No matter what side of the global warming fence you sit on, the fact remains that we have been given one planet and we need to take care of it. My own personal concern is with the amount of plastic we’re dumping into the landfills and oceans, even despite “recycling” efforts. Last time we went to Daytona beach, there were little bits of colorful “micro plastic” mixed in with the sand…and I was shocked to learn about a year ago while watching 60 minutes (and also from an article in National Geographic) that most plastic we sort for recycling actually ends up in landfills because recycling is too expensive and there’s just SO much plastic we can’t possibly recycle it all. Don’t get me wrong- we still sort and send it to be recycled, but sometimes, sadly, that’s where the story ends. I’ve decided the very best thing to do is to cut back on single use plastic all together by purchasing reusable items like stainless steel water bottles and a Brita filter, beeswax wrap (to be used in lieu of plastic wrap), wool drier balls that can be scented with essential oil (bye bye giant plastic bottles of fabric softener!), and plastic free cleaning supply/soap tablets (just drop them into a reusable bottle filled with water, give it a little shake once the tablet is dissolved and get to cleaning! They even have laundry soap sheets that are plastic bottle free!) Moms- you can also try out menstrual cups instead of tampons (that often come with a plastic applicator) for sustainable period care- they take a bit of practice, but are seriously a game changer in so many ways! These items may cost a bit up front, but in the end you’re actually saving money because since they’re reusable, it’s a one time purchase!
Ok so on to the learning part! LoL Obviously it’s up to us to not only adopt these practices in our own lives, but to teach our kiddos sustainable choices that are beneficial to our planet too. We do this everyday through example, but Earth Day is a great way to intentionally zoom in on all the things we can do to keep our planet healthy and beautiful for generations to come! Don’t forget to zoom over to my toddler post “Every Day is Earth Day” for more environmentally friendly learning ideas like using recyclables like giant blocks to build with, creating 3D art using materials from nature, and making a coffee filter Earth.
-ABC trash pickup: I did this activity last year when I saw it on Mrs. Jones Creation Station, and my little loved it then as much as he did now! I made the activity more Earth friendly by cutting up an old paper bag and writing the uppercase and lowercase letters together on each piece, rather than printing them out. Then I crumpled them up and threw them all over the floor. I had my littles gather up the “trash” then open them and read each letter.
-Upper and lowercase trash toss: I wrote all of the capital and lowercase letters on an old paper bag cut into pieces. Then I had my little pull them out one at a time, identify the letter, if it was capital or lowercase then crumple it up and toss it into the coordinating bin! I got this idea from Pre-k Pages and made it Earth friendly by reusing an old paper grocery bag.
-“The Lorax” cause and effect: We read “The Lorax” by Dr. Seuss (one of my faaavorite books about caring for the Earth- I mean you can’t beat the ending quote “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot- nothing is going to get better…it’s not.”) then I reviewed what cause and effect was with my little (essentially effects are things that happened and causes are why they happened) and had him find the causes and effects for this Lorax cause and effect page I got from Teachers Pay Teachers.
-Earth day word tracing: I love word tracing for preschoolers- not only are they working on letter recognition and writing skills, they feel so big spelling out real words so they’re usually pumped about doing it! I found this Earth day writing set on Teachers Pay Teachers, printed it and had my little write the words while saying each letter. Then we colored the pictures together. (For some reason the packet I used was gone when I went to link it, but the above link to a different writing set or this one would both be great too!)
-Earth day book list: From stories about endangered animals to planting trees to recycling- this book list has it all!
-Recyclable sort and count: This activity ties in with my recyclable sorting activity in science, so we did them on the same day. You have your little sort various recyclables into their categories: paper, plastic, glass and metal. Then have them count the amount of recyclables in each group and show that number using digits 0-9 (ie. for 14 have them find a 1 and a 4 then put them together with 1 in the tens place and 4 in the ones place to make 14). Then, have them count up all the recyclables and make that number too! Don’t forget to write down the amount of each group for tomorrow’s graphing activity!
-Recyclables graphing: We used our recyclables again to make this graph, but since the graph only went to 10 we didn’t use all of them. After sorting and counting each category (or if you want to, just adjust your numbers from the previous activity so they fit the graph- you can also label the graph’s rectangles by 2’s, but this might make it a little tricky for your preschooler to read it independently), my little colored the graph to match the number of each recyclable we had. Then I had him use his graph to answer questions about it, like how many of each item we had, which had the most, which had the least, etc. I got the printable graph and questions from Teachers Pay Teachers.
