35 Ways Kids Can Help Our Planet This Earth Day

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The earth takes loving care of us day in and day out, and we have to return the favor. Each year more than a billion people around the world celebrate Earth Day (4/22), and kids can — and should — take part! After all, they’ll be the ones to inherit this planet. Here are 35 ways for them to get involved, on Earth Day and beyond.

  1. Pick up trash. OK, so this is as basic as it gets, but it’s hands-on and eye-opening. Grab some safety vests and pickers, then choose a route in your community that needs some TLC. Check out these tips for how to stay safe while collecting trash.
  2. Organize a yard sale. Your old items get new life, and the sale proceeds can help a local or national organization that does good for the environment. Win and win.
  3. Create wildflower seed bombs, which are small DIY clay balls packed with seeds that you can toss into abandoned lots or roadsides to help wildflowers grow. Gift some to friends and family, too.
  4. Build a rain barrel to help collect water and use it to keep your lawn or garden watered. Try this one from PBS Kids.
  5. Start a ‘container garden’ — the perfect way to recycle containers and get planting, even when outdoor space is limited. This adorable tin can ladybug project is perfect for littles. You might be surprised by how much you can actually grow in a single sunny window.
  6. Bake Earth Day cookies. Entrepreneurs, how about whipping up a bunch and selling them so you can donate the profits to an earth-friendly org?
  7. Make moss! Create moss graffiti — a.k.a. eco-graffiti — which looks rad and helps keep the environment clean.
  8. Build a bug pooter, a small clear device made out of straws and a jar that helps you collect and learn about bugs without touching or harming them.
  9. Visit a local farm to learn where your food comes from! See firsthand how it grows and gets from the farm to your table; you’ll develop a new appreciation for the process. Check out this state-by-state list of farms.
  10. Have a backyard s’mores party with DIY solar-powered ovens. Grab some ingredients and a few materials from the kitchen and build an oven (skip to the 3-minute mark) that’s powered entirely by the sun.
  11. Start composting, if you aren’t already doing so. Here’s a great starter compost bin that lets kids see the whole process. If you’re a beginner, get a lay of the land here (~2-min mark).
  12. Make an (OG!) pine cone bird feeder to attract more birds to your yard, which will keep the pest population down. Fun/gross fact: birds eat hundreds of millions of tons of bugs each year.
  13. Plant a tree. It’s actually one of the kindest things you can do for the earth, since trees absorb so much Co2. Grab a shovel, some seedlings, and pick a nice sunny spot in the yard to get planting.
  14. Adopt “Meatless Monday” and get the whole family in on planning fun, plant-based menus. Sure, it’s good for your physical health, but did you know that by decreasing meat consumption, you lower your contribution to greenhouse gases?
  15. Go dark for a day. Unplug and power down for a full 24 hours. Challenge your kids to find creative ways to have fun without electricity. See if you can get a bunch of neighbors to take on the challenge, too.
  16. Train yourselves to reuse items before recycling or trashing, when possible. A disposable water bottle doesn’t need to be nixed after just one use, for example, and that empty nuts canister could make a great pen-n-pencil holder on a desk.
  17. Make a tire swing. Tires waste space in landfills, and when they burn, they create acidic smoke that can hurt people and animals. Give tires a new life by making them a fun outdoor toy instead.
  18. Get your kids into the backyard to discover what grows there and take samples to build a super cool nature box diorama.
  19. Clean up a local river or stream. Supplies: fishing net, waders for kids, and gripper gloves.
  20. Learn how to turn saltwater into fresh drinking water with this fun science experiment. Water makes up 71% of the earth’s surface, but only 2.5% of that is freshwater.
  21. Skip the car and walk or ride bikes around town when you can; it’s healthy for your bod and the environment, since a single car emits tons of tons of Co2 each year.
  22. Flex that activist muscle! Have kids write to their representatives to share their ideas and feelings about how to protect the earth.
  23. Create or join a community garden, spaces where local families can work together to beautify vacant lots, grow food, and even revitalize an area overall. Resources here for newbies.
  24. Build a fairy garden! Encourage your kids to see the magical side of nature with these fun-to-make (and fun-to-look-at) little dreamscapes that are perfect for little nooks in your backyard.
  25. Upcycle clothing to bring old pieces back to life so you can shop less frequently. Did you know it takes 400 gallons of water to create a cotton tee shirt?
  26. Conserve water by turning off the faucet while brushing teeth, and help your crew get into the practice of taking showers instead of baths. A bath uses nearly three times as much water as a ten-minute shower.
  27. Use the senses. This Earth-themed sensory bin uses shaving cream, food coloring, and plastic animals to teach little kids about our planet and the creatures that live here.
  28. Make bird houses to give local songbirds safe havens. It’s more than just decorative — birds help keep biodiverse environments healthy and thriving, plus. Plus, you never know, you may just become one of those bird watching people.
  29. Say it with clay. You might be surprised at how many different kinds of plants grow in your yard. This clay printing project has kids pressing flowers and leaves into clay, then painting them to create lovely pieces of earthy art.
  30. Bring animals home. Virtually, anyway. If you can’t get into nature, let nature get into your living room! There are so many cool live camera feeds of zoos around the world. We love this one from the Monterey Bay Aquarium that features a kelp forest with sharks!
  31. Scavenger hunt! How many types of animals live in your neighborhood? Get your family and neighbors looking for clues about what species live nearby. Use this free printable DIY scavenger hunt template.
  32. Talk about climate change with your kids. Not sure how to explain it? We love this thoughtful lineup of 101-style videos created by NASA and geared to kids.
  33. Take a nature walk. You might be surprised to learn that there are thousands of them all over the country. Find one near you.
  34. Lower light pollution by turning off outside lights at night and get your neighbors to do same. Light pollution can harm local wildlife (and also make it hard to see the stars).
  35. Become an Earth Day Artist and share your Earth-loving creations here!

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Sarah Cottrell is a Maine-based freelance journalist and lifestyle writer. Her work has been featured on VICE Tonic, New York Magazine, Washington Post, and has been included in seven anthologies including the New York Times bestselling series, I Still Just Want to Pee Alone. sarahcottrellfreelance.com.