3 Fun Ways to Help Kids Love the Earth All Year | Education

Children are naturally curious about the world around them, and research has proven the benefits of spending time in nature. When kids have time to go outside, we see increased confidence, creativity, responsibility and critical thinking skills. It’s no surprise that breathing in the fresh air and putting our hands in the dirt is good for the soul, but how do we raise kids who care about the Earth and take steps to protect it during Earth Month and all year? The first step is immersing them in it. The next is helping them see that their actions matter. Here are three ways to create joyful learning experiences centered around taking care of the Earth:

Plant a Pizza Garden

In this gardening activity, your child will discover the joy and wonder of growing food, hone their observation skills as they watch the herbs grow and flex their mathematical thinking by measuring ingredients to make a pizza.

Materials

  • Medium-sized pot / upcycled container or small plot of earth ready for gardening
  • Soil
  • Gardening tools (kid-sized, preferably)
  • Herb seeds or small herb plants (such as basil, sage, oregano, thyme or rosemary)
  • Popsicle sticks
  • Markers

Before Planting

  • Invite your child to help you cut up a few different fruits, such as apples, tomatoes, peaches, kiwis and avocados. If possible, find at least one fruit that’s native to California.
  • Ask your child what they notice and wonder about the fruit. For example, your child might tell you an apple is green on the inside and white on the inside. They also might notice the size and shape of the apple seeds, which may help develop early math skills.
  • Continue this process, accepting their responses and encouraging them to think deeply about the fruit. Elaborate that each fruit has different types of seeds and compare their shapes.
  • Explain to your child that you will be planting seeds for a pizza garden! Then, bring out the popsicle sticks and seed packages and help your child draw pictures and write words to label each herb.

Plant the Herbs

  • Invite your child to fill the pot or bed with dirt and give them the herb seeds or small plants.
  • Show your child how to plant the seeds or plants in the pot or land.
  • Water the soil and place the finished popsicle stick markers in it.

Watch Them Grow and Celebrate with Pizza!

  • Encourage your kids to visit the garden daily and record their observations with a plant journal. Call attention to the hard work it takes to grow food and explain to your child that it’s important to feel grateful to the hands that grow our food, like those of farmworkers, and the earth for nourishing the seeds!
  • After your herbs are big enough to use in cooking, get creative and invite your child to think about what type of pizza they’d like to make. It can be a rainbow pizza studded with colorful fruits and veggies, a pizza with a silly face made out of your herbs or a pattern pizza decorated with patterns using herbs from the garden. You can even create invitations to invite your family members to the pizza party. If you’re making more than one pizza, challenge your family members to make the most creative design!
  • Make the pizza crust and allow your child to help measure the ingredients. As you cook, guide your child by asking questions such as:
    • “What shape is the pizza?”
    • “Which herb tastes the sweetest? What about the bitterest?”
    • “Which herb do you like the best?”
  • Make your pizzas! You can follow these directions from “Peg + Cat.”

Bonus! Read “If You Plant a Seed” (Ages 4-8) by Kadir Nelson and ask your child prompting questions throughout the story, such as:

  • “How can something as small as a seed help our community?”
  • “Where do we go when we want to eat yummy fruits and vegetables?”
  • “How did the rabbit and mouse change from the story’s beginning to the end of the story?”

Make Upcycling a Habit

Upcycling allows us to turn trash into treasure and reimagine the uses of things that would likely end up in a landfill. It also encourages creativity and allows young children to think about what they consume differently. My daughter has a box filled to the brim with saved cardboard, corks, plastic wrap, egg cartons, bottle caps and other bits that she turns into tiny fairy gardens, royal crowns and cookies for tea parties with her stuffed animals. Here are some books and crafts to get your kids interested in upcycling.

Read Stories About Creativity and Upcycling

This story is all about creativity, perseverance, and mistake-making that inspires young children to create their own inventions. As you read, invite your child to think of items in your home they can upcycle. Find a container or box and collect them. Give your special container a name like “Our Imagination Box.”

This story helps children understand the environmental impact of something familiar to them: plastic bags. Isatou Ceesay found a way to recycle the bags and transform her community along the way. You can emulate her and create a family plan to decrease your waste consumption! Come up with two to three goals over a month (eg, using reusable bags and packing water bottles on trips) and track your progress together. After a month, talk about how you did and if you have any new goals going forward.

Simple Upcycling Crafts

Explore Local Farmers Markets

Visiting farmers markets encourages kids to be curious about the different types of products that farmers grow and sell. It also allows them to explore seasonal foods and understand that food comes from nature. That understanding of reciprocity supports children in developing a sense of responsibility towards the Earth.

Before You Go

  • Find a local farmer’s market near you and plan a trip.
  • Invite kids to think about where their food comes from.
  • Decide on a recipe you’d like to make from the food you plan to purchase at the market with your kids. Encourage your child to draw pictures and write words to help with the recipe.

At the Farmers Market

  • Have your kid bring the recipe with them to the farmer’s market. If something is unavailable due to seasonality, discuss why with your child. Explain that certain fruits and vegetables grow during different times of the year. Get creative and choose a new ingredient! This is a great way to encourage young children to try new foods.
  • Invite your child to notice the colors, shapes, sizes and textures of the fruits and vegetables. Flex their sorting and collecting skills by inviting them to figure out what is similar and different among the fruits and vegetables.
  • When you get back home, make the recipe together! The next time you visit the farmers market, try cooking something new.

Bonus! Read “Counting on Community” (Ages 3-7) by Innosanto Nagara. As you read, talk about the book with your kid.

  • Ask your child what they notice about the communities in the book and what’s similar and different about their community.
  • Discuss the pictures of the children gardening, holding potatoes and the images of food.

Extend the Learning

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