The 10 Best Eco-Friendly activities to do with your children this Summer
Posted: Jun 20 2016
Summer is officially here--and so are the kids. At home. With you. Perhaps you're having flashbacks of why you averted a degree in early childhood education: You just don't know how to pass this much time with them and make it a healthy learning experience. Don't worry. We've got you covered. Here are ten activity ideas (that last longer than 10 minutes) that are sustainable on the environment (and your wallet) and fun for a range of ages--including mom and dad!
Sure you could go buy your seasonal flowers ready-to-go, already in bloom in the nursery's plastic containers. But why not buy packages of wildflower seeds and start them in their own homemade, recycled newspaper seedling pots! Garden Betty has an easy and fun guide for how to make it, plus it'll give the kids something to take care of every day and watch the beauty of nature unfold.
Watching birds come so close to the house to graze in bird feeders is a source of never-ending fascination for kids and adults alike. Why not give your feathered friends an artsy--and eco-friendly--place to hang out? Check out this easy owl bird feeder how-to. But don't stop at one. We had so much fun we created a virtual aviary of funky carton creatures.
Connect with nature by wandering through the forest. Check out the trees, wildflowers, and birds. Allow the kids to get some exercise and use their imagination. Collect leaves to create leaf people (see below) or drop pebbles to track your path of return. Have them take photos of nature up close, or create a scavenger hunt. The possibilities are endless when you're out in the woods.
While you're on that hike, bring a little something in which to collect leaves. When you get home, get out paper and glue or Mod Podge and make leaf families! Here are some ideas to get you going, and for the older kids (read: you) or those with more sophisticated skills, check out these creative sketches: drawing with leaves and creating fashion sketches with leaves.
Bicycle riding expands children's geographical mind maps--not to mention it's good exercise for everyone. Bike to a friend's house, the neighborhood pool or the supermarket. Trips that would be boring to walk, or too far, become interesting in bike mode. If you're not located in a bike-friendly area, check out bicycle paths in surrounding parks. Throw the bikes on the back of the car, strap on a picnic basket, and you've got a great afternoon of nature with homemade food to go.
Get the kids excited about vegetables and fruits by to taking them to a local farmer’s market so they can pick their own. You can teach how you're helping the environment by buying local, and the kids can ask questions to the farmers directly. (You might have to get the conversation started for the shy ones, so come up with a couple of questions ahead of time--like do your cows have names or how can we prepare this okra for dinner?)
Keep the car in the driveway and money in your wallet by hosting backyard film night. All you need is a sheet for the movie screen, blankets, pillows and lawn chairs, a computer and speakers to play the movie and a projector, and voila! A new twist on a favorite pastime that will lure the neighbors over for a fantastic multi-family night--no travel required. String up some lanterns and holiday lights and you've got your own Tribeca or Cannes right in your backyard. (This site gives some helpful hints on setup, and remember: A projector will pay for itself in no time when you consider the price of movie tickets and theater snacks.)
After the outdoor movie screening, why not just stay to sleep? Pretend you're in Africa or hiking through uncharted territory by reading an adventure story by lantern light. Don't have a tent? String up rope and sheets between trees like this.
If you're in the market for some storage bins or art supply containers, why not forage your local flea market? More interesting (and sustainable) than an off-the-shelf plastic bin, it could also provide an afternoon or two of a creative refurbishing project for the kids by painting old crates or a trunk, cleaning wire bins and attaching fun fabric liners, or gluing material or artwork to the inside of a vintage suitcase.
Squishy enough for a game of tag on a hot day and big enough for an easy water bucket toss, your kids will reuse these all summer. Get some eco-friendly sponges and follow this quick guide to make. You'll be a hero, and clean up is easier than picking up a billion bits of busted water balloons.
Even if a trip to a national forest or an eco-lodge in Costa Rica isn't on your calendar for this summer, these activities are sure to provide memorable experiences and learning moments about sustainability, adventure and creativity. What are your plans for eco-friendly projects or adventures this summer? Let us know in the comments!