Nature is beautiful. Children recognize this by simply running, playing, and enjoying the outdoors. Finding sustainable family activities to do together is a great way to teach your children about the natural world and the importance of protecting it.
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Doing Sustainable Activities as a Family
Cellphones, tablets, and computers are an important part of our everyday life, but at some point, you need to take a break from them. There are plenty of green family-friendly activities you can enjoy without needing a screen!
Spending time together as a family is important, but you can make this time together even more valuable by teaching your children about the human impact on the natural world.
Why Kids Love Green Activities
Kids love green activities because they get to run, jump, and be messy! Squealing, running, and stomping isn’t always allowed indoors, but strongly encouraged outdoors! Many rules imposed on children indoors don’t apply outdoors and kids love that.
Being outside in nature also fuels their curiosity and helps them explore new ideas and situations. Kids also love to feel like they are making a difference. Doing sustainable family activities together is a great opportunity to teach them how their actions can affect nature and the world around them.
Fun & Educational Eco-Friendly Activities
Children are absorbing a lot of information every second, making the great outdoors the perfect setting for an educational experience. There are innumerable opportunities in nature to teach them about math, writing, color identification, music, science, and phonics.
Learning life skills is educational and fun too. There are many things you can teach children that you may assume they will learn when going through life. You can teach your child the basics like how to make bread, catch a fish, mopping, meal planning, budgeting, and saving money. Think of something they will need to know for the rest of their life and teach them.
Examples of Eco-Friendly Family Activities
Have a Picnic in Nature (or Your Own Backyard)
The first of our sustainable family activities is probably one of the simplest too! Grabbing your lunch and taking it outside!
Who doesn’t love eating outdoors in the summer sun? Let your child pick a local or international lunch recipe that you can take on a picnic. There are numerous places where you can have a fun outdoor meal, even in your own backyard. You may be surprised by how much fun a simple meal can be.
While you are dining outside, talk about the plants, insects, birds, and animals around you. And talk about the food you’re eating and where it comes from. A big part of living more sustainably is understanding where our food comes from and how it’s produced.
Camping is a great time to teach a kid about the workings of nature. It’s an opportunity to learn about foraging, poisonous plants, and how to treat wildlife. You can challenge them by requesting they point out a plant or insect they have never seen before.
Spending time in nature makes kids more aware of the environment and the human impact on it. It will feed their love of the outdoors and their desire to protect it.
Get ready to stay up late to witness stars not visible during the day. All you need is your favorite blanket, a clear night sky, and a few snacks. Prep yourself by picking a constellation you plan to look for in the night sky. See how many stars you can count!
You might not be able to do much star-gazing if you live in a city due to light pollution. This is yet another way to talk to your child about the effects humans have on nature.
Plant a Garden Together
Gardens are not only pleasing to the eye, but they benefit the ecosystem too. Starting a garden with kids is a great sustainable family activity to help build their love of nature.
If you don’t have access to an outdoor space for a garden, you could try growing plants indoors. An indoor herb garden is a great chance to see how plants develop day by day. Children should know where their food comes from and what is required for it to grow in a healthy environment.
Have a Nature Treasure Hunt
This is one of my favorite sustainable activities to do with my children. Get a special box or egg carton and go out for a treasure hunt! Depending on where you live, you may find a range of interesting items to learn about. Look for something specific or take home all the treasures you find.
Some natural and interesting items you can collect are:
- Four-leaf clovers (this can keep kids amused for ages!)
- Owl pellets
You can practice color identification by finding a natural item in every color of the rainbow. Glue the treasures onto construction paper in the order of Red-Orange-Yellow-Green-Blue-Indigo-Violet to make a rainbow.
As with all these eco-friendly family activities, talk to your kids about nature as you are hunting for your treasure.
Go to a U-Pick Farm
If you’ve never been to a U-Pick farm before, it’s a real treat. You’ll make wonderful memories and go home with a basket full of fresh goodies! The exact types of fruits and veggies available at your local U-Pick will depend on your location and the time of year. Summer is normally a good time, as sweet treats like strawberries are normally growing in abundance.
You can show your child which fruits and veggies come from the ground and which come from trees or bushes. Also, be on the lookout for flying insects like bees or butterflies and talk about how important they are for progressing food.
Use Recycled Bottles, Boxes, etc. for a Craft Project
This was probably my favorite sustainable family activity when I was a child (many, many years ago!). My mother had a large cardboard box and would put any empty boxes, paper tubes, bottles etc. into the box. When the box got full (every month or so), we would all sit together and make different things with the recycled materials!
Options are endless when it comes to making recyclable crafts. You can help your child improve their motor skills by collecting leaves and making leaf prints onto a shirt or canvas. Use an empty toilet paper roll to make binoculars. Decorate an empty paper towel roll and make a rain stick by filling it with small pebbles or dried beans. The best part is working together and using your imagination to come up with something truly unique.
Explore Local Parks and Nature Reserves
Does your child know their state flower? Parks and nature reserves are great places to learn about plants native to the area. It’s easy to ignore the natural beauty that is right on our doorstep. Maybe you have a nature preserve or community garden nearby that you can visit?
These locations are great places to observe nature and learn more about your environment. Large reserves will have acres for you to explore. Take your time, pack a picnic and enjoy your local wonders.
Go for a Bike Ride
One of the greenest methods of transport is a bicycle! It might not be practical for you to ride your bikes all the time, but taking a bike ride whenever you can is a great sustainable family activity that your kids will love!
See if you can incorporate bike rides into your regular routine. Can you ride bikes to or from school? How about to the grocery store (pulling a wagon will help with getting the groceries home). Or what about a bike ride to visit a friend or family member?
You could also ride with your child to help them with geocaching. Geocaching is the world’s largest object-finding treasure hunt.
Build a Worm Farm (or Learn About Composting)
It’s not only important to teach kids about where their food comes from, but also what happens to the waste we throw away. Waste food in landfills contributes to the greenhouse gases that are causing climate change. It’s important for kids (and adults) to understand more sustainable ways to deal with food waste.
Building a worm farm or bin is easy, fun, and kids love it! There are lots of different instructions online for how to do it. I like this video from Epic Gardening as he makes it easy (and cheap)!
If you’re not sure about having a worm farm, then you can try just composting your food scraps instead. I’ve been doing this with my children for years and it’s just part of our routine now. And the bonus is that we get some great compost to use to grow our veggies!
Build a Birdhouse or Bird Feeder
Bird feeders are easy to make and there are so many different types. It’s exciting to see the variety of birds that come from far and wide to snack on the bird feeders.
One of the easiest feeders to make using natural ingredients – A pinecone feeder.
You can create this project with:
- Peanut butter
- Pine cone
- Bird seed
Simply tie the string to the uppermost part of the pine cone. Spread the peanut butter on the pinecone with a knife or spoon. Then roll it in the birdseed until it is covered. And then just hang it in a tree and wait for your bird friends to visit! You have bird food that the birds will enjoy for many days to come.
Here are the full instructions from Audubon New Mexico.
Being a Sustainable Family
Above is just a small selection of eco-friendly activities you can do as a family. Doing sustainable family activities together is a great way to bring your family closer together and also work towards a common goal (a healthier environment!). Kids are open to all kinds of activities, so once you get started I’m sure you will find all kinds of green projects that your kids will love.