21 Earth Day Activities for Kids
Thursday, April 22nd marks 2021’s official Earth Day, and there’s no better time to show our planet lots of love. But, while it’s absolutely special to celebrate Earth Day on the day it happens, April is actually Earth Month, so we’ll be considering that an excuse to go green for the whole 30 days.
Need a refresher on what Earth Day even is? Well, it’s been 51 years since the world’s first Earth Day in 1970, which kicked off a righteous revolution and a collaborative mission for all citizens of the world to rise up, champion “creativity, innovation, ambition, and bravery that we need to meet our climate crisis and seize the enormous opportunities of a zero-carbon future,” according to EarthDay.Org. Meeting these lofty goals doesn’t happen in one day, and it surely hasn’t happened in 51 years. But it’s a benchmark that we can keep working towards with consistent lifestyle changes and choices that are active and evolving instead of one-off fixes.
So, whether you color yourself a regular old conservationist, you have a green thumb or you’re just looking to teach your kids something about environmental sustainability (or all three!) there are tons of ways to get involved. From taking care of plants and taking Earth-preserving pledges, to committing to cleanups and recycling/upcycling toys and clothes, creating big change in our world starts small.
Read on for some of the best ways Earth Day activities for kids. Bonus: If you've been homeschooling, hopefully, you can use the holiday as a warranted excuse to get outside and explore with your squad!
1. Reconsider your toothbrush
One billion plastic toothbrushes end up in landfills every year (and can take over 400 years to decompose), but skipping the plastic and introducing a sleeker, reusable brush is definitely something to smile about. Companies like MamaP create bamboo toothbrushes for the whole family, all sold in recyclable Kraft paper boxes, with ergonomic, compostable handles. They also donate 5% of sales to different environmental organizations (determined by the color of each handle).
2. Fuel up for breakfast with a sustainable recipe
One of the biggest ways to pay Earth Day (and the Earth, overall) the respect it deserves is to really consider where your food comes from and what it costs (think: carbon emissions, water and land use) to bring it to your table. Yes, breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but instead of going big with the fare, pare down and prepare something that still packs a punch, sustainably. Sweet potato pancakes are festive in all the right ways: they can make use of leftovers from the night before and they’re made with spelt flour which doesn’t require toxic pesticides to grow.
3. Ride before you drive
Wherever you need to go on Earth Day, from point A to point B, make it a priority to leave a little earlier and trade your tires for some wheels. Cars can easily emit up to 20 pounds of greenhouse gas into the atmosphere for each gallon of gasoline burned, so transportation means and modes need serious tweaking (especially when lots of us are still working from home and avoiding mass transit).
4. Take the dogs out for a longer walk
Yes, Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow, but if we’re speaking for at-wits-end parents everywhere, we have no plans to stay beholden to his beyond-the-burrow predictions. At the first signs of warmer weather, we’ll be pushing our own little groundhogs (human and canine) out the door for some fresh air. Lean into a longer walk to stretch your legs and lap up all of that sunshine and Vitamin D. Of course, if you do end up in a park or reservation, make sure you heed the city or town safety ordinances, wear masks and practice social distancing. After all, Earth Day is definitely a call for a day outdoors, but COVID is still a threat and should be treated as such.
5. Bring some plant life home
Maybe you don’t have a dog yet, but if your kids are showing major interest in a pet (or more than one), start with easy houseplants first and encourage their sense of responsibility with practice, practice, practice (feeding them, making sure they’re well lit, etc.). Not only do plants add indoor appeal and happy vibes, they can help regulate the temperature in your house through the moisture they release into the air.
6. Start collecting rainwater
While you should always try to cut down shower time and turn the faucets off while brushing your teeth and washing your hands, you can also do something impactful with all the water that falls outside. Sure, you can look into rainwater collection systems (spoiler alert, they’re v. expensive), but for an easier approach, have the kiddos collect drips in beach buckets or their spring and summer-use water tables, which can double as Earth Day sensory bins. Then repurpose the non-drinkable water for cleaning or watering plants.
7. Spring clean for an [Earth Day] cause
Donate old clothes to local shelters or Goodwill (contact them first, to adhere to COVID safety protocol) and recycle anything else (say old electronics, or furniture no one’s using) if it’s not particularly sparking joy at home.
Some further notes on cleaning:
- Opt for a whole new arsenal of non-toxic, plant-based cleaning products. Here are some we love.
- Knock down the plastic detergent bottle buildup in your laundry room with 100% biodegradable laundry detergent sheets that use simple, naturally derived ingredients in an ultra-compact, easy-to-use application.
- Consider a wardrobe overhaul for everyone in your family and shop for sustainable clothing that can be worn, washed, put through the wringer and then handed down. Stores like Hanna Andersson and Pact are among our faves.
