The sun is shining, flowers and trees are in full bloom, the kids are out of school—and there’s a sense of freedom and warmth in the air that can only mean we’re in full summertime mode.
Well. Maybe this summer is a little different, what with the pandemic still ongoing—but hey! Nothing can get us down when the heat’s promising us some awesome tan lines. This season has us feeling like anything’s possible.
And with the season comes a chance to go outside and do good.
We can talk all day about the activities usually associated with summer--swimming, cook outs, icy cocktails--by we figured: why not focus on family friendly activities that do good for our environment, too? Things to do that are green, educational, and fun enough to keep the kids distracted from screen time?
For those of you whose families are bored on a hot summer Sunday, here’s some eco friendly activities that celebrate the season.
Beach/Park Clean Up
All right… Maybe this suggestion might make kids groan at first.
Cleaning up garbage may not seem the most fun activity—and maybe it isn’t. But it’s important to teach our children the importance of taking care of the places we love.
There is an astounding 5.25 trillion pieces of trash reported in the ocean, and whether that’s too overwhelming a statistic to tell your kids is up to you—but teaching them that they can make a difference is so important.
If they require a little more of a push to participate, try framing the trash pickup as a game: plastic bags are one point, cans are two points, etc. Whoever finds the most trash with the most trash wins!
Afterward, your family can have a lovely beach day complete with a picnic, sunbathing, and good old fashioned wave frolicking.
(No beach near you? No problem. Pick out your family’s favorite park for the same exact activities!)
Green Crafting Made Easy
Ah, crafting. The ultimate distraction for kids.
… And, we have to admit: pretty fun for adults too.
But how can we find fun projects that don’t involve planet un-friendly materials like glitter or Styrofoam?
Luckily, Googling “eco friendly crafts” will literally bring up hundreds of ideas that don’t cost an arm and a leg for your wallet. In fact, the best “green” crafts come from things you already have!
Have a ton of paper grocery bags from the grocery store, since most aren’t allowing you to use your reusables? Cut and decorate them into paper crowns, using extra supplies around the house to decorate and “bejewel” them.
Have a backyard with lots of wildflowers, weeds and fallen leaves? See how imaginative your kids can get by using them to create a picture on construction paper.
While the kids are doing their crafts, join the fun and get started on your own projects! Whether it’s repurposing a wine bottle or doing a new paint job on that old dresser you got from a flea market forever ago, there’s no reason you can’t indulge your own creativity right alongside your family.
“Leave No Trace” Camping
Sometimes… You just gotta get away during the summer. We get it.
Although we can’t recommend taking any trips involving a flight quite yet, it seems that many national parks and camping hubs have opened back up for visitors.
At least this is a travel idea that will allow for both a nice getaway and social distancing!
However, we want to make sure that a good trip to the woods doesn’t leave any sort of impact for the wildlife after we leave.
The Leave No Trace organization is committed to educating campers on literally leaving “no trace” on their trips—that is, how we can both enjoy nature on our trip while staying eco friendly. Its tips include anything from making sure to dispose of waste (we should hope you’re already doing so!) to keeping your campfires small.
They also suggest visiting the camping sites when it’s less populated with people, so make sure to plan your vacation accordingly!
Help your kids notice the smaller details in their own backyard!
To get them playing and exploring outside, arrange for either a scavenger or treasure hunt.
Scavenger hunts are wonderful if you want to encourage multiple answers from your children. “Name something green in the backyard” can bring on a whole bunch of fun answers, and you can find yourself getting pretty creative in the questions as well.
Treasure hunts might be more suitable for older kids since there’s a reward to hunt for, but it can be equally valuable in getting them to think critically.
Growing a Garden
Think spring is the only season for planting?
Actually, there’s SO many plants that are perfect for growing during the summer.
Planting a garden is extremely valuable in that it teaches kids to be resourceful, vigilant, and caring for the life they helped to bring up from the earth. And if you’re growing vegetables, fruit, or herbs… It’s taught them that there is always a reward at the end for hard work.
You can find plenty of easy plants to choose from in the link above, but if you have younger ones with a bit of a shorter attention span, we recommend regrowing green onions, like we discussed in our How to Get Excited About Becoming A Plant Parent article!
If you’re wondering what to do with the sheer abundance of fruits and vegetables your family just grew, or if you have been growing a garden and don’t know what to do with all the produce…
Can N’ Jam
It sounds like a catchy brand slogan--but we’re really just suggesting you consider pickling your vegetables and make jams of the fruits!
Pickling sounds like a process your kids won’t have the patience for, but it’s so easy to start. The pickling itself only takes a couple of days to maximize in flavor, and of course you might need to help them with the boiling water part of the process. They can certainly make the brine, though, and to up the creativity (and maybe inspire a future chef in them), let them pick out the herbs for each jar, like dill, cloves, or bay leaves!
If your garden is bursting with fruit, nothing is better than homemade jam! Pick the fruits, mash ‘em and mix it up with interesting ingredients like basil or thyme, or chia seeds!
Finding the Green in Summer
Inspiration for finding eco friendly activities in summer is everywhere. You just got to look around! A fallen leaf can be anything, from an art project to a planting project with the kids. Whatever gets them outside, enjoying the sun and appreciating the outdoors… That’s what makes it a summer to remember for them.
And for us, too.
What are some of your favorite eco friendly activities during the summer? Let us know in the comments below!