Readers have asked us for ways to celebrate Earth Day with the kids while we’re all sheltering in place right now and I have to be honest — with all of the days starting to run together while we’re in quarantine, the holiday kind of snuck up on me this year.
But 2020 isn’t just any old Earth Day, but the 50th anniversary, an occasion that would normally warrant celebrations in parks, collaborative town and city-wide clean ups, and lots of in-school projects with kids and their teachers working together to discuss all of the ways they hope to make the earth a better and cleaner place to live.
But as with so many things this year, we’re going to have to do things a little differently than we had planned. So this Earth Day, I’ve put together ten easy ways you can honor the 50th anniversary with your kids — while maintaining social distancing. It was fun going back through our archives, and seeing 15 years (!) worth of eco-friendly ideas we’ve always shared, and assembling some favorites for you, but feel free to browse around our archives for all kinds of ideas.
And maybe when we come out of this, we will all have a new appreciation of this big beautiful world we all share, and dedication to help keep it as healthy as we can. .
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10 ways families can celebrate the 50th anniversary of Earth Day while in quarantine
1. Make special Earth Day craftsEarth sun catchers: Books and Giggles
I suspect that many of us are making good use of any craft supplies we have in the house, from crayons to egg cartons, which will come in handy should you decide to get crafting to celebrate Earth Day with the kids. We’ve featured dozens of ideas over the years, but I suggest you start with some of these 8 easy Earth-inspired Earth Day crafts for kids, including the adorable sun catcher craft, above.
I love that there are crafting options that use recycled materials like newspaper or plastic bottles, as well as broken crayon bits. (We have plenty of those.)
And make sure you try out the yummy Earth Day cookie recipe that we included in the post for snack time. The recipe calls for pre-made sugar cookie dough or you could make our tried-and-true favorite sugar cookie dough recipe from scratch. It comes out a lot like the one up at the top. Yay for baking!
2. Start an indoor or outdoor garden
There are so many earth-friendly, teachable moments that can come out of gardening that Earth Day is the perfect day to kick-off your own indoor or outdoor garden. Show your kids “magic” vegetables that will grow right out of their own scraps that you might normally throw away.
Or prepare to grow your own vegetables and herbs indoors by ordering a “smart garden” that regulates lighting and watering for you. This one is wonderful but a little speedy — or try Aerogarden (mentioned in this post) which is offering 20% off today for Earth Day.
And with warmer weather here–or on its way — it’s time to start planning an outdoor garden if you have the space. Talk to the kids about what plants they’d like to grow — peppers, basil, tomatoes are all great in patio containers as well as in garden plots. A book we discovered way back in 2010 is We Grew It, Let’s Eat It , which offers a fantastic introduction for younger kids to learn about the benefits of starting their own garden.
And don’t forget composting, one of the best ways to improve your soil without having to buy chemical fertilizers. You can start keeping a container near your sink for scraps and then either add them to a composting bin or try this super-easy composting method that your kids can do for you.
3. Feed the birds and think of the pollinators
One big mission of Earth Day is to get people thinking about how we can help all the creatures around us survive and thrive in the years to come. That’s why I love the idea of making some DIY bird feeders with the kids to put outside of our windows.
Encourage the kids to keep a list of the birds they see—this is my favorite bird book for my part of the U.S.– or to draw their favorites as they come to nibble.
And don’t forget our pollinators, like honey bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds! Making plans to add some flowering plants to your garden or flowerpots is a great way to teach kids about the important role these flying creatures play in our ecosystem.
4. Start a Nature Notebook
Kids love tracking the creatures they see out their windows or in their own yards or (safely!) on local trails. We adore this new Nature Anatomy Notebook: A Place to Track and Draw Your Daily Observations based on the wonderful books of Julia Rothman. Kids of all ages can track daily sightings, and learn to draw things they see on the blank sketch book pages.
Of course any blank book can become a nature notebook. But this one makes it a little special.
