When it comes to celebrating Earth Day with kids, showing kids how to enjoy and care for nature is far more impactful than telling. Plan to spend this Earth Day outside, with activities that will stimulate your child’s mind, body, and soul through nature.
Celebrating Earth Day with Kids
Throughout 12 years of publishing Green Child’s digital magazine, we’ve covered plenty of inspiring ideas for celebrating Earth Day with kids. But here’s the one thing we know is true: We protect what we love.
And the best way to encourage kids to protect the environment is to get them outside so they can fall in love with nature.
The Significance of Earth Day
Earth Day is an ongoing movement, and we have a long way yet to go. The good news is – when your family takes action, it matters. Every change we make really does add up.
When your family develops a deep fondness of the natural world, all those baby steps to greener living are amplified. It works wonders for not just the health of the planet, but our own health, too!
Richard Louv in his book Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder explains:
A generation of children is not only being raised indoors, but is being confined to even smaller spaces. Jane Clark, a University of Maryland professor of kinesiology . . . calls them ‘containerized kids.’ They spend more and more time in car seats, high chairs, and even baby seats for watching TV. When small children go outside, they’re often placed in containers – strollers – and pushed by walking or jogging parents. Most kid-containerizing is done for safety concerns, but the long term health of these children is compromised.
This inspires us to want to spend Earth Day with kids outdoors and with as much freedom to run and roam as possible. Enjoying our environment is extremely beneficial to adults, too. Exposure to nature has been found to encourage people to nurture close relationships with fellow human beings, value community, and to be more generous.
21 Ways to Get Outside and Celebrate Earth Day with Kids
You intuitively know tons of ways to celebrate Earth Day with kids. After all – they love to be outside. But we’re thrilled to offer these ideas for a little inspiration. Getting out and enjoying nature is one of the best things we can do for our physical and mental wellbeing.
Being outside helps give kids a “big picture” sense of how the seasons affect our lives. They also gain an understanding of the cycle of life.
Most of all, it’s just fun to get dirty. To revel in the smells and textures and colors of living things all around us. It teaches that being outside and tuning in to the surprises, delights, and mysteries of nature is ultimately more satisfying than video games and TV.
1. Get Outside and Away from Screens
These days, many kids are learning more about nature from computer screens than from experiencing it with all of their senses.
Think about it. You can read about apples. You can learn all 7,000+ varieties of apples. And you can even draw a picture of an apple.
But is there anything like standing amid branches of dozens of apples, reaching up to the perfectly ripe one, giving a soft tug, hearing it snap gently from the branch, and taking that first crisp, juicy bite?
In the first scenario, you know about apples. In the second, you know apples.
By helping our children appreciate the smell of fresh air, sound of wind rustling through trees, or the sight of a breathtaking mountain vista… we are contributing to their knowing of nature. And we’re helping to foster the desire to conserve and preserve.
To us, this step is huge. And yes, kids can safely play outside in the rain. And they can also play outside in the cold. So, there’s really no excuse to sit cooped up in the house or classroom making an earth out of play dough or watching nature films.
2. Watch the sunrise or sunset on Earth Day
Set the alarm a bit earlier and step outside as a family to witness the sunrise. Ask everyone to enjoy a moment of silence and reflection in honor of Mother Nature. Listen for the sounds of birds chirping on a spring morning, and notice if trees or shrubs are budding or blooming.
If you are a family of not-morning-people, watch the sunset instead. Maybe even plan a picnic dinner to coincide with sunset. Head outside armed with paper, crayons, markers, pastels, or chalk. Share the moment by everyone drawing the beautiful colors they see.
3. Go on a nature scavenger hunt
Give your kids a list of items they must find in a park: pinecone, feather, something a deer could eat, a piece of trash, etc.
Once they have collected everything, talk about how each item represents the importance of preserving green spaces. Here are some awesome nature scavenger hunt ideas to get you started.
4. Practice an Earth Day Meditation
What better way to appreciate Mother Nature than to mindfully list her gifts and practice feeling thankful for them?
This Earth Day guided meditation script combines the benefits of meditation with focusing on our beautiful planet. Make it even better by finding a peaceful spot outside and relaxing into stillness while you breathe the oxygen provided by a nearby tree.
5. Take a family bike ride
Biking is a fun way to get exercise and create no carbon footprint with your transportation. Kids love to explore trails, and many cities have greenbelt areas that feel miles away from the city noise. Listen to the birds and trickling streams, and consider how your everyday actions impact the green spaces closest to your home.
6. Photograph or journal a nature journey
Get out of the city and photograph the changing landscape. Notice the air quality from urban to rural to forested areas. Discuss the flora and fauna that covers the landscape, and the importance of protecting them.
Encourage your children to take photos or draw pictures of specific things that need preserving and talk about ways to take action.
7. Plant or plan a garden with your kids
Choose organic or heirloom seeds and compost and let the planting begin! Be sure to teach your kids about composting and discuss the global impact of organic farming. You can also try these Kid-Friendly Garden Projects.
8. Be an outdoor scientist
Messy play is soothing and educational. And there’s no better place to be curious and messy than the great outdoors.
- Use red cabbage, berries, carrots, etc. to have a tie-dying party with old clothing and blankets.
