There are millions upon millions of people in this world and each and every one of them is unique in their own beautiful way. There is one major thing that nearly 7.5 billion different people do have in common however, and that is we all share the same home- Earth. So naturally, just as you would your own house it is important that we humans take care of our planet. In this day and age the majority of us are aware of our environmental issues and do our very best to reduce our carbon footprints. While every effort large and small is crucial in solving these issues we’re facing and making a difference, humankind has been doing some serious damage to our environment ever since the Industrial Revolution, and even more action is needed. In fact, we need a whole new approach to battling the extirpation of our planet and that is through our children.
Earth isn’t only just a planet or some rock we live on that is floating through space. Our planet is a living, breathing organism that will be our children’s home and their children’s home after them. While saving the world might seem like a daunting and impossible task for just you and your family alone- it actually doesn’t have to be all that hard, in fact it can even be fun! With each family’s contributions and efforts, we can all work together to reduce the harm done to our environment and atmosphere, and to make the world a better place. After all, there is no greater legacy that we can give our children than a thriving planet and the knowledge that they need to take care of it.
Here are five fun and simple ways to get your kids excited about things like horticulture and recycling, and how to form healthy habits that will benefit them for generations to come.
Ice Cream Cone Gardening
Planting a tree or garden is the easiest way to give back to the Earth and it’s a cool activity for all kids around the ages 3+. An easy way to make this even more fun is creating an ice-cream plant! Okay, so your seedlings won’t actually sprout an ice cream tree, but it can be any plant of your choosing, even yummy fruits and veggies to eat.
What You’ll Need: Ice cream cones, fresh soil, plant seeds of your choosing.
You are going to be using the ice cream cones as a biodegradable seed starting kit that is ready to plant whenever your seedlings sprout.
- Gently pack the ice cream cone with soil, filling it almost to the top. There is no need to pack your soil in tightly and you will risk breaking the cone that way.
- With your finger carefully poke a hole about a half-inch deep for your seeds.
- Place the seeds in the soil and cover with more dirt.
- Water carefully as you don’t want your cone to get too soggy, the soil will soak up most of the moisture.
- Watch and wait for it to grow. Once your seedling has sprouted, bury it dig a hole outside in your garden or in a flower-pot and insert the cone, leaving your sprouts above the soil.
It’s very exciting for your kids to watch their plants grow from seedling, to sprout, and then into a garden. Plant edible seeds if you want so that your children can enjoy the harvesting process as well. For once you won’t mind it so much when your children play in the mud either.
What bigger childhood joy than flying a kite right? Now any time your kids feel the urge to channel their inner Ben Franklin, they can create their very own kite in a matter of minutes using completely recycled materials.
What You’ll Need: Recycled or previously used computer paper or brown paper grocery bag, plastic shopping bag, scotch tape, wood shish kabob sticks, scissors, string/cord/or yarn.
- Cut your paper or bag into a square shape and let your child decorate it however they like. (Any type of semi thick paper will work for this project as long as it is not too flimsy.)
- Hold your square piece of paper at an angle so that it forms a diamond shape. Place the shish kabob sticks in a cross pattern running both diagonally and horizontally across your paper and tape them in place on the ends. These will act as the rods for your kite.
- Take the recycled plastic shopping bag and cut into strips for the kite’s tail and tape that also to the bottom of your kite.
- Attach your string or cord to the middle of the kite where the shish kabob sticks cross, and don’t forget to leave it long enough for your kite to get some serious air. You can also use an old toilet paper roll as a spool for your string.
This is a fun and easy craft for any breezy day and you can substitute any of the materials as long as they are aerodynamic and lightweight. Your children will love seeing their colorful works of art flying through the sky.
Bottle Bird Feeders
If your children are anything like mine, you go through several large bottles of juice each and every week. Well now here is a way to put all of those bottles to good use and a great way to get your kid’s in touch with the critters that share our planet with us.
What You’ll Need: Large empty juice container, scissors, paints, a medium size sturdy branch (large enough to fit through the width of the bottle), bird seed, and string/yarn.
- Completely clean and wash out your bottle, removing the label as well.
- Cut a large arch shaped hole big enough for any size bird to fit through. I usually cut mine big enough that more than one bird can use the feeder at the same time. Cut the hole low enough down on the bottle that the birds will not get stuck inside, but high enough so that there is a lip to hold in your birdseed.
- Have your child paint any design they would like on the outside of the bottle. A clear bottle works best and when painted has a stained glass appearance that is very pretty. You can also decorate your feeder with stickers or anything else that will hold up against the elements.
- It is best if parents complete this step- with a scissor stab a hole (large enough for your branch) on each side of the bottle, going straight across. An easier method is to heat the tip of an ice pick on the stove and use it to melt a big enough hole. When you are finished feed the branch through the middle of the bottle, with an end coming out of each side.
- Unscrew the cap of your bottle and place a string (long enough to use it to hang your bird feeder) across the top of the open mouth of the bottle. Holding the string in place, screw back on your bottle cap as tightly as it can go.
- Fill up your bird feeder with some seeds and hang outside.
This is also a great way to get your kids to notice nature more and they can make a game of identifying and observing all the different species of birds native to your area.
Recycling is very important and most households partake in this by separating their bottles, aluminum, and recyclable items into separate trash cans which are picked up on separate days from the regular trash. To kids however, there is little to no thrill in that and it can be difficult at times for them to remember what trash goes where. Participating in a bottle exchange can be a fun and lucrative way for your children to remember to recycle.
Most grocery stores have machines out front for bottle exchanges here in New York, as well as Target and other large chain stores so check if your local merchants have one as well. Instead of tossing your empty bottles in your household trash, have your child rinse them out and set them aside each week. All redeemable bottles have a monetary amount marked somewhere on them labeled Return. These bottles can be exchanged at the machine for a cash amount. The machine will print out a receipt with the total earned for each exchange and your child can then cash it in at the register and spend their earned winning anywhere they’d like.
Egg Carton Wreath
This fun craft helps your children channel their inner little artist while utilizing a major enemy to our planet- styrofoam in a beautiful new way.
What You’ll Need: 1 or 2 Styrofoam egg cartons, a large paper plate, paint, a hot glue gun or crafters glue, decorative craft items of your choice (glitter, buttons, stickers, etc.)
- Take the bottom of your egg carton and carefully cut and separate each of the cups.
- Take each individual cup and cut four even slits in them to create your flowers petals.
- Paint each of your flowers the color of your choosing or for an easier method; use colored egg cartons to begin with. My grocery store usually has pink, blue, and yellow cartons available.
- Decorate the center of your flowers with glitter, buttons, stickers or however you would like.
- Take your paper plate and fold in half without creasing it. With your scissors cut out the center of the plate in a circular shape, leaving the outside of the circle about 2-3 inches wide for your wreath. Paint it green or cover it in green construction paper.
- Once your wreath has dried, with your hot glue gun or crafters glue attach your flowers covering the entire wreath.
Styrofoam is non biodegradable and a major nuisance to our environment. Encourage your family to use items made out of different materials instead, like paper or cardboard instead.
There are millions of ways to get your kids involved in the future and survival of our home planet and the possibilities are endless. Even stopping once a day to stare at the stars or smell the flowers can open their eyes to the world around them in a whole new way. I hope you enjoyed my five easy tips to raising eco-friendly kids and stayed tuned for next week articles for more great DIY recycling crafts and activities.