5. Find ways to reduce food waste
Never has the issue of food waste been such a big deal for so many, than this Earth Day, considering running to the supermarket is a high-stress — even dangerous — proposition for either me or a personal shopper. So, we are trying our best to not waste any food even if it’s gotten a little bit, shall we say, funky.
I love these ideas from Cool Mom Eats for clever ways to use foods you might otherwise throw away. Sit down with the kids today and challenge them to come up with even more ideas to add to your own list, and hang it in the kitchen — before they turn their noses up at that last heel of bread.
6. Commit to switching to one (or more) reusable products
This Earth Day, make a family pledge to switch from a single-use product you can’t seem to qutit, like plastic straws or single-use plastic water bottles, to an alternative that is more eco-friendly. Other items like canvas grocery bags, cotton swabs, sandwich bags, lunch bags, plastic wraps, and K-Cups are also so easy to replace with options that can be used again and again.
Want to keep going? How about replacing your regular paper towels with reusable ones — we just found 5 alternatives, and they’re not just good for the earth, they’ll save you money, too!,
Get the kids involved in the decision making and they’ll be more likely to stick with the changes without a lot of complaints.
7. Sort, donate and recycle unwanted items
I know a lot of families are using these many unexpected hours at home to clean out bookcases, closets, medicine cabinets, and toy boxes, either using the KonMari method or going through the house room by room. And you can use this special Earth Day to talk to the kids about ways they can help reduce waste by donating their unwanted items, consigning their outgrown clothes to a site like ThredUp or plastic toys to Second Chance Toys.
And going forward, it’s a great time to read these 7 really smart decluttering habits to start now, so you don’t have to KonMari your house later. Plus, you’ll feel a whole lot better with less clutter in the homes we’re basically living in 24/7, right?
(Keep in mind that some donation sites may be closed due to the Coronavirus outbreak, so it may be necessary to set things aside for a period of time.)
8. Help the kids pick out a few new meatless recipes30 minute chickpea schwarma sandwich: Minimalist Baker
With two vegetarians in my household, our meals are often meatless. But even we need a little nudge to keep us from falling back onto the same old dishes time and again.
This Earth Day, I’m eyeing some of these 7 kid-friendly vegan dinner recipes for Earth Day and beyond to make for my family. (Ooh, that sandwich!) And if you’d like to go meatless a little more often, either for the planet or your health, check out the many vegetarian and vegan recipes we’ve featured on Cool Mom Eats.
Get the kids involved and they will be more likely to try some new things!
9. Download / order some Earth Day-themed books and music
This list of 4 must-read books about the environment to read with your kids on Earth Day (and any other day) includes some terrific picture books to add to your library or download to your Kindle.
And the excellent and educational Schoolhouse Rock Earth can also be enjoyed today via their YouTube channel if you can’t wait to get the DVD in the mail. Browse your favorite YouTube channels and you’ll find so much great Earth Day content to watch with the kids today, from Sesame Street to Crash Course Videos for older kids.
10. Encourage your tween or teen to think bigPhoto Markus Spiske on Unsplash
Ask you older kids what issues are important to them: Would they like their town or state to ban plastic checkout bags? Ask restaurants to use paper straws in restaurants and coffee shops? Or do they aspire to be the next Greta Thunberg? With online petitions, social media messaging, and emails to key decision makers in town, their “pet project” could be added to the next ballot or taken up at the next town meeting. A great place to start:
This post on 5 terrific children’s books about activism to help raise activist kids is a great help, or check Liz’s Facebook live book club segment about 2 great books about raising activist kids)
We also have a terrific Spawned Podcast episode devoted to Activism 101: How to get involved with issues you care about when you don’t see yourself as the activist type. Listen together, and help them figure out what aspect of Earth Day is so compelling to them and what they want to do about it.
You might be surprised how much your kids have to say. about it.
Top photo by sheri silver on Unsplash