-Earth number search and find: I printed out a blank drawing of the Earth then randomly wrote the numbers 1-5 in the oceans and 6-10 on the land. Then I had my little search for and find the numbers 1-5 (one number at a time) and dot them blue, and 6-10 and dot them green to make a mosaic Earth. I got the idea from Pre-K Pages.
-Earth day connect the dot: I had my little count as he connected the dots on this Earth day dot to dot page. Then I had him color the page.
-Recyclable sorting: Give your little a large bag or box full of cleaned recyclables. Discuss how some trash can be recycled or made into new things- like plastic, paper, metal, and glass and some can’t like old food, used paper towels and egg shells. You can also discuss composting which is the process of breaking down food scraps and vegetation like grass clippings into soil by decomposition (which needs light and air so you do have to turn it every week or so)…if you have the time and space you can even start your own compost pile! Anyway, after discussing recycling, have your little sort the pile of materials into paper, plastic, metal and glass. Remind them to be very careful with the glass so it doesn’t break (we sorted on a carpet for a bit of a buffer since most of our floors are tile).
-Making recycled paper: This activity is SO cool, and incredibly easy to do- I used to do it in my classroom then have my littles write poetry on the paper they made! You can get a paper recycling screen on Amazon (which I really need to do!) but I just used a sand sieve we had on hand and it gets the job done- you’ll just have a side of the paper that’s a tad bit bumpy from the larger holes and you have to be reeeally careful when peeling it off. So to make the paper, place some torn up scraps of old white paper (make sure it’s not glossy like magazine pages- printer paper works great if you have some old pages you printed but don’t need) in a blender with a good amount of water. Add a few pieces of colored construction paper and let them soak for a few minutes. Then blend your paper/water until you have a mushy pulp. Place your screen/sieve on a sheet pan to catch the extra water, then pour the pulp onto the screen. Place a piece of wax or parchment paper over the pulp and press the water out using a rolling pin or your hands. Then, remove the wax paper and set the screen in the sun to dry. When it’s completely dry, gently pull the paper off the screen! If you have more than one little and want to make more than one sheet of paper, I recommend buying the paper making screen- you can peel the paper off when it’s wet then lay it out to dry while using the screen again.
-Polluted water observation: My little was so excited to do this activity! LoL He loved the “oil spill clean up” activity we did last summer during our Awesome Ocean week, and this one kind of mirrors it. First, I took 2 mason jars and filled one with clean water and the other with dirty water- I made it dirty by adding things from our real trash like vacuum cleaner fuzz, coffee grounds, an orange peel, a rubber band, a string, and a smooshy grape with the stem attached. Yuck! Then I had him observe the jars and tell me about what he saw. Using his observations, I had him color what was in the two jars on a worksheet I made. Then I had him tell me what he thought would happen to our Earth if the water looked like the polluted jar from people not taking care of their trash properly. As a wrap up, we watched this short video by National Geographic on the huge problem of ocean plastic on YouTube and discussed what we do as a family to decrease our plastic use (especially single use plastic like bottled water and plastic wrap) to help keep the Earth clean. I got this idea from Pinterest– Teachers Pay Teachers also has a printable worksheet you can purchase that goes along with it if you like- just follow the Pinterest link!
-How to care for Earth web and poster: As a wrap up for the week, I had my little brainstorm some ways we can help take care of Earth and I wrote them for him on a thought web. When we had a selection, I reread them to him and asked him to pick one to illustrate for an Earth Day poster. He drew his poster on the back of the web to make it more Earth friendly (ie. Use both sides of the paper).
-Make a toy from recyclables: I gave my little a pile of clean recyclables and let him use his imagination (and tape and scissors) to create a toy! He made a scuba tank, a little sail boat, and his brother and I made a train engine!
-Ball roll painting process art: I intended to use this process art method to make a painting of Earth by cutting the finished blue and green painted paper into a circle, but when my little was finished it looked like pretty blue flowers, green leaves and vines- which is still earthy- so I just left it as is! I got the process idea from Raising Dragons on TikTok (sent to me by my artsy friend Lisa!) Basically, you tape a sheet of cardstock into a box lid or shallow box. Add some dollops of paint and a bouncy ball or marbles to the lid and let your little roll them around by tilting the lid to paint the paper. Then let it dry, and if you like, cut it into a circle to make an Earth.
- the book “The Lorax:
- scrap papers
- used paper bag/paper packing material
- 2 buckets or Tupperware containers
- various clean recyclable items
- do-a-dot markers
- fine sieve
- wax paper
- shallow box or box top
- ball or marble
- 2 mason jars or old spaghetti jars