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Five Ways To Celebrate Earth Day With Kids

By Melissa Summers

April 22nd is Earth Day, a day designated to shed light on environmental issues of all kinds. The news and Going Green pop culture are far more focused on reducing, reusing and recycling in various forms far more than in 1970 when Earth Day was first observed. These small changes in the way we live are definitely shaping the way our kids think about the earth. For example, my kids wouldn’t dream of putting a soup can in the trash but when I was growing up the only ‘recycling’ we did was to get our 10 cent deposit back by returning soda bottles and cans to the market.

I’ve come up with Five ways to mark this Earth Day with your kids by celebrating the ideas of reusing, recycling, reducing and caring for the earth in tangible ways they can understand and relate to.

1. Help Clean Up A Park

Each spring we participate in a park clean up day at a local park or our elementary school. This weekend our senator is hosting a ‘Park Clean Up’ in our city in honor of Earth Day. I’ll admit, your four-year-old isn’t going to create a perfectly manicured flower bed. However, doing even a small amount of work (helping to rake leaves or pick up trash) and seeing many people pitching in to keep the park clean leaves a lasting impression on small minds. I can’t seem to locate a national organization or clearinghouse of local Adopt A Park days, so you may want to start here and check with your city’s website or local elementary school.

ideas To Celebrate Earth Day2. Buy Locally Grown Produce

Along with eating organic foods, there’s been an increasing movement to eat local whenever possible. This is a valuable lesson to share with kids and with crazy produce processing debacles, probably an even better idea. Even better, plant a garden with your kids and grow your own vegetables. I’m being realistic here though and visiting a local farm is probably as good as it’s going to get for The Summers. Here’s a great website to help you locate a pick-your-own farm near you.
ideas To Celebrate Earth Day

3. Get Rid Of Plastic Bottles

We gave up sippy cups (Thank God!) many years ago, but my kids still love having “their own” bottle of water to carry around. Recycling every plastic water bottle in the US would make landfills 2 billion tons lighter. Imagine the effect if we all stopped using water bottles all together? I bought my kids each a couple of Sigg water bottles a few months ago and the combination of a fun bottle and filtered cold water that comes out of the freezer door in our new house has reduced our trash output and increased their water consumption. It’s a classic ‘Win-Win’.
ideas To Celebrate Earth Day

4. Be Creative With Your Trash

Make art out of trash with your kids to highlight the power of reusing. We’ve attended sessions at a local recycled art place called Arts and Scraps and come home with beautiful wind chimes, bird feeders and generally cool pieces of art all made mainly from industrial waste. Arts and Scraps offers lots of ‘kits’ so you can do some projects at home.

5. Organize a Toy Swap

I can not count the number of toys which have made it into my house only to find their way to the Salvation Army a few months later because they were not All That. It’s a waste of money and frankly a waste of resources to continually buy things my kids aren’t going to love. This is where a toy swap comes in. There’s something intrinsically appealing about someone else’s toys. To a four-year-old, other people’s toys are just plain better. Here’s some advice for doing your own toy swap. You could also try Green Pinata Toys, a toy rental company which is like, as far as I can see is like Rent the Runaway for toys. You choose a plan, 4 toys a month for a set monthly subscription price. Let them play with the new toys for a month and then send them back for new ones. Brilliant!

How are you celebrating the Earth with your kids?

Melissa Summers
About the Author

Melissa Summers

Melissa Summers was a regular contributor writing Melissa’s Buzz Off.


Melissa Summers was a regular contributor writing Melissa’s Buzz Off.

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  • Dayna

    April 15, 2008 at 5:18 pm

    I love your ideas but have to say that if I spent $17.99 on a water bottle for my kids, I’d be frantic every time we went to soccer practice that they not leave it behind. We have the $3 varieties. 🙂

  • Mallory

    April 15, 2008 at 7:17 pm

    Reusable diapers. Just like disposable, except you wash them (not at all like the old fashioned cloth kind). It saves $3600.00 by the time potty training is over and eliminates 10,800 diapers from going into a landfill.

  • RachelJ

    April 15, 2008 at 10:20 pm

    Found this on WantNot yesterday: a code for If you use the code VIP302008 you get 30% your total order. Definitely the time to buy!

  • Lori Pope

    April 16, 2008 at 11:55 am

    Thank you so much for recommending BabyPlays on your site. I am the founder of this company and my goal is to change American culture as it pertains to impulse toy buying. I believe we need to teach our children that they should not expect to own everything. Our program lets children experience many different toys, which are then sanitized and passed on for other children to enjoy. Parents can then, purchase only toys for their children that are real keepers! Thanks again for your support.
    Warm Regards,
    Lori Pope

  • melissaS


    April 16, 2008 at 12:53 pm

    Dayna: I’ll admit we aren’t terribly busy with activities. But my kids are surprisingly well trained to keep track of their bottle.
    I hate the way water tastes out of the $3 varieties after a month or two so my investment is worth it for us.

  • Lois

    April 16, 2008 at 2:48 pm

    I’d love for you to share a link to this post on my blog ( under my post “Share Your Thoughts for a Greener World”. We are having an Earth Day Celebration through 4/22 trying to help bring green to everyday people. This would be a great addition.

  • Barbara

    April 20, 2008 at 10:44 am

    I’ve recently run into a lot of research that disputes man-made climate change. The thing is, while it’s great research, all of our “green” ideas are mostly just good stewardship and prudence. I’ve been using reusable grocery bags for years simply b/c I don’t have the space to store the plastic ones and I have limits on the size of my garbage can. I consign, and it saves me money. Also, I don’t care if my kids use a sharpie on their toys…as much. Bottles of water cost a heck of a lot more than refilling from the filtered fridge.
    I thought I’d point that out just in case you have readers who doubt the climate change issues. Because we truly have a responsibility to our environment regardless of our effect on it. Prudence never hurt anyone.

  • melissaS


    April 21, 2008 at 9:02 pm

    Barbara, yes! I tried to come up with things that were fulfilling to do in their own right. Not just because it might eventually save a polar bear from drowning for lack of ice. (Though, how I wish I could do that.)
    For me to adopt a new habit or make something a part of my life it has to have some intrinsic value to me. And I don’t think I’m alone in that thinking.

  • Marilyn J. Brackney

    September 2, 2008 at 4:12 pm

    I’m an artist and educator who backed into the reuse and recycle thing when I was teaching elementary art. My principal cut my budget from $1,000 to $250 per semester, so I resorted to using trash or solid waste as art materials. That wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, as it made me more resourceful and it stretched the kids’ imaginations, too.
    In 1996, I launched The Imagination Factory, a children’s Web site that shows visitors how to make art and crafts out of things most people throw away. Since then, millions of people have visited, looking for inexpensive art ideas or ways to encourage kids to reduce, reuse, and recycle. Some of the dozens of art activities featured include drawing, painting, sculpture, collage, paper mache, marbling, and crafts.
    I think teaching kids to reuse materials is a fun and entertaining way to foster environmental responsibility. I’m pleased to see that adults are starting to reuse and recycle, but I focus my attention on children, because they will more easily adopt these habits and incorporate them into their lifestyles. Kids are the ones who will make a difference in helping to save the environment. The Imagination Factory is located at