By Mimi Mason
While I am a great lover of all the big holidays, Earth Day (April 22 this year) is my favorite small holiday. I love having a day to enjoy the brilliance of the world around me, while being reminded to be a careful and watchful steward of this gift I have been given. We have a great God-given responsibility to take care of our wonderful world—a responsibility meant to be passed down to future generations. We embrace Earth Day as a day of awareness, as we explore new fun and exciting ways to contribute to the care of our world as a family. Here are five of our favorite family activities.
Make a nature-inspired bird feeder. A bird feeder can be made as simply as spreading some peanut butter on a pine cone and rolling it in bird seed. For older kids, challenge them to build a bird feeder. Better yet, ask them to go out into nature and find materials with which to do the building. Last year, we went hiking and gathered pine cones, sticks and twigs, pine needles, and interesting dry flowers. After coming home, we whipped out the hot glue gun and put together a simple bird feeder that Aria was proud to hang. This activity can even be taken to the next level by encouraging the building of a bird or bat house!
Have a “reduce, reuse, recycle” challenge. Each year, each person in our family finds one way we can reduce, reuse, and recycle as a family. Reducing can be anything from learning about using less electricity and water to a simple decluttering of a small space. Recycling can encompass everything from sorting recyclables into a separate container, to starting a compost bin for kitchen waste. Reusing takes a little more creativity—finding something that seems unusable and giving it a new job. Our family loves this challenge. As a result of this challenge, we have made many changes to our daily lives that are helping the planet and helping us economize. In years past we have started a compost bin, collected rain water, conserved water and electricity, donated goods, and found creative ways to reuse items in our home for storage.
Craft from trash. Collect paper towel and bath tissue tubes, boxes, cans, and colorful wrappers, and stage a craft station. Add in some paint, glue, crayons, and markers, and encourage kids to make something special from items that are usually considered trash. This activity helps kids think outside the box, and helps them understand what trash truly is, and how it can be made into something useful.
Build a miniature or “fairy” garden. At its heart, a miniature garden is a very homespun, natural way to encourage everyone to dig into the dirt and immerse themselves in the challenge bringing a little something green into the world. I have seen miniature gardens themed for fairies, dinosaurs, cars, horses, and even one devoted to water pathways. All you need is a pot, potting soil, and plants that will stay relatively small. Our first year building a miniature garden, I saw many pictures of beautiful, immaculate, well-crafted gardens. I visited a garden store that carried a kit for fairy gardens, individual fairy furniture pieces, and even “fairy”-sized plants. While lovely, I knew these things weren’t for us. Earth Day isn’t a time to engage in consumerism, but rather a day to reduce, reuse, and recycle! We reuse the pot that decorates our front porch every year.
Occasionally we need to purchase plants, but most often I am able to save the previous year’s plants indoors over the winter. Those I cannot save indoors, I replace with naturally small flowers or plants, such as a first year strawberry plant, pansies, and even the “weed” Creeping Charlie that is easily found in our yard. Our furnishings are rocks, and a small array of toys Aria already has in the playroom. This simple activity can fill up an entire day, and the experience of planting a special garden just for the little ones gives them a sense of accomplishment.
Weather permitting of course! For little ones, set up a mud pie kitchen. A couple of bowls, spoons, pots, a bag of dirt, and access to the yard is all you will need. Let the kids pick flowers and leaves and create to their heart’s content. For older kids, go hiking, visit a state park, or even just take a walk around your neighborhood. Try to identify the birds and plants you see, and soak up some sun after the long winter.
These are just a few of the ways our family chooses to celebrate Earth Day. Find ways that your family loves to celebrate, either indoors or out. Explore nature and test your creativity. Have a happy Earth Day!
Mimi Mason is a homemaker, homeschooler, and micro homesteader. She chronicles her family’s experiences with sustainable living on her blog, The Simple Survivalist. When she’s not elbow deep in garden soil and bread dough, she can be found hidden behind the pages of a good book.