Dirt. It’s probably my nearly 3-year-old son’s favorite word. With all the rain lately, I’m sure his next favorite word is soon to become, mud.
There just seems to be something about being outside that little kids can’t get enough of. They’re like moths to a flame. It doesn’t matter what season or how bad the wind chill; it’s just more fun being outside than inside.
It’s such an interesting juxtaposition to what we hear in the media. That kids are spending too much time in front of screens. Or that childhood obesity is on the rise as kids are running and playing outside less and less.
It sometimes makes me wonder if my son is unusual in his love of the outdoors, but I think naturally most (if not all) kids are born with a love of Mother Nature. But is there a point when being outside becomes less “cool”? Why are our kids, who are natural born explorers, growing up to be less interested in the world outside their front door than what’s happening on the screen in front of them?
When I look at my actions with my son I realize I’m the one dragging him back inside to start dinner or to head to an appointment or occasionally just because I’m tired. I’ve always known I wanted to pass along my love of nature to my son, but when I really stop to think about it, I realize I can probably learn a lot more about loving nature from my son than he can learn from me. But what I can teach him is appreciation and respect for our environment.
As this most wonderful season of rebirth comes into full bloom, I’m taking full advantage of the opportunity to embrace Mother Nature like my toddler does. Starting off by jumping in plenty of puddles as we spring toward our Earth Day celebrations.
8 Simple Ideas to Celebrate Earth Day
- Take a walk– With the weather finally starting to get warmer most families are getting more steps in. Walks are a fairly normal part of life with small kids. But truly walking in tune with nature is another thing. Listen for the wind, count how many different species of trees you pass and look for the buds. What new flowers are starting to pop up? Bring binoculars and look for birds, or try to spot the tiniest bug. Kids are natural explorers, so let them take the lead! Walk or bike somewhere instead of driving!
- Fill up your Tank with E15 or E85: Did you know cars 2001 and newer can run on E15 fuel? It’s true. Look for the E15 signs at your local retail stations, and fill up your tank with American Ethanol. You can explain to your kids how great it feels to make an environmentally smart decision even at the gas station. Ethanol is better for the environment, it supports local farmers, and it’s less expensive for your family. See Tessa’s article regarding E15 fuel. It’s been a game changer for her family, and she won’t go back to regular gasoline due to the benefits to the Earth and her pocketbook. Sometimes, it pays to be Earth-conscious! Want to learn more? Check out Nebraska Ethanol Board’s website!
- Get a bird feeder or bird house – Bonus points if you make one of these out of recycled items! I particularly love the birdhouses that suction on to your window so you can see inside the bird house! Refill your bird bath – it’s nice for the birds to have fresh water AND pools of still water attract and help lightening bugs breed, and the world could definitely use more fireflies!
- Reduce, reuse, recycle – Teach your kids about their own carbon footprint by reminding them that the things we leave behind have an effect on the earth. My son loves to help put things in the recycling bin and can usually spot the difference between what goes in the trash and what can be recycled. Make a game out of searching your home for items you can “reuse” in a new way. You’re not only helping your kids save the planet but also teaching them to think outside the box.
- Pick up litter – Have you noticed how much trash has accumulated along the sides of the roads or even in our own yards this time of year? If that trash ends up in a water way that links up with the Missouri River it could make its way all the way down to the Gulf of Mexico. It’s time to put on a pair of gloves and collect that litter! Start in your backyard, or take a walk to the park collecting litter along the way. Make it a game, see who can collect the most trash. This not only teaches your kids about the importance of them NOT littering, but also shows them how they can make a difference!
- Plant something– Plant a flower in a small pot, add some annuals to your spring yard, or go big and get a new tree. Teach your kids about the life-cycle of plants and how they’re intertwined with the insects. Teach them about stewardship and taking care of the planet leaving it a better place than we found it. Target’s Playground has some adorable little kids planting supplies. I picked up the cutest dinosaur pots for my Dino-loving Henry.
- Celebrate our beautiful planet– Plan a picnic or bake Mother Nature an appreciation cake. Discover (pictures of) some of the most beautiful places on earth and dream about going there. Ask your kids what they think it would be like to stand at the tippy top of a mountain or to waddle with the penguins in Antarctica!
- Identify ways you can reduce your carbon footprint– Single use items are a big problem for our world. Tons of cities have already banned plastic bags, and some countries are planning to ban plastic straws and single use items in the next decade. Don’t forget to bring your reusable shopping bags, and consider using them at more than just the grocery store. There are TONS of reusable products that can help you cut down on your waste. I have a bamboo silverware set in a little travel pouch. Do I remember to use it every time I’m out… no, but I sure try! We also use stainless steel, glass or silicone straws at our house. I should really start bringing them along with me, because I’m more likely to use a straw at a restaurant than in my own home. There are also stretch silicone or bees wrap covers that cut down on plastic wrap use. You can wash them easily and reuse over and over again. We love our Stasher and Kinderville silicone “ziplock” style bags. We don’t need to make all of these changes at once, but we can identify a couple ways you can cut down on your family’s waste and it adds up to make a big impact. Get your kids involved in ways the whole family can reduce, reuse and recycle!
I hope this post inspires you to try something new! What are your plans for this spring? I’d love to hear how your family celebrates Mother Nature!