8. Power down and let mother nature be your guide
With social distancing still in effect, organized events are mostly on hold. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t research other nature-inspired outings in your area. For example, The Advenire Hotel, located in Utah’s Greater Zion, is offering an adventurous outdoor respite for remote learners and their remote working parents. Their School of Rock Adventure Package provides families with two days of socially-distanced exciting guided canyon adventures and a dinosaur discovery tour, all set amongst the stunning red rocks of Greater Zion, Utah.
9. Visit a local zoo and learn about the animals, A to Z
We’re not alone on this Earth, and an occasion like Earth Day is a great reminder to get to know our sisters and brothers from another mother—and not just the mammal ones! So, if you have a zoo nearby, check and see if they’re open on weekdays. If not, we happen to know a ton of U.S. zoos that are making virtual zoo sessions a reality.
10. Adopt an endangered animal
Speaking of animals, Earth Day is a terrific time to get up to speed with the endangered animal species in our world. While it’s not really a holiday that warrants gifts, adopting an animal for yourself, your kids, a friend, niece, nephew, etc. is a sweet way to give back while also learning and growing as a global citizen. When you donate through WWFGifts and adopt an animal (from a three-toed sloth to a sea turtle hatchling), you help create a safer world for wildlife, protect amazing places and build a sustainable future where people live in harmony with nature.
11. Recycle the crayons that aren’t the sharpest in your box
We all have them, the crayons that our kids have loved SO hard that they’ve been reduced to nubs at the back of our craft drawers. On Earth Day, it’s the perfect time to round up your old, broken, unwrapped or all-tapped-out and retired crayons and donate them to a place like The Crayon Initiative or The National Crayon Recycling Program where they can be given life anew. Alternately, you can melt them down yourself and turn them into a jumbo crayon or work of art.
12. Clean up a nearby creek
Because community clean-up efforts are still largely suspended at this time, why not go it alone (or with a small, socially distanced crew) at your local creek or neighboring park? Bring a pair of gloves (and of course, your mask!) and survey the stream for floating debris or pollutants before disposing of them. While you’re there, have some fun exploring the native water dwellers.
13. Start composting
If you’ve got a garden, spring is the right time to get started on your outdoor composting. But even if you don’t have a ton of outdoor space, you can start a small worm compost bin just about anywhere. All you need to get going is a plastic bin, some shredded paper and, of course, worms (which you can pick up at most pet stores or bait shops). Then start saving food scraps to drop in there for your little squirmers.
14. Go on an adventure with the Earth Rangers
Screens have become both a scourge and savior of this socially-distanced world, but Lunii, the French startup known for its totally screen and emission-free “Fabulous Storyteller” device for children to craft their own audio stories, flipped the script when it joined forces with kids’ conservation organization, Earth Rangers. Based on their popular ‘Earth Rangers’ podcast, listeners can tune into Earth Rangers Animal Discovery, make friends with ER Emma, and learn all about our planet’s diverse, adorable and fascinating creatures, from animals close-to-home to those we barely see in person.
15. Donate old books to a local library
As wonderful as they are, books have a way of becoming filler in every family’s house. Plus, let’s be honest: Is anybody really still reading Pat the Bunny over there? Have your kids gather up all of the books from their baby days, and bring them to the library or local book drive—or post to your neighborhood listerv, since you never know who is in the market for those old Nancy Drews you’ve been holding onto.
16. Have a picnic on your deck or front yard
Put your commitment to sustainable eating to work, with a picnic on your own turf. That way, you don’t even have to worry about getting “to-go” or travel-ready items, and can instead reuse utensils, dishes, bowls and blankets from home and then just throw them into the wash when you’re done. Plus, there’s nothing quite like laying out a blanket and dining in the grass as the sun goes down.
17. Make solar oven s’mores
Everyone loves the campfire-famous snack, but how much cooler would it be to cook them in a DIY’ed solar-powered oven? Here’s a nifty tutorial. Gooey, golden brown goodness, but make it green…
18. Catch fireflies for the first time this season
Once your tummies are full, the sky is dark and the stars are sparkling, take time out to run around and catch fireflies as a family. Full transparency: firefly populations are disappearing all over the world, due in large part to increased light pollution. In order to keep these winged-wonders in our neighborhoods and back yards, it’s up to all of us to help. That means ditching our flashlights, dimming the lights or drawing the blinds inside and turning off all of the exterior lights around our houses. Let the fireflies provide their glow as a guide.
20. Put some parameters on their endless scrolls
For parents with tweens or teens at home, pre-bedtime has the potential to be a social media series of endless scrolling into oblivion. If a “no phones at night” routine seems too strict, then instead assert some influence over the influencers they’re listening to. For all you know, following Greta Thunberg’s updates on the Gram might be just the thing that interrupts their feed and activates their eco-consciousness.
21. Make a family Earth pledge
There have been a lot of changes in our world as of late, but this year’s Earth Day is all about making sure we move forward and continue the work even on the personal scale. Some pledges your family might make: Try to fill up your trash can only once per week; Walk to soccer practice every Sunday instead of driving; Never leave the house with any lights on; Go one month without buying any new clothes. Bottom line: When we work together, we all win.