Categories
Adventure/Outdoors Community Service Environmental Hiking Keeping Kids Active, Healthy + Engaged Nature Programs Play/Outdoor

Outdoor Activities for Earth Day

Getting outside is healthy for the body and the mind. This Earth Day, why not get the whole family outdoors for some memorable adventures?

By Wendy Chou

Research has shown that getting outside keeps kids moving, lowering the risk of childhood obesity. Another health benefit from being out and about: added Vitamin D, which strengthens bones and is thought to help the immune system fight off infection. Some health experts say that spending time outdoors also relieves some symptoms of hyperactivity, including short attention span.

Every year since 1970, Earth Day has been celebrated on April 22. It was originally created to bring attention to environmental goals like cleaner air and water. Today Earth Day reminds us to step out into nature. Try these kid-approved outdoor activities highlighting science, crafts, sports, and helping the community. Find these activities and many more in The Kids’ Outdoor Adventure Book by Stacy Tornio and Ken Keffer, an excellent user-friendly guide for kindling the adventurous spirit in all of us.

Little Scientists

Go outside at an unusual time: nighttime! Go stargazing or take a walk to admire the moon. Visit kidsastronomy.com for tips.

Start a compost pile from kitchen scraps and yard trimmings. If your family has a garden, generating your own rich compost (so-called “black gold”) is not only fun, but also useful. It’s also a great tool for teaching kids about nature’s version of recycling. Tips for beginners.  

Watch a sunset. Watching colors change can inspire a lifelong appreciation for the environment. Find details on specific sunrise and sunset times at timeanddate.com

Arts and Crafts Lovers

Paint a birdhouse. Using a more natural palette such as gray, dull green, brown, or tan will help keep birds safe from eagle-eyed predators. And steer clear of metallic, iridescent, lead-based, or neon-colored paints which contain additives that are unsafe for wildlife.

Play “Nature bingo”. This game is a variation on a scavenger hunt. Create a bingo card for each player on sturdy paper or cardboard. You’ll need 16 assorted images arranged in a 4 x 4 grid: either paste on stickers, or draw/clip out pictures from magazines. Some examples are ladybug, leaf, flower, bird. After you design the bingo cards, have a blast exploring nature and looking for your items.

Make a nature mosaic. For this textured craft, first gather small items of roughly the same shape and size, like small pebbles, dried flower petals, or seeds. Take a paper plate and draw your desired shape with pen or pencil (for instance, outline your handprint). Working with one small section at a time, add a thin layer of glue and press the objects down to secure them. (If you apply glue over too large an area at once, it will dry before you’ve finished pasting.) Let dry and it’s done!

Love being in nature? Find outdoor kids’ camps with ActivityHero!

Ready, Set, Move!

Roll down a grassy hill. Who doesn’t love doing this on a sunny day?

Go for a bike ride. There’s nothing quite like coasting along on the open road. Safety first: study the biker’s checklist before you head out!

Make homemade trail mix and take it on a hike.

Try geocaching, a modern take on treasure hunting. This activity relies on GPS technology to hide or find caches. To get started, check out geocaching.com.  

Community-Minded

Join a volunteer event. Find an organization near you (check your city or county listings) that is sponsoring an Earth Day event, such as a river cleanup or tree planting.

Visit a farmers’ market. You’ll find fresher fruits and vegetables here with less wasteful plastic packaging. People selling their wares often enjoy telling you where and how they grew their food –and sometimes let you try a sample for free.

Beautify your neighborhood. Clean up trash, prune or weed a garden, or do some other type of community service to show your appreciation for Mother Earth.

Be Adventurous Beyond Earth Day

Save the date for Kids to Parks Day, an annual event to encourage youth to get out and play in nature. Learn more: https://www.parktrust.org/kids-to-parks-day/. Getting outside isn’t just something to do on Earth Day!

Find summer camps featuring the outdoors. Camp is a great way to spend time outside. Emily Moeschler has over ten years of experience in adventure education and the outdoor industries. She is currently a leader at Avid4Adventure Camp in Boulder, CO. Her top tip: “Give your kids permission to get dirty!”

Be inspired. Have your own brainstorming session to come up with even more outdoor activities. There’s really no “right” way to explore, just get outside and have fun!

Love being in nature? Find outdoor kids’ camps with ActivityHero!

About Wendy Chou

Wendy Chou is an environment writer and parent based in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Categories
Community Service

18 Seasons to Harvest Compassion

Help your family grow compassion with inspiration from Warren Buffett’s family and Lion’s Heart, a teen service organization.

by Amy von Kaenel

Warren Buffett, the fourth wealthiest man in the world, shocked families when he announced his inheritance plan. He is donating 99% of his wealth to philanthropy, leaving just “enough to do something, not so much that you can do nothing” to his children.

His oldest son, Howard, is passionate about farming innovation, especially where it affects widespread famine. He is the author of 40 Chances, and talks about a limitation we all face when trying to make a positive social impact – time.

“All farmers can expect to have about 40 growing seasons, giving them just 40 chances to improve on every harvest. This applies to all of us, however, because we all have about 40 productive years to do the best job we can, whatever our passions or goals may be,” Howard Buffett writes on his website.

As parents, we only have 18 seasons to sow the seeds of compassion in our children.

