After a 40-hour work week and Saturday chores, that big Earth Day event may not sound quite as exciting to working parents as it did a few weeks ago. How about a simple family celebration you can pull together (and pull off) in a few hours.
What do you need for a celebration? First, it's late already so it has to be quick, easy, inexpensive, and fun. And it's Earth Day, a day to reconnect with the Earth and it's bounty. Okay.
It's a fantastic day in the North Bay -- perfect for a backyard picnic. For decorations, use the greenery from your yard. For a fancy sweet, let the kids make Icky Quickie Cupcakes with ingredients from your corner mini-mart. Read any poem, story, or book about flowers, trees, plants, earth science, compost, worms, soil, or the seasons. For "something to do" nab some tall green grass the kids can use to craft Field Grass People. If you have potting soil, pots, and seeds on hand, start some seeds. Let's roll...
First Activity: Set a festival table.
Let the children know a celebration is coming and ask for their help with the "party." Perhaps an older child can search for an Earth-themed book while a younger child collects leaves or flowers for the table. Once kids get the idea, they love table-decorating. Inspire them by offering up special dishes or cloth napkins -- something that says this is more than a hot-dogs-and-paper-plates occasion.
Children might need help with ideas for the table at first. If they ask, you might suggest scattering washed and dried leaves around plates and dishes, arranging fruits and vegetables from the fridge (or houseplants) as a centerpiece, or arranging a tiny jar of greenery for every setting. Think time-consuming.
If you have time for a quick trip to your local bookstore, Shel Silverstein's The Giving Tree is a funny, engaging eco-poem enjoyed by children of all ages. Bring The Giving Tree (or any Earth-themed book or story) to the table and read bits of it throughout the day. Children who can read can take turns reading aloud.
Next, set kids up to make the treat.
Fortunately, children are easy to please -- especially when they've prepared the treat themselves. Children can quickly make "worms and dirt" cupcakes with ingredients from the corner mini-mart. These aren't healthy or particularly "green" but they open up a great opportunity to talk about worms and kids are delighted by the "Eeewww" factor. One per child is plenty. Yes, you'll have to eat one, too.
Icky Quickie Cupcakes: You'll need 1 "row" from a package of Oreos; small package of gummy worms; whipped cream; 4 to 6 small, transparent dishes.
- Smash the cookies into coarse crumbs. (Dump them in a big metal pan or bowl, place a unopened can atop the pile. Show the kids how to push down on the can, lift, and push down again to crumble the cookies -- kids will love this part!)
- Spoon the smashed mixture evenly into the dishes
- Divide up the worms evenly
- Push the worms down into the cookie "dirt"
- Squirt a small shot of whipped cream to cover just before serving
Finally an eco-craft, with apologies to the pollen-allergic.
Check the edges of your yard or a nearby alleyway for tall roadside grasses. Grass is an easy-to-find, free art material that kids can twist and shape into interesting forms. The process of collecting natural materials ultimately brings kids outside with their eyes open -- Earth Day is a great day to open the door.
Field Grass People: You'll need a big bunch of fresh field grass (at least 8" long including heads); sharp scissors; something to tie with (string, rubber bands, pipe cleaners or twist-ties, depending on which of these your child can manage on her own). As with corn husk dolls, children as young three years can make grass people (they will need help tying). 4- to 6-year-olds (in the process of mastering fine motor control) will go wild "dressing" their grass people up with leaves, moss and flowers. 7-year-olds will dream up intricate pretend play for their cast of characters.
- As soon as you cut the grass, bind the stems together loosely.
- Remove a bundle about as big around as two adult thumbs.
- Fold the bundle in half to make the body.
Tie off the body bundle about an inch below the fold to make the head.
TIP: Many young children are satisfied with a vaguely human armless figure; just tie a little lower to make a waist... and make some more.
- For arms, remove another bundle (about 1/3 smaller than the body bundle).
- Tie off the stem end of the arm bundle to make a wrist; tie again further along the stems to make another wrist. Arm bundle should be about 1/3 to 1/2 as long as the body is tall. Cut the loose ends off to make a tied arm bundle.
- Insert arm bundle through the body and tie around the whole body just beneath arms to make a waist.
> Make a "girl" by spreading out the grass heads to form a dress
> Split the body bundle in half below the waist and tie off to make legs for a "boy"
>Tuck leaves and flowers into the tie-arounds at neck and waist to make a fancy dress
> Big flowers (like hollyhocks) make great hats
> Half a walnut shell makes a "helmet"
> Moss or extra grass heads can be tucked around the head to make hair and beards
> A pair of large leaves around the shoulders makes an angel or a fairy