- Make wildflower seed bombs.
- Spend the evening stargazing with your kids.
- Make a rain cloud to learn about weather patterns.
- Recreate the earth’s layers with modeling clay.
- Make a tornado in a jar.
- Color Earth themed coloring pages.
- Safely observe animals in their natural habitats.
9. Go camping
Roughing it is one of the best ways to fall in love with nature. Depending on where you live, spring temperatures may be too cold for a night under the stars. If that’s the case, start planning a summer camping trip.
Be sure to practice Leave No Trace camping or visit a nearby Forest Service office to learn about camping responsibly.
What green or nature cause does your family care about most? Volunteer at the nearest animal shelter. Go pick up trash at your local park or beach. You might even find enough discarded items to create plastic mosaic art.
Plant trees or go out and toss those seed bombs. Ask around in your community for ways to donate your time for environmental causes on Earth Day.
11. Make a bird feeder
This DIY organic bird feeder craft only takes a few minutes, but it combines everything children love – getting their hands dirty, having a little snack, making something fun, and nature.
12. Plant a pollinator garden
Plant wildflowers like milkweed seeds to encourage pollinators like bees and butterflies to visit your yard. Swap old outdoor lightbulbs for more energy efficient options. Pollinators are so critical to a healthy environment and our food supply.
Find out what types of butterflies are native to your area and plant flowers and shrubs that attract them. You can also plant wildflowers to attract bees to your yard.
A bug hotel is part garden art and part winter habitat for beneficial insects. This build your own bug hotel project is one of our favorite kid-friendly ways to celebrate Earth Day.
13. Visit an animal sanctuary
Much different from a zoo, a wild animal sanctuary provides an environmentally responsible and educational way to see wildlife up close in their natural habitats.
In some cities, these sanctuaries were created as safe spaces for animals displaced by urban sprawl. It’s a great way for your child to spend Earth Day outside learning the significance of protecting native plants and animals.
14. Organize a group outing to a state or national park
According to the National Park Service, the U.S. is home to nearly 400 national parks, and the service is present in almost every county across the country, meaning a vibrant park is within driving distance, offering opportunities to bird-watch and learn about wildlife.
15. Plant a tree
Earth Day and Arbor Day usually fall pretty close on the calendar. Why not honor both by planting a tree? Tress give off oxygen and beautify our environment. And it’s something you can always look back on with your children as both they and the tree grow.
16. Make nature paint brushes
Mother Nature shows us all the time what an amazing artist she is. Your kids can channel her talents when they make DIY nature brushes and paints. Here are some fun ideas for making paint brushes out of items easily found outside.
17. Set Out on an Artist’s Hike
Pick the route of your choice through any stretch of nature: city park, forest, farmland, beach, desert, etc. Arm yourself with sketchbooks. Walk slowly and notice all the new growth springing to life. Stop to draw details of leaves, berries, birds, rocks and anything else that catches your eye. Write descriptions or thoughts that occur about what you are noticing. Complete your Spring diary by painting, collaging or crayola-ing your sketches.
18. Walk or bike to school
Earth Day 2023 falls on a Saturday, but you can still plan a pretty day the week before or after to walk or bike to school. Or make it a goal to bike to school a certain number of days each month and keep a chart of the miles clocked by each family. Children will love the challenge of tracking their distance and adults can graph the savings of total vehicle mileage.
19. Visit your local farmers’ market
More fun for the family than the typical grocery run. Plus, you will be supporting local farmers and conserving fuel.
If your local farmers’ market is only open on a certain day of the week, make sure you visit it during Earth Week. Get to know local farmers and encourage your kids to ask questions about how they grow the foods they sell.
20. Host a cleanup day
Coordinate a time on Earth Day or a Saturday during April to pick up trash in your neighborhood or favorite park. Children who have never voluntarily picked up their bedrooms will love picking up someone else’s trash. Give them gloves and proper supervision. It’s an Earth Day miracle!
21. Green your home and yard
Hey, we’re spending this Earth Day outside, and kids can be a big help in the yard. Set up rain barrels or create a compost bin. Place those new bird feeders from the idea above around your yard to encourage a healthy local bird population. Or choose a not-so-green habit and vow to improve in this area for the month of April.
Some examples are: use reusable bags, start composting at home, make your own cleaning products, wash all your clothes using cold water, remember to turn off the lights. Changing these habits for a month can lead to permanent change after Earth month is over.
22. Join a local Earth Day celebration
Check out the Earth Day events your local parks or community organizations are offering, and join in the fun. Earth Day Network lists ways you can get involved with each year’s activism theme.
Don’t Preach – Make Earth Day Fun
Our best advice for enjoying Earth Day is to spend time outdoors doing whatever your child loves to do. Take a moment to be extra mindful of the trees, grass, creeks, rocks, or any little part of nature that fills your child’s sense of wonder.
Our second best bit of advice for observing Earth Day is – don’t preach. Follow the “support what you love rather than bash what you hate” philosophy. We really hate plastic trash-strewn beaches but we’re not going to lament them on this special day. Instead we’re going to celebrate all the things we love about the natural wonders of this beautiful planet and its resources. We’d love to know… how are you celebrating Earth Day outside this year?