Monday, April 10, 2006

Earth Day is for Kids

April 22nd is Earth Day. The very first Earth Day was celebrated on April 22nd, 1970 as an environmental awareness teach-in at colleges and universities across North America. Earth Day is now the largest, most celebrated environmental event worldwide. This year it's expected that more than six million Canadians will join a half a billion people in over 180 countries who will be participating in local community events throughout the month of April.

Celebrating Earth Day provides a great opportunity to teach our children about caring for the planet we call home. Helping our kids learn about taking care of the environment teaches them stewardship and responsibility. It's also a wonderful way to spend time together. You can check with your local school, community group or municipality to find out if there are any special events planned for your area, or you can organize your own events. Here's a list of family-friendly activities that can help protect Mother Earth. As an added benefit, most of these activities cost little or no money.

* Visit your local community park and pick up litter. Take along two bags: one for garbage and the other to collect recyclables such as plastic water bottles and pop cans and put them in your blue box. Make sure that you and your children wear safety gloves. An alternative version for younger children is to collect all of the litter into one garbage bag. Dump the contents out when you get home and ask your children to identify which items are recyclable and which are not.

* Host an Earth Day yard sale. Encourage your children to sort out any unwanted toys or outgrown clothes. Donate any proceeds to an Earth-friendly organization such as Earth Day Canada. You can also donate used clothing and toys directly to a local charity such as Goodwill.

* Plant a tree together. Trees provide shade in the summer and help to keep our homes warm in the winter, as well as provide shelter for birds year-round. Trees also help combat the harmful effects of climate change by absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

* When selecting a tree, make sure to pick a tree that is native to southern Ontario. Your local garden centre can help you identify native species or you can visit the Tree Canada Foundation. The site is filled with great resources for parents, teachers and kids.

* Challenge your family to go green during the month of April. Help reduce greenhouse gases by leaving the car in the driveway. Take public transit, go on family bicycle trips or walk whenever possible. You'll also get the added benefit of sharing some healthy activities together. If you're taking along a picnic lunch, make sure to only use reusable or recyclable containers.

* Start a compost heap. Composting is nature's way of recycling. It's also a terrific way to teach children about the natural life cycle. You can purchase a compost bin at a local garden centre, or create your own by piling uncooked organic leftovers such as potato peelings, apples cores, eggshells and coffee grounds in corner in your garden. For more information, visit The Composting Council of Canada.

* Bike to your local library and learn about the environment together. Pick a subject such as endangered species, water or energy conservation, or waste reduction. Learning how to use library resources is a skill that will serve your children throughout their lives. Ask the librarian to help you research a topic.

* Cultivate seeds for May planting. You can purchase an inexpensive seedling starter at your gardening centre and start seeds that can be transplanted into your garden later in the spring. Vegetables such as tomatoes, green peppers or broccoli are good bets. Once planted, encourage your children to care for their plants by weeding and watering them. Come harvest time, they can enjoy the fruits of their labours. Cultivating flowers from seeds is much less expensive than buying bedding plants later in the season.


For more information on Earth Day activities for kids, visit Ecokids.This kid-friendly site has great year round suggestions, activities and educational games for children of all ages, or check out Earth Day Canada


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