5 Earth Day Activities for Kids

April 22nd is Earth Day, a day to celebrate nature, get outside, purposely do something “green,” and it's a great opportunity to teach children how they can do their part to help preserve and protect our planet. And while crafts can be a fun way to learn about Earth Day, getting your children involved (and outside) is even more fun!

earth day activities for kids

Plant a tree

When my daughter was one we started an apple tree from seed. We nurtured it indoors until it was ready to be planted outside and now it’s the same height as her. There is nothing more educational or rewarding then watching a tree sprout and grow from seed or seedling. If you plant a tree, take the time to explain to your children why trees are so important (their ability to absorb carbon dioxide), and let them know it will grow up just as they do. My daughter loves measure herself against our little apple tree.

Build a bat house

I got the idea to build a bat house from the Wild Kratts, but I love it because it gets kids closer to a creature some may find scary. Building a bat house is not hard (here is a link to the bat house mentioned in the Wild Kratts). As with tree planting, building a bat house is a great opportunity to teach kids where bats fit into our ecosystem and why they are important. They eat insects and in many parts of the world they are also plant pollinators.

Collect garbage

Grab some garbage bags, put on some gloves and head to your local parks and trails and start cleaning up! The windy winter always leaves a lot of garbage behind—Earth Day is a great opportunity to get outside and clean up the neighbourhood. While picking up garbage you can explain how garbage can be damaging to wildlife, including how they can get stuck in plastic containers or cut themselves on glass.

Plant a monarch butterfly garden

Monarch butterflies are endangered, so why not plant a monarch butterfly garden and teach kids what plants they are attracted to and why butterflies are important! Plant some milkweed so the monarch butterfly can lay its eggs on it and so their caterpillars have something to eat (did you know they only like milkweed? Luckily, many garden centres now sell this once hard to find plant seed). Like bees, butterflies are pollinators, so their existence is very important to the survival and success of our own food sources.

Have an earth day scavenger hunt

This is a great activity for younger kids. Create a scavenger hunt based on things found in nature, such as pinecones, rocks, flowers, and leaves. A nature-based scavenger hunt is a good way to help younger children learn more about nature as well as get them outside! Another idea is to go to your local library and find a bird watching book, then go for a hike and see how many kinds of birds you can spot and make a list!

There are many ways to get your children involved in learning about, appreciating, and protecting our earth. It can be as easy as religiously recycling, using reusable bags and making a conscious effort to conserve water. By taking the time to teach them now, they will hopefully carry this knowledge with them and share it for generations to come.

How do you celebrate nature and make Earth Day fun and educational for your kids?

Get Outside with David Suzuki’s 30x30 Nature Challenge

My family and I love the outdoors. Whether we are cross-country skiing through Gatineau Park or kayaking on the Ottawa River, we love spending time immersed in nature. It is this love of the outdoors that has us eager to once again participate in David Suzuki’s 30x30 Nature Challenge. This will be our third year participating in the challenge as a family.

What is the 30x30 Nature Challenge?

The challenge is simple: get outside for 30 minutes a day every day in May. For some this challenge may be effortless, but for others it may seem nearly impossible – especially on cool rainy spring days or after a long day at the office. But once you make getting outside 30 minutes a day a regular habit, you’ll be amazed at how good it feels. 

Get the entire family involved!

Every year I enroll my daughter and I in this challenge. Whether we ride our bikes down our local trail, bird watch at a nearby wetland or hike with our dog at a local dog-friendly trail, we make it a point to get outside and in nature every day in May for at least 30 minutes. I’ll admit on busier days it can be challenging, but we hold one another accountable to make sure we do it (and we never regret it!). In our high-tech world I want her to remember how good it feels to unplug and spend time in nature - this challenge is a great way to do that.

Why participate?

We all know getting outside and taking in fresh air is good for us, and getting into nature is even better! Spending time in nature reduces stress and can improve a person’s physical and mental health.

