncertain times.