Sunday, April 18, 2010

Earth Day Activities for Every Child

Earth Day is the perfect opportunity to introduce your kids to nature and their connection to the world around them. Trips to the Zoo or Botanical Gardens can be fun and informative, but so can visiting a local park or even laying in the grass in your yard. As long as you use the chance to connect your child to the planet, you are celebrating the spirit of the day. So don't think, because you didn't plant a tree or save a baby sea lion you didn't do your part. Here are a few activities and crafts that will help jumpstart your little conservationist.

Rain Clouds
This easy activity teaches children about rain(and snow, sleet & hail) and you don't need anything but things from around the house.

What You Need: cotton balls, a bowl, a cup, some water and paper towels to clean up

What to Do: place the cup upside down in the bowl and then fill the bowl with water (FYI: you don't have to fill it up all the way). What you have should look like a mountain coming out of a lake. Use the cotton balls as clouds to soak up the water and then rain on the 'mountain.

How to Explain it: Let them hold the dry cotton ball and describe the color, weight and texture of it. Explain how clouds drink up the water from oceans, seas and lakes (Evaporation) and let them place the cotton ball on the top of the water. Note the changes to the cotton ball, it's now darker and heavier just like a rain cloud. When the cotton ball is full hold it over the cup and watch the dips of water fall from the 'cloud' onto the 'mountain' and run back down to the 'lake' just like real rain.

Camouflage Box
This can be as elaborate or as simple as you want to make it. The purpose of this activity is to teach children about different climates habitats and the animals that live there.

What You Need: a shoe box, magazines, animal figurines or cut outs, glue\tape, pipe cleaners,

What to Do: Go through magazines and clip out pictures of trees, grass, bushes, and flowers (travel or home and garden magazines work best) if you don't have magazines a crafty kid can draw trees, bushes, and make pipe cleaner vines & flowers. Place shoebox on its side and glue/tape the pictures on the inside. Once done place animal figurines inside the box (you can use animal cut outs for this as well).

How to Explain it: Talk to your child about how some animals blend in with their environment, Camouflage. Ask which animals they can see and why being a good hider would help an animal.

*Ambitious children (and parents) can either divide the box into three or use three separate boxes and create a forest habitat (green), a desert habitat (brown), and a arctic habitat (habitat). Use the library or the internet to research what animals live in each.

Weather Chart
This is a good on-going activity for spring and an excellent introduction to weather and meteorology; plus it gets you out of the house for a while each day.

What You Need: a piece of paper or poster board, markers or crayons, and weather related stickers (optional)

What to Do: On the paper or poster board make a chart with seven rows and three columns. In the first column write the days of the week. Each day watch the morning weather report with your child. Listen carefully to what the days forecast is and note it in the second column next to that day with either stickers, words or drawing. Later in the day, go for a nature walk, spending some time outside experiencing the weather. Note the actual weather in the third column.

How to Explain it: Explain that weathermen on TV have lots of instruments to help them predict (guess) what the weather will be like, but the only way to know, is to go outside and look. When on your walk, talk about the sun, the rain, the humidity, the heat, the wind, describe the weather conditions in detail. Once back in the house help your child fill in the "actual weather" column and compare it to what the weather report was that morning.

Coffee Filter Sun Catcher
A really, really quick and easy craft!

What You Need: a round coffee filter, markers or food coloring.

What to Do: help your child color the inner circle of the coffee filter like the earth ( it only has to be blue and green and doesn't need to actually look like the earth) then let them decorate the edges however they'd like. When dry, hang it in a window for a homemade sun catcher.

How to Explain it: Introduce your child to planets. Tell them the name of the planet we live on and that it's round and blue and green, etc.

Egg Carton Garden
An easy and fun way to get into gardening without digging up your yard.

What You Need: an egg carton, potting soil, seeds, glitter, buttons, scraps of fabric and glue

What to Do: Before planting carefully remove the top of the egg carton. Then have your child decorate the outside of the bottom of the carton. When dry, fill the cups with potting soil and then plant a few seeds in each cup. Water and place on a windowsill.

How to Explain it: Talk about recycling and reusing with your child (how instead of throwing away the egg carton you're reusing it to plant the garden). Another conversation to have is the relationship between plants and people. Plants give us food (fruits, vegetables, grains) and air. Talk about the responsibility of taking care of the seeds in the carton by watering them everyday and making sure they have sunlight, then explain that this is the same things we have to do with the planet.

Have a Happy Earth Day!

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