Think back to some of your favorite childhood memories with friends. What was going on? For me, I remember riding bikes to Shepherd pool to swim all day, playing street hockey/basketball/baseball/etc. with all the neighbor kids, sleepovers on the trampoline, ski trips to Utah, and playing with cattle bones we’d find in the woods while camping. Many of my best memories were outside.
In college, I moved from Arizona to Utah and discovered super accessible hiking, campouts in sand dunes, and being outside while not in a pool during the summer. Living in Nebraska, I fell in love with the prairie, the Missouri River, and the coolest freaking lightning storms of my dang life! Nebraska and Washington showed me a level of green I didn’t know existed, and I’m pretty sure everyone who saw me in awe at apples growing on trees knew that I was not from around there.
As I’ve grown, I’ve felt much more connected to the earth as more than just the location for my play. It’s a place that allows me to feel more like myself, and connected to both other people and God. I care about the earth and hope my children see the beauty in and want to take care of it. Kids are naturally inquisitive about the earth and how it works, and whether or not they end up pursuing a related education or career, they can find a lot of joy in learning about Mother Earth.
If you’re reading this while Covid-19 is still spreading across the world, many of us will continue to look for ways to social distance and still have fun. In the midst of working from home with kids, we have kept our sanity by being out in the mountains with our girls a ton more than previous years. In addition to seeing new things, it has helped us move our bodies and lessen our anxiety. While you look for ways to keep your kids busy and healthy, there are many ways you and your daughter can be actively involved in exploring your love of the earth and environment.
If you’re reading this in a post-pandemic world, all of things above still apply even if you’re not socially distancing anymore 🙂
And always remember wherever you go, to pack it in and pack it out–and tell your kids why!
Go on a nature walk or hike together. Nothing will help someone be more concerned about the environment than actually spending time outside on this beautiful planet! If you need help finding a trail, you can use a free app like AllTrails, which has tons listed. We’re lucky that Utah has lots of options, but there are some area favorites that get super packed, so we look for ones just a little further out and less trafficked.
Visit a State Park, National Park or National Forest in your area. The U.S. is beautiful and luckily there are protected lands to keep it that way. You can visit the State and National Parks and National Forest websites to help you find what’s close to you! You can also purchase a National Parks Passport to get stamped when you visit them, letting you record all the places you’ve visited together!
Visit a Fish Hatchery. These are facilities that breed, study and protect fish. There are over 70 national hatcheries and fish centers across the country, so there’s a good chance there’s one close to you or can be planned as part of a family trip.
Go camping! Some of my most fun childhood memories are camping. Many of them were with my grandma’s RV group, but I went a lot with my parents and siblings and for church activities. Even without formal instruction, I learned a lot about the world and animals by camping. We are slowly building up our camping supplies, but if you go in groups with other people, there are many things you can share. Or, pop up a tent and sleep in the backyard! Camping + toilet access= awesome!
Plant a garden. We don’t have a backyard, but we do have a balcony with a raised planter and several pots. It’s small, but we all love it and seeing the plants grow. This year we expanded to put pots and buckets outside our front door and garage door to get more sunlight, so we’re all over the place. It has been such a fun way to get them to see the earth doing her thing and providing life and sustenance for us.
Recycle together. Whether you’re collecting specific items like glass bottles or aluminum cans, or setting up a recycling system in your home, find some way that you can start recycling together. Make sure you talk about how recycling benefits our planet!
#Trashtag. If you didn’t see this viral trend online last year, the premise is that you find a place outside that needs some litter clean-up and…you clean it up! You can post a before and after of your work and post it to social media with the hashtag. Or, you can just send an email to your family members if you don’t do social media.
Walk somewhere instead of drive. Find somewhere that you normally drive to for convenience, but is within reasonable walking distance and ditch the car. Enjoy your walk in the fresh air together and talk about how little choices like this can have big impact.
Visit a Farmers Market. I’m mesmerized by farmers markets. It’s fun to see the food straight from the ground or orchard and to see the people who put so much into it. Help her see the connection of the food she eats to the people who take care of the earth to provide it. Plus, if you’re growing your own garden, this will help put that in perspective too!
Plan a no-food waste week (or day). It is SO easy to waste food, and the United States is the global leader in food waste. You can learn together about why that’s a problem here. Together, make an intentional meal plan for an allotted amount of days that will help you waste no food. Discuss food your family likes and how you can make sure it all gets used (plan simple meals, have more people help make dinner so you don’t skip a dish you planned on because it takes too much time, etc.). At the end of the week, review how you did, what surprised you, and how you can continue to help our planet by not wasting food.
Donate instead of throw away. Look for items in your home that you’re not using and see what you can donate, rather than throw in the trash. Gather the items and take them to a donation store together (ex: Goodwill, St. Vincent de Paul, Deseret Industries, a homeless or domestic violence shelter).
Buy Secondhand. Next time you’re about to shop, see if it’s something you can purchase secondhand. Go to a thrift store, yard sale, Facebook marketplace, etc. and see if you can find what you need. Talk to your daughter about the value of buying secondhand and not always buying new.
Make homemade paper Do you remember making paper at school? I don’t know if they do that anymore, but I remember it was fun! It’s a cool way to help them reuse and recycle some other paper that would end up in the trash.
Oil Spill Cleanup Experiment I did this one with our girls recently and it was a lot of fun! They were a bit mesmerized by the “oil spill” and loved the sea animals substitutes we found.
Ocean pollution for kids sensory bin We’ve recently discovered the joy of sensory bins and this one looks like a lot of fun! And gross, which kids sometimes like.
Make an art project out of garbage. This can be simple or can get fancy pretty quick. Check out this Trash to Craft Pinterest page for some awesome ideas! Here are some good garbage craft supplies:
- Milk jugs/cartons
- Egg crates
- Junk mail
- Old magazines
- Toilet paper or paper towel rolls
- Bubble wrap
- Cardboard boxes
- Coffee filters
- Clothes/sheets/towels too torn up to donate
- Food cans
- Ribbon scraps
- Water bottles
I hope you have a great time exploring the environment together! If you share any of these on social media, don’t forget to tag #aspiringtogether or @matildaandjo so I can see your fun!