Arranging at-home activities for your kids instead of sending them to summer camp? Create a meaningful week of earth-focused projects and adventures for a fun and educational experience. Flexibility is the name of the game with kids, especially during the summer, so have a plan and appreciate your routine, but be willing to give it all up for lying in the grass and identifying what you see in the clouds.
Monday: Walk Somewhere
Do you always drive to the nearby park? If it’s doable, walk instead. Make a day of this adventure, packing a picnic lunch and snacks (reusable containers, thermoses, flatware). Take age-appropriate transportation for when the kids inevitably get tired and hot, like a wagon, or put their bike and training wheels to good use. Even if there’s no park within walking distance, there is likely a route you typically drive that you can turn into a walking or pedaling adventure instead.
Earth-friendly lesson: You don’t always have to drive to get where you’re going, and reducing emissions from even one vehicle is good for the earth. Chances are, if you introduce this lesson at the start of the week (and it goes well), your kids will look for other opportunities to use alternative transportation.
Tuesday: Get Planting
Planting fruits, veggies or flowers may not show immediate results, but the activity gets your child up close and personal with some soil, whether it’s in your yard, a community garden, or a small pot. The act of digging in the dirt and putting something inside it to grow produces a hopeful feeling, and as the plants sprout and grow, your kids can enjoy the pleasure of watching their hard work thrive.
Earth-friendly lesson: Flowers preserve the environment by offering pollen to insects and birds, stimulating the land, and the blooms beautify the environment. If you can bring your veggies or fruits from plant to plate, even better. Living off the land saves money, allows you to eat fresh foods, and shows your children that the earth can create magic with a little bit of nourishment.
Wednesday: Conserve Water
A project now that will pay dividends throughout the year is setting up a rain barrel. Whether you purchase one or make it yourself, a rain barrel has a spigot, so you can hook it up to your hose and use it for filling water balloons or watering the garden. No matter what week of camp it is, if summer produces some excellent rains, go for a walk afterward and jump in every puddle you can find. Parental participation is encouraged!
Earth-friendly lesson: Your kids will realize that the earth gives them a lot of water to recycle and to use for fun. Plus, when you show your kids how to conserve water, they’ll see that even the smallest things they do inside count, too, like shutting off the tap while brushing their teeth or taking a quick shower instead of a bath.
A low-maintenance way to help your children learn about nature is by taking a walk. Paint a colorful walking stick or nature wand first to make the journey even more exciting. Pack a small and easily carried bag with a notebook, writing instruments, jars for collecting specimens or rocks, and a magnifying glass. Then let your kids lead the way and stop when they see a sight they want to draw, a bug they want to examine or observations they want to note and research later. If they need more motivation, turn the journey into a nature-themed scavenger hunt.
Earth-friendly lesson: Sometimes you just need to be one with nature to appreciate its many wonders and understand that every creature and element is essential to the whole. Children will be more likely to remember what they’ve seen and learned when they document it themselves, whether in pictures or words.
Friday: Spread the Word
Your children have learned a lot of lessons about the earth this week and what it means to keep the planet healthy. Now, it’s time to spread the word. Settle in your favorite spot outside with the necessary supplies and adorn pebbles and rocks (ideally collected throughout your week of adventure) with simple messages, like “Be kind to the earth!” or “Recycle” or “Take a walk today.” Or paint pictures like a rainbow, a bumblebee, waves of water, or flowers. Display these treasures in your yard or place them on neighbors’ doorsteps and in unexpected nooks on walking paths.
Earth-friendly lesson: Your kids can help the earth by letting others know what they can do to be good to the planet. It’s important to do what you can to conserve, preserve, recycle, and more, but encouraging the younger generation to do the same can make our world a better place now and for the future.
Editor’s note: Originally published on May 31, 2018, this article was updated in June 2020.