It is never too early to start teaching children the importance of keeping our planet clean and learning how to reduce, reuse, and recycle. With a little guidance and supervision, kids can get creative helping and celebrating the earth.
Just because preschoolers are small doesn't mean they can't help make a difference. After all, little steps can lead to big changes.
Many people are now turning to reusable bags, found in nearly every grocery store, as an alternative to the traditional paper or plastic. Made of cotton, canvas, polyester, or recycled polypropylene, the totes are machine washable or easy to wipe down with mild soap and a damp cloth. You can also order them from Oriental Trading Company or buy them at local craft stores like Michael's in a variety of colors and styles. Choose a bag and then let your child pick supplies -- acrylic paint, fabric markers or paint pens, rhinestones, stickers, animal or earth-themed rubbers stamps and stencils, etc.
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Be sure to help with the harder parts of decorating, like writing her name or a fun quote about Earth, making sure paint don't stain skin or other surfaces, and handling any type of glue such as a glue gun. Your little one will be proud to use her tote to transport toys or carry lunches and snacks.
Grab cardboard boxes, shoeboxes, or plastic storage boxes to organize junk mail, old magazines, fabric, ribbons, and extra buttons before they end up in the trash. Transform an empty plastic milk jug into a bird feeder by cutting a hole in the side of the jug and filling the jug with birdseed before hanging on a tree. Create a flowerpot by poking holes in the bottom and cutting the milk jug in half below the handle; decorate it with the miscellaneous materials you already stockpiled.
Your child can make multiples of these items and set up a stand in the front yard to sell the recycled crafts with adult supervision, of course. Whether in your backyard or at a local garden plot you rent, planting a garden can be fun for any preschooler, especially the ones who like to get dirty. With your child, choose seeds of favorite fruits and vegetables that will grow well in your area to care for through the year. Children will get good exercise; they'll also learn to nurture the environment and that plants can help clean our air and provide healthy nourishment.
Jerusha Klemperer, Associate Director of National Programs at Slow Food USA, writes, "Children who learn in and around edible gardens and farms learn firsthand to make connections between food and the environment, food and personal health, and food and community well being.
6 Ways Preschoolers Can Celebrate Earth Day
Make a list of items for your child to collect outdoors, like pinecones, leaves, flowers, rocks, and sticks. Add items like plastic bottles or paper cups. Go on a walk around your neighborhood or to a nearby park. When all the items on the list have been gathered, talk about what role they have and the impact they make on the surrounding environment.
For example, sticks are gathered by birds to make nests to live in and flowers have nectar that bees carry back to their hives to make honey. Draw, paint, and write on recycled paper and use recycled computer paper for your printer. Use fans instead of air conditioners. Try to buy organic foods free of pesticides and chemical additives. Start a compost pile for your food scraps and lawn clippings.
For Children – Blessed Earth
Make a habit of picking up any litter you see. Avoid using aerosol sprays and styrofoam. Reduce your overall use of plastic packaging. For example, use your own cloth bags for groceries. Purchase items that are not individually wrapped. Donate items that you no longer need. Share items such as lawnmowers and machines that aren't needed on a regular basis.
Take a nature walk: Bring a magnifying glass, an insect and plant manual, and a sketch book. See how many plants, flowers, and bugs you can identify and draw. Collect a variety of outdoor items such as leaves, sticks, flowers, and rocks, and create unique art projects. The water will wash the paint away. Cover a large pinecone with peanut butter and birdseed, hang outside your window, and enjoy the sights and sounds of the bird visitors as they feast.
Clean a community area: Take your children to their favorite park, woods, or even for a stroll around your neighborhood.
Reuse Materials for Arts and Crafts
Pick up all the litter you can find and see who can collect the biggest bag. Take the time to explain the effects litter has on our environment. Virtually adopt an animal: Check with your local zoo or other nature-oriented organization, such as the Save the Manatee Club.
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Your child can look at pictures and read about his or her new "pet. Use "trash" paper scraps, labels, junk mail, and other found items and glue to create a multimedia masterpiece. Pick up a book and read with your children have an outdoor reading session if the weather allows: