It’s almost Earth Day and Mother Nature has dumped a huge snowstorm here in the Rocky Mountains.

It’s been snowing since I woke up this morning and isn’t supposed to stop until tonight.

The heavy, wet winter snow has caused me to postpone the Earth Day trail clean-up event that I had scheduled for tomorrow. But that’s okay, just another reminder to make Earth Day every day.

As I look out my window I know that at some point today my cross-country skis will get strapped to my feet and my kids might get one more chance to sled and make a snowman.

I like Earth Day because well, for my family it’s a good reminder that we need to take care of the planet that sustains us.

As I was thinking about Earth Day I asked our team about a few things that we can do to teach our children about things like balancing outdoor recreation with environmentalism.

Here’s what we came up with. Huge thanks to Annie, Kathryn, Michelle, Mara and Stephanie for sharing their experiences for this post.


Expose children to the outdoors from a very young age. Take them hiking, take them camping, let them put their bare feet in a cold mountain stream.

Explore numerous ways to get outdoors, camp, fish, paddle etc. –Annie

Provide kids with opportunities to have positive outdoor experiences so they grow up loving the outdoors. After all, we tend to protect what we love. Young nature lovers will grow up to be old nature lovers.

“Visit a local sustainable farm.” –Kathryn


Teach children Leave No Trace by setting a good example of the LNT principles. I don’t scold my 3-year-old if he picks a wildflower or goes off trail in a place with a fragile ecosystem. But I do use it as a moment to explain why we don’t pick wildflowers and why it’s best to stay on the trail. To be honest, these conversations don’t always work. But I set the example by showing them that we pick up garbage, camp where we’ll have the most minimal impact on the environment, and dig a proper cathole. Showing rather than telling seems to be effective for my children

Photo Courtesy Kathryn Petroff

“Two big topics I’m working on with my kids are talking about why we leave bees and wildflowers alone. My 5-year-old son wants to pick flowers for me all the time, and my 2-year-old daughter is terrified of bees and thinks they all need to die a horrible death. The importance of both of these parts of nature is a very big discussion that can be researched as a family.” –Kathryn


 

You can take it one step further and plan a leave no trace scavenger hunt.

“I have been doing a hike with my son with a field guide since he was 2. We make it a scavenger hunt to try to find trees, flowers, and animals from the field guide.”                   –Stephanie


Get together a group of friends and plan a trail clean up hike. Come armed with garbage bags and gloves (because no one likes picking up cigarette butts, tampon applicators, condoms, and toilet paper…some of the more disgusting things we’ve found on the side of the trail) and spend the day hiking in a popular area that collects garbage. My local hiking group plans trash clean up hikes at least twice every year but we always hike with garbage bags and pick up litter as we go.


Photo courtesy Rebecca Walsh

Mentor the children in your community. Volunteer to lead a group hike, or go on a field trip with your child’s school, or volunteer with the Scouts, 4H or any organization that connects children with nature. Get to know these children, set a good example, and they’ll eventually look to you as a nature mentor.

“Use a bird ID book and teach them the neighborhood birds.” –Michelle


Read outdoor books. Better yet, read outdoor books outside! My hiking groups likes to do storytime hikes with each family bringing their favorite book about animals, plants, or history. Reading books together helps spark interest in the outdoors.

Photo Courtesy Rebecca Walsh

Read The Lorax.” –Kathryn


Plant seedlings, start a garden, watch something grow!

“Plant a tree in honor of your kids that they can care for. We’ve done that for our son, and it is now our Christmas tree each year instead of chopping one down.

We plan to plant one for our daughter this summer as well.” –Kathryn

“Start or visit a garden, perhaps create a garden section for the kiddos.” –Michelle


Make it even better by starting a garden using recycled materials.

“Start seeds that your kids can care for all summer and learn about the cycle of plant life. You can reuse yogurt containers, egg cartons, milk jugs, etc as planters.” -Kathryn


Sleep under the stars. There’s nothing like sleeping underneath the stars to make us all, even children realize how we are just a teeny-tiny part of a great big world. If camping under the stars isn’t your thing rent a yurt with a dome and watch the stars while being indoors. While you’re looking into the night sky try to identify a few constellations and talk to your kids about the past, present, and future of our planet.


Try to cut back on trash. My kids love taking our compost pail out to the alley where we keep our compost pile.

“Start separating your trash for recycling, compost, and trash. You’ll be amazed how little ‘trash you actually generate.” –Mara


Watch this movie as a family.

When you do use the discount code HIKE15 for 15% off to buy or stream the movie!

How do you teach your children about Earth Day?

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