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10 Ways to Celebrate Earth Day with Early Learners

Mar 28, 2019    |   Outdoor & Sensory PlaySpring

Earth Day is April 22nd, and it is the perfect opportunity to talk to children about nature and caring for our planet. Children are naturally inquisitive about the world we live in and will often ask questions about the environment. Earth Day is a great opportunity to encourage exploration of these topics through activities such as art, projects, and reading books.

View our list below for 10 ways to get inspired in your curriculum planning for Earth Day.

1. Earth Day Process Painting: The earth is beautiful! The blues and greens of our planet are fascinating for children and the colors make for lovely art projects. Offer blue and green tempera paints and invite children to finger paint. Or try using green and blue watercolors with brushes to make a beautiful pastel masterpiece.

For a unique activity, try swapping paper for coffee filters or paint brushes for pipettes. Sarah, author of How Wee Learn, shares these and other ideas on her website.

2. Take Art Outdoors: We often think of art as an activity that we do with children inside, but allowing art materials to be brought outdoors provides a fun change of scenery and a new perspective.  Tape paper to a fence or a tree for children to use as a canvas. Or try one of the ideas from Tinkerlab’s article, 6 Ways to Take Art Outdoors.

Image from A Pinch of Kinder

3. Art Projects with Recycled Materials: There are many ways that children can help take care of our planet, but one of the easiest places to start is by recycling! Talk to children about the importance of reducing our waste and show children how we can reuse materials that we often get rid of. Paper towel or toilet paper rolls, plastic water bottles, egg cartons, tin cans, and even scraps of paper are materials that are easy to collect and easy to use as art materials.

Not sure how to get started? Visit The Art Bar Blog for some great ideas about what to make and different materials to use. Or visit the site, Hands On As we Grow, to see how tin cans can be transformed into homemade drums

4. Sorting Recyclable Materials: Another way to get children excited about recycling is to, create an opportunity for them to practice sorting materials in the classroom. Bring recycled materials, such as paper, plastic, and metals, and set out bins or containers for children to sort each item. Yukari, author of the blog, A Pinch of Kinder, shares on her website how she set up this activity in her classroom.

5. Painting on natural materials: Have you ever tried to paint on sticks or rocks? Take children outside or go for a walk to collect natural materials to paint on. Then, lay out some paper to protect your table. Offer children paint, brushes, and all of the sticks and rocks that you collected outside! You might even like to save some of the rocks and place them back outside as special decorations in your garden or by your front door. Sixth Bloom’s article, Ultimate Guide to Rock Painting for Preschoolers, is a great resource to help you get started.

Image from Pre-K Pages

6. Earth Day sensory bin: Toddlers and young preschoolers love sensory experiences. Exploring different textures and materials with all five senses is enjoyable and supportive of cognitive development.  Sensory bins can also help children to learn about new concepts on a small scale. Visit Pre-K Pages to learn how to assemble a simple sensory bin with shaving cream and play animals.

7. Make bird feeders: Have you ever tried to make bird feeders? They are very simple to make, with only a few required materials!  Building bird feeders is a creative activity that sparks conversations about different types of birds and what they eat. There are several ways to make them, including using various recycled materials.  For ideas, visit Growing a Jeweled Rose’s site to see learn how to make a bird feeder from recycled toilet paper rolls and peanut butter;  or visit The Creative Cubby to see a clever project that uses a recycled egg carton!

8. Make seed paper: Making seed paper is a fun art project and learning experience that requires only a few simple materials. The seed paper can be planted in your center, or children can bring the finished product to be planted at home. Visit Pre-K Pages to learn more about this fun and practical project.

9. Earth Day Discovery Bottles: Infants and toddlers also can celebrate Earth Day by exploring discovery bottles! Discovery bottles are easy to make using recycled water bottles and can be filled with a variety of different items! Visit Little Bins for Little Hands for ideas about how to make these and what to put inside!

10. Earth Day Books: You might already have some books handy that discuss themes and concepts related to Earth Day and the environment. If you have a collection of different stories, offer them to children in a basket for independent reading and exploration. If you are interested in finding new stories to add to your collection, review the list below. You can purchase these online, or pick them up at your local library!

  • The Earth Book: A sweet story with colorful illustrations, this book is a simple read that will inspire preschoolers to care for our Earth. As an eco-friendly bonus, this book is made entirely with recycled materials and nontoxic soy inks.

  • Adventures of a Plastic Bottle: This story is told from the perspective of a water bottle, who shares his thoughts and experiences with readers. Preschoolers will enjoy learning about his adventures and his journey, from being made to being recycled into a jacket.

  • Green: This story’s pages are filled with various vibrant shades of green and will be enjoyed by children in young preschool and all the way to kindergarten.

  • The Lorax: A classic and touching story that warns about the dangers of not caring for our Earth’s beauty. The book’s more complex themes and messages will be enjoyed by older preschoolers and children in pre-k.

  • The Tree Lady: This book tells the true story of Kate Sessions, a native of Northern California, who helped San Diego grow from a desert into a lush, green city. The story will be enjoyed by older preschoolers and children in pre-k.

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