Celebrating Earth Day with your family

Ideas to help children be involved with preservation and conservation of Earth’s resources.

Take time to celebrate Earth Day.
Take time to celebrate Earth Day.

Earth Day, April 22, is a global holiday dedicated to environmental education and awareness. Earth Day began in 1970 in the United States as a way to draw attention to the need for environmental education. The idea spread and today over one billion people in 195 countries celebrate Earth Day! Michigan State University Extension recommends the following ideas to celebrate Earth Day with your children.

Plant a home garden

It’s too early in Michigan to plant outside, but it’s a great time to get thinking about a home garden! Visit MSU Extension’s Gardening in Michigan website to learn more about planning your home garden. Whether it’s a vegetable or flower garden, include your children in the planning and planting. They can help start seedlings, turn over the earth, dig holes for plants, pull weeds and so much more! Gardening is a great way to get children outside and hands-on in their world and environment.

Start composting

Composting is the natural process of “recycling” organic matter such as leaves, vegetable scraps and flower cuttings into a rich soil amendment. Instead of throwing away kitchen waste such as fruit and vegetable peels, egg shells, stems/trimmings and other inedible parts of vegetables, gather them in a bucket or other container. Composting can be very simple, it’s just a pile of organic matter. You can purchase composting units, or if you’re really adventurous you can even create a worm compost bin! Whatever process you choose, it’s a fun science project for kids and it’s great for your garden.

Protect pollinators

There is a much concern about the decline of bees and butterflies. These important insects help pollinate plants, and without pollination, most fruits and many vegetables cannot grow. Consider planting flowers, shrubs or bushes that help support bees and butterflies. From annuals such as sunflowers, snapdragons and zinnias to shrubs such as butterfly bushes and lilacs, and even plants we consider weeds such as dandelions, home gardeners can choose plants that will help these important insects continue to grow and thrive. Talk to your children about what bees and butterflies do for plants. For more information on teaching children about plants and pollination, read “Science ideas for young children: Flowers and plant reproduction” by MSU Extension.

Reduce, reuse and recycle

Teach children the three R’s: reduce, reuse and recycle. Reduce what you consume by avoiding purchasing single packaged items, buying in bulk, avoiding disposable goods and choosing durable items. Send your children to school with water bottles instead of juice boxes, zero waste lunches, reusable snack bags and other items that cut down on waste. Talk to them about why these items help reduce what your family is consuming. Reuse items in unique ways, such as wrapping presents in brown paper bags. Encourage entrepreneurship and the reuse of items by reselling old clothes and toys or donating them to charity.

Take reusable grocery bags to the store. Get children involved in recycling. Teach them why you recycle and involve them in gathering recycling. Buy products made of recycled materials and in packaging that can be recycled. Show children how you reuse things to limit consumption of materials, such as using the backs of paper while coloring or handing down clothing to siblings. There are many ways to get children involved in reducing, reusing and recycling on a daily basis. Be aware, kids become great at “policing” what can be recycled or should’ve been reused once they learn more about this concept!

There is a Native American proverb that says, “We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.” One of the goals of Earth Day is to look at how humankind can look towards the future of our planet Earth for our children. Take time this year to engage your family in meaningful activities that help protect and preserve our planet for generations to come.

For more information about environmental education, natural resources, early childhood education and other topics, visit MSU Extension.

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