For Earth Day, author Terra Wellington offers this guest post brimming with suggestions on how to get closer to nature with your kids. You'll find other great ideas in her new book, The Mom's Guide to Growing Your Family Green: Saving the Earth Begins at Home.
"One of the sweetest things about children is that when you get their attention, it is 100 percent. They aren’t thinking about politics, or what bills are due, or planning a million things in their head. Nope, they are just in the here and now.
Likewise, if you explain to children why you want to conserve water, protect habitats, or keep bees healthy they're also right with you. They don’t calculate costs, or party affiliation, or what their friends might think. Kids are natural conservationists.
Here are some fun ways you can explore conservation with your children for Earth Day or any day:
Make a Date: Check the online event calendars for your local science center, arboretum, zoo, aquarium, or nature center. These calendars are full of fun days that make an average excursion unforgettable, and the focus is nearly all on hopeful conservation. They also often list kid camps, classes, and volunteer opportunities for teens. Look for ways to get your kids engaged by touching, feeling, learning, and helping.
Grow with a Purpose: Plant a garden this year with a lifecycle and habitat in mind. For lifecycle growing, have your kids help you start and maintain a compost pile(which in itself is fascinating science at work!) that prepares and feeds your garden. Also, encourage your children to help you plant and keep up native flowering plants for the bees and trees, with seeds and other fruits for birds and little tree critters, plus your vegetables – all organic, of course!
Bee Happy: Get into beekeeping. It’s one of the fastest growing hobbies right now, and importnat giving the way bee populations are dying, a likely consequence of industrial pesticide and herbicide use. Have your children learn with you about the necessity of bees, how to take care of them in a non-toxic way, and set up and take care of the bee hives together. Enjoy delicious honey as a reward. Check with your local municipality for any ordinances or permits.
Entertain for Good: There are a lot of television, film, and print resources that educate on conservation, the environment, and nature in a fun and entertaining way that kids embrace. Examples include the Ranger Rick Magazine from the National Wildlife Federation, Disneynature films like “Earth” and “African Cats,” and the captivating Discovery Channel series “Life” narrated by Oprah Winfrey which is now available on DVD or through a subscription service like Netflix.
Put on Your Flip-Flops: If you are going on vacation this summer, pick a beachside getaway that coincides with a local beach cleanup day. Heal the Bay and Surfrider Foundation are great resources. Your kids will spend two inspirational hours helping nature – and they’ll think twice about where trash goes after that!
Pump Up the Tires: Dust off your bikes and peddle to the local store or explore bike paths to make conserving energy fun. You will be surprised how much kids enjoy biking and the diversity you will find outside your car window. To find safer biking routes, if you go to Google Maps, type in your city and state, and then click on “Get Directions,” and you’ll see a bicycle path layer that clues you into designated safe bike paths in your area. Many states also list nearby recreational bicycle paths for weekend adventures – do a browser search."
Terra Wellington is the author of The Mom’s Guide to Growing Your Family Green: Saving the Earth Begins at Home (St. Martin’s Press). Her family finds a lot of fun in cleaning up Southern California beaches, especially when it includes an ice cream treat!