For kids, nature provides a playground of endless possibilities – stick forts, hide and seek, scavenger hunts and more! My daughter is always finding “one-of-a-kind” rocks and pinecones on our nature walks.

Spending time in nature is a great way to teach your kids about the kinds of trees indigenous to the area. In fact, why not learn about a specific plant, bug or bird and then head outside to find them in nature? At our local suburban trail we often see rabbits, white-tailed deer and coyotes (from a distance), and soon the trilliums will be blooming!

Where can you sign up? 

Signing up is easy! Simply visit: http://30x30.davidsuzuki.org/ and enter your name and email address. You will be sent inspiring emails throughout the challenge and can follow other Canadians participating in the challenge by using the hashtag #30x30Challenge or #LoveNature on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Spring is a perfect opportunity to get outside and fall in love with nature. And even if you get outside on a regular basis, why not join the challenge and share with others how you spend your time - it just may inspire someone else to do the same! So, what are you waiting for?! Join the challenge! It starts May 1st!

 

 

Enjoying Nature Safely

by Amanda When we are out enjoying nature with our little ones, it's really important to be safe in our environment.  We must encourage our kids never to eat something such as a plant or a berry found outside unless we are absolutely certain it is in fact safe and edible. Many species of plants look very similar to each other, so if you are not sure, err on the side of caution and bring a snack with you!

If you suspect your child or another adult has ingested something or is feeling ill do not wait to call the Ontario Poison Centre.  They operate 24 hrs a day and in cases of suspected poisoning, time is critical.

Ontario Poison Centre (24 hrs) 1-800-268-9017 ontariopoisoncentre.com

Water Hemlock is the most poisonous plant in North America.  One mouthful of this species will kill an adult.  This plant should not even be touched.  Small amounts even through skin absorption can make you ill.  This plant can be found in wet, open areas, along shore lines and in marshes. Ingestion of this plant would require immediate medical attention.  It has small white flowers, jagged edged leaves and a long, hollow, purple stems.  People mistakenly use the stem as a natural straw and end up extremely ill.

Poison Ivy is a very common and irritating plant.  It coined the phrase "Leaves of three, leave them be." It can be found close to the ground, climbing trees, or poking through rocks.  It also develops white berries at the base of the plant.  These are not edible.  Their leaves can have a glossy, purplish sheen, or be quite dull.  Most people will develop a skin rash as an allergic reaction to the oils in the plant.  You can pass it on to someone else, so no touching if you have it!  If you need to treat someone, please wear latex gloves.  Oatmeal baths and other topical ointments can be helpful in easing the itchiness and pain.  Calomine is messy, but effective.

 

Poison Sumac is just as common, but more aggressive than poison ivy.  There are many leaves to a branch and is a much larger tree, can be 6-7 feet tall.  It's berries look very much like those of poison ivy, white, small and hard.  It grows in wet areas or damp ground near water.  A person's reaction to poison sumac is very similar to ivy, only more intense.  The same treatment is recommended.

White Baneberry or "dolls eyes" and Red Baneberry are very poisonous if eaten.  Children are most often poisoned by these since they are easily grabbed and the red ones are quite attractive and glossy.  As few as 5 berries can make an adult seriously ill and just a few more than that are fatal.  Few people would ever eat that many since they are quite acrid tasting, but medical attention should be sought if ingested.

Canada Moonseed is often confused with grape vines. The leave have a heart shaped base and lack the tendrils of grape vines.  They do bear a grape-like fruit but these berries and the roots of the plant are very poisonous.  They contain high levels of alkaloids and ingesting them can cause seizures.

Please be careful when out there exploring with your little ones and animals too!  Nature is so much fun to enjoy, but has it's own natural defenses built into it.  What looks like a pretty berry could turn your day in the forest into a trip to the emergency room.

Photos from wildwoodsurvival.com

Amanda was born and raised in Ottawa where she continues to live with her husband and son “J”. Amanda is bilingual and interests include reading, blogging, socializing, and advocacy on children and teen issues.