Teen volunteers in a community garden for families facing food insecurity

There’s a lot we can learn from farmers when thinking about how we harvest compassion in our children. Here are a few lessons from the farm worth sharing:

Try to see the end-goal, then work backward. There’s a different skill to growing carrots versus berries. Likewise, you’ll need a different plan if you’re trying to save the whales or tackle food shortages. It’s a great conversation starter to ask how your kids see themselves helping others. Look for non-profits that offer teachable moments around your family’s value system. Parks and trails give those who love physical labor and the environment lots of exposure to both. Food pantries offer eye-opening interaction with people of all ages facing food shortages. Priorities and interests may change as your children grow.

Play “what if”: As a wanna-be gardener, I’m guessing that when I throw seeds, dirt, soil amendments, and water together, something will grow. I don’t know how well it will grow. I’m not sure if every seed will sprout, but I’m willing to experiment. Volunteering is the same way. With 1.5M non-profits in the US alone, it’s near impossible to know which causes will be important to your family.

Consistency: The fall harvest also ushers in the peak time for community service. At the teen volunteer organization I work for, Lion’s Heart, teen volunteer opportunity inquiries spike during the holidays. Non-profits are happy to have the help during these peaks, but work hard year round to sustain the contributions of labor and donations through the rest of the year.

Reflect and revise: After you have a few community experiences under your belt, look for green shoots. Check in with your kids asking about their favorite and least favorite moments. If it’s mostly positive, forge a deeper commitment to the charity, keeping in mind the tasks that fulfill your child. If your child seems uninspired, avoid imposing more of the same and find new opportunities. It may be tempting to go into parent mode and stress personal responsibility. But when it comes to inspiring compassion, a lighter touch is better.

Share the load: After 18 seasons, the next generation will have to tend to and harvest their own communities. What better time than the formidable learning years to teach teens how to face societal challenges together? And when it involves socializing, it’s an easy sell. Ironically the teen that masterfully avoids chores is often the hardest worker at a food pantry. Call it positive peer pressure, a sense of group purpose, or just another mystery of parenting – but it works.

Get more information about Lion’s Heart or join a local group.

Categories
After-School Activities Community Service Keeping Kids Active, Healthy + Engaged Parenting Resources

Activities that Teach Kids Empathy & Compassion

From sports leagues to community centers, there are plenty of things demanding your family’s attention. Children today tend to have jam packed schedules with plenty of kids’ activities available to them.

While we are fortunate enough to afford our children plenty of avenues to broaden their horizons, at times we forget to remind them how fortunate they truly are.

Taking some time out of your family’s busy lives to gain some healthy perspective is well worth the effort. It can help your kids truly practice gratefulness, humbleness and provide them a sense of compassion for others that can last a lifetime.

Disaster Relief

how kids can help
Photo by Flickr user regionalfoodbank

Sure, your town may not get hit with hurricanes or reside in earthquake country, but there are still plenty of ways to get your kids involved with disaster relief.

Encourage them to raise their own money to donate to a worthy cause. Lemonade stands, collection jars and letter writing for sponsorships are incredible ways to raise funds for the Red Cross or a local fundraiser aimed at a particular issue.

Your child will gain self-confidence, feel accomplished when they reach their personal fundraising goal, and learn that giving money away instead of spending it can be just as rewarding as receiving a new toy or taking a special outing.

Search for Community Service Classes →

Religious Opportunities

Photo by Flickr user St. Louis Area Foodbank
Photo by Flickr user St. Louis Area Foodbank

From food closets to special children’s events around the holidays, almost every church is equipped with at least a handful of activities each calendar year where families can serve together. Perhaps you are already plugged into a particular church or spiritual center. If this is the case, there are usually instant ways to get involved with helping others. If your child is older, teen missions trips and service days are the norm in many churches.

If you aren’t particularly religious, you can still call your neighborhood church and ask for ways your family can help out. Chances are plenty of needs have yet to be met and they will welcome your willing service.

The best part of church involvement is many service projects only last a day or weekend. You can get your kids connected to a world of compassion and humanitarianism without having to commit to months at a time.

Habitat for Humanity and other groups that focus on providing basic resources for low-income families may also be more local to you than you think. Sometimes you can conduct a United States search and find a project happening practically in your own backyard.  These local tasks often involve families working together – and if not, they certainly can direct you toward a regional group that does.

Search for Community Service Activities →

Community Service

Finally, one of the simplest and most practical ways to teach kids empathy is to have them volunteer in an arena they are already interested in.

Photo by Flickr user Sergio Piumatti
Photo by Flickr user Sergio Piumatti

Does your child love animals? Find out if your local humane society is in need of dog walkers.

Do your kids’ grandparents live far away? Encourage them to still spend time with the elderly through visiting a convalescent home and bringing crafted gifts or a performance of dance, music or drama.

Call up local shelters, soup kitchens or community centers. They are usually overflowing with opportunities to get involved, and are often well-equipped to give tasks to young people.

The best time of year to call? During the school year away from major holidays. This is when many groups are forgotten – they are overwhelmed with donations and offers for assistance during the Christmas season – but not so much in May or October.

Photo by Flickr user Amy O'Neill Houck
Photo by Flickr user Amy O’Neill Houck

Whatever you decide to do, try to find an activity your child will recognize as helpful to others, and they will soon find it is in fact helpful to them as well!

Search for Community Service Camps

Written by Tamara Warta

Activities that Teach Kids Empathy & Compassion
Photo by Flickr user dzbass