In honor of Earth Day (April 22), we’re sharing quick, easy lessons to use with young children to tie-in to your day. These lessons are suitable for children in grades pre-kindergarten through second grade.
Introduction to Litter for Young Children with The Wartville Wizard
Prior to reading about litter, I was surprised to learn that not all of the four year olds I was working with knew the word “litter.” Together, we defined the word and think of other words that may also mean litter. (Kids will likely list garbage, trash, mess, and junk.)
One of our favorite stories, The Wartville Wizard, features an old man who is tired of tidying up the Earth to keep it clean. But when Mother Nature provides him with a special power, he learns he has what it takes to keep the Earth clean. This is a great read-aloud to engage children and begin a conversation about litter and picking up after yourself.
Next, discuss what we think of litter. Ask the kids why litter is bad and what we can do to stop littering. We created charts with the kids’ responses.
Create Earth Day Posters
Collectively, take the information you shared and create ideas for slogans, posters and poems with the kids. Older kids can work independently or in small groups. Younger kids can color pictures and get help from teachers and parents to write their thoughts on the paper.
Go on a Picnic
What better way to enjoy and appreciate our Earth than to spend time with it? Before Earth Day, plan a picnic with the kids. Create a list of everything you’ll need (include an extra trash bag). Older kids may be prompted to discuss the merits of plastic vs paper.
When you arrive at your picnic spot, take time to look around and identify the nearest garbage cans, reminding the children that it’s their job to clean up after themselves. The “leave no trace” campaign, reminding everyone that when you leave, there should be no trace that you were ever there. For resources, activities and more information, visit the Leave No Trace webpage.
Picnics are always a great time for games and activities, but while there, take a break and have quiet time. Let the children spread out and observe with their senses. What do they hear? See? Smell? Touch? After a few minutes of observing, gather together to discuss the kids’ observations.
Next, ask the kids to look around at the animals in nature. Who else enjoys the Earth when you do? (Look for answers such as other people, babies, birds, dogs, and squirrels.) Discuss why taking care of the Earth is important for everyone in nature and how we can help to take care of the Earth.
Before leaving, play a clean up game and make sure that you Leave No Trace of your picnic and learning time.
Art and Science Activity Using Don’t Throw That Away
Another favorite story, Don’t Throw That Away!: A Lift-the-Flap Book about Recycling and Reusing (Little Green Books), gives us great ideas of what we can do with products that are often thrown away, and helps little minds brainstorm many recycling activities. A few days before Earth Day, ask families to collect reusable products such as cardboard boxes, egg cartons, plastic bottles, jars and containers, as well as old buttons, hair clips and nearly anything they’d usually throw away or recycle that’s clean. (Request that families clean out the bottles and jars before sending them to school.)
Gather supplies into a box or on a table and read the book, Don’t Throw that Away! with the kids. After reading, discuss what the kids learned about recycling. Ask them about items they throw into the garbage that could be reused, then share the collection of recycled materials and allow the kids to create freely.
7 More Earth Day Books for Children
- Where Does the Garbage Go?: Revised Edition (Let’s-Read-and-Find-Out Science 2)
- The Adventures of a Plastic Bottle: A Story About Recycling (Little Green Books)
- The Adventures of an Aluminum Can: A Story About Recycling (Little Green Books)
- The Wump World
- A River Ran Wild: An Environmental History
- Compost Stew
- The Lorax (Classic Seuss)
Picnic image used with permission from Hillary Chybinski, My Scraps. Book cover images are publisher images. All other images from Rusty & Rosy contributor Julie Meyers Pron, Julieverse. This post contains affiliate links.