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Kids Create! March Craft Carnival {GREEN}

by Alicia March 2011 Theme – GREEN

Spring in the air! I think. Let's celebrate March by crafting with our children not only using the colour green (I'm thinking luscious green grass, new green leaves on the trees and St. Patrick' day shamrocks!), but also "going green" by choosing eco-friendly crafts.  I personally like to choose our crafts using recyclables around the house (toilet paper rolls, egg cartons, cardboard boxes) and I always love finding a way to use nature (sticks, leaves, vegetables) in our crafts. How will you craft with the colour green? What does a green theme mean to you?

What is the Kids Create! Craft Carnival? A carnival is a blog article that contains links to other articles covering a specific topic. Think of it as a craft party, where everyone has to show up with a craft based on the same topic. Use this carnival to encourage your family to create crafts and memories together!

Who can participate? All KITC readers! Whether you have a blog or not, we have a way you can participate!

When? Throughout the month you are encouraged to make a craft with your children based on the monthly theme and post your finished project to share with others. Make and share as many crafts as you want according to the theme before the end of the month deadline. Crafts you have made in the past are also welcome, but new crafts are encouraged. Once the deadline has passed we will showcase the crafts and announce the following month’s theme.

Where and how do we post our crafts? There is a link-up widget at the bottom of this post. If you are blogger, post about your craft on your blog and link below to your post. If you do not have a blog, use the KITC Flickr group to upload a picture of your craft (make sure to include your name and a written description of your craft). Read more information here on how to use Flickr and how to join the KITC Flickr Group.

Deadline to submit: Saturday, March 31st

What will your family create?

Thank you to those who participated in last month’s craft carnival! February’s theme was LOVE and KINDESS and we had a few really creative submissions. Check them out!

Alicia is mother to E (2 ¾) and blogs at I Found My Feet.

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Making Treats For The Birds

by Nicki Having grown up in a rural area, with nature loving parents and grandparents, feeding the birds was just something that we did.  My mom still has numerous bird feeders that she keeps filled and between her and my grandfather, her father, can identify just about any bird that flies into their yard.  They both loved teaching us kids about the birds that visited. 100_3033 Living in a rural part of Ottawa, I now have followed in my mother's footsteps, I usually have three feeders hanging my yard for the winter, Liam and spend lots of time sitting at the dining room window, watching the birds nibble at the seeds we put out for them.  Liam was thrilled to get his very own bird feeder as a Christmas gift from my aunt and uncle! 100_3036 This past fall, on a blustery, cold day when Liam insisted on going out side to play, he discovered the pine tree at the end of our front yard.  And the discovered treasures . . . pine cones!  In typical little boy fashion, he NEEDED to collect as many as he could and thought that they all needed to come into the house.  We agreed (and by agreed I told him) that we would bring them in but not to play with.  We would save them for the winter and make treats for the birds with them.

So, when he found the bucket of pine cones not long ago, how could a resist when he asked to make treats for his birds.  We spent a fun filled, messy hour making these tasty bird treats!

Unfortunately, we didn't get to see the birds munching on these, there were signs that they had been eating seeds when we weren't looking and then a silly squirrel (well, we are assuming it was a squirrel by the foot prints in the snow) stole them all!  But, I guess squirrels need treats sometimes too!

Pine Cone Bird Treats 100_3011 Materials:

pine cones, peanut butter, bird seed, string 100_2998

Directions:

1. Attach a string for hanging to pine cone.

2. Spread peanut butter over the pine cone. 100_3006 3. Dip pine cone in bird seed. 100_3008 4. Hang outside for birds to nibble. 100_3018

*****  For those of you who may have a peanut allergy in the family, you can substitute lard, shortening or any other spreadable, edible product for peanut butter!***

 

Nicki is mom to 3 year old Liam.  She is an ECE,  who loves to garden, scrapbook, write and take photos. She blogs about the randomness that is her life at Perils of a Working Mom