It’s a great big world out there and there’s no better time to teach kids about environmentalism and inspire a love of caring for our planet than on Earth Day. After April 22nd, it’s important to kids learning about the planet and ways they can protect it but for parents who struggle to get their kids away from the screen and outside, Diane MacEachern, author of The Big Green Purse, encourages us to be intentional about the time we do spend outside. She encourages us to get our kids to plug into nature saying, “Kids have never been so plugged in to electronics, nor so out of touch with Mother Nature. And that’s a shame, because studies show that children who explore the outdoors are happier, more alert and curious. Kids who are out chasing butterflies and making mud pies even have more complex brain structures than those who spend hours in front of a computer screen, since experiencing new smells, sounds, sights, textures and terrains actually promotes brain development.”
But how do you get kids to swap the screen for green?
Start inspiring kids at the youngest ages to spend more time outside instead of in front of a screen. This list of easy activities featuring free printables can be incorporated into every day activities throughout the year. When it is time for screen time, make sure that your kids are consuming quality content that aligns with the values you’re trying to teach about taking care of the environment. Just in time for spring and Earth Day, PBS Kids has brand new episodes of Wild Kratts, Ready Jet Go, and Nature Cat from show topics align with the theme of Explore the Outdoors
1. Visit the library to check out books about nature
Visiting the library not only saves money but the it’s also an eco-friendly way that we can share in our love of books by checking them out instead of buying them. Print out this this list of Green Reads that features a collection of books about Earth Day for some new and favorite titles along with ones featuring favorite characters taking small steps that make a big difference in protecting our planet. If you have favorite books that you no longer read, recycle by donating them to your local Little Free Library or passing them on to a friend.
2. Use found objects in nature for your next art project
Use what is outside your door to create something beautiful. In Make Art with Nature, Jennifer Cooper suggests gathering flower sand leaves from the garden to do something simple like making a mandala or a color wheel. If you’re into doing a recycled art project, take a look at the many ideas in Recycled Crafts: Turning Trash into Children’s Treasures. Did you know that mud makes a great material for found object art? Watch the new Mud Love/Call it a Night Nature Cat episode and your child might get some new ideas about being creative with items right outside your door! New episodes of Nature Cat air April 25-28.
3. Plant a garden
We know that kids who try growing their own vegetables are more likely to eat them so why not garden! A container garden is perfect for small spaces or those with a patch of dirt in a sunny space might try their hand at a favorite vegetable that’s easy to grow. For tips, visit Best Bets for Gardening with Kids that encourages families to start small. Dot’s Green Thumb is a free printable with directions on how to plant beans that features labels that kids can create for their new plants.
4. Make your backyard an oasis for bugs and animals
Young animal lovers will enjoy helping to create a backyard haven to attract more bugs and animals and the hands-on nature of making and hanging a hanging bird feeder using a bagel is just as yummy for kids as it will be for birds. Nature Cat from PBS Kids has some great new episodes that go along with this theme including Kingdom of Rotting Log/Can You Dig It and Woodpecker Picks a Place/Here Comes the Sun that air April 25-28.
5. Foster observation and writing skills by keeping a wildlife journal
Integrate science with reading and writing skills by having kids create a customized nature journal before you head outside. Gather together supplies you already have in your house like blank sheets of 8 ½” x 11” pieces of paper, some construction paper for the cover, ribbon or string, markers, crayons, and stickers to decorate and you’ll have everything you need to make a journal. For additional directions on how-to make it or good questions to ask kids as they practice their observation skills, download the Wild Kratts Wildlife Journal printable.
This open ended journal can be used by younger and older kids alike. Younger kids can draw what they see, beginning writers might want to sound out words to make a list of nature notes, and older and more proficient readers and writers can jot down a sentence or two. Wild Kratts fans will be excited to help PBS KIDS celebrate the 100th episode Wild Kratts with new episodes airing April 25-29. Look for: Box Turtled In, The Other Martens, Sea Otter Swim, Animals Who Live to Be 100 Years Old, and Spirit Bear.
6. Make a game out of recycling
When kids know that everyone has to do their part to help keep the world we live in beautiful, they’ll step up and help. Give them the challenge of sorting the family’s recyclables into bins of paper, plastic, and cans to practice early math skills while having fun. They can earn Curious George’s Recycling Expert Badge that can be found on the Curious George’s Recycling Center free printable.
The Earth Day Today/Earth Day Every Day Nature Cat episode is a great way for kids to be reminded that recycling matters. In this episode, Nature Cat and his pals are once again sidetracked by a plastic bottle floating in a stream, leading them to discover that recycling can be an action-packed journey and that Earth Day is every day. Watch for the new episode on April 29.
7. Go on a nature treasure hunt
Who doesn’t love a good treasure hunt? This fun Nature Treasure Hunt from PBS Kids helps kids learn how to sort and classify information, important learning that fosters beginning math and science skills.
For other STEM related content, check out the following Ready Jet Go’s episodes on PBS Kids: A Visit from Uncle Zucchini/Mindy’s Weather Project, Solar System Bake-Off/Kid-Kart Derby, Asteroids, Meteors, and Meteorites/Mindy’s Meteorite Stand, and Mindy Pet-sits Sunspot/Treehouse ISS that are on now!
Looking for more great ideas about exploring the outdoors with your kids? Visit PBS Parents Explore the Outdoors to be inspired for more outdoor fun with activities, tips and ideas!
As a PBS Very Important Parent, I am not compensated for my involvement but received show screeners and products to facilitate this post.