How does time spent with your children help the environment?
A typical child growing up in North America today spends an average of six hours each day in front of a screen—even more since the start of social distancing and self-isolation. In many cases, this is more time than spent with his/her own parents.
The Internet, video streaming, and social media present our children with a constant barrage of commercials and consumer values. Children today are obsessed with the things money can buy and having the latest look or gadget, but do they understand the cost to the planet of needless consumerism?
Above all else, children crave time spent with their parents. Seize the opportunity while they’re young to teach them your values, and indulge them with your own undivided attention while you have the opportunity.
Here are some ideas, activities, and inspiration for parents and children to enjoy and explore together.
Fun activities for parents and children
Sitting in silence while watching your quarry or following animal tracks through the forest is an excellent way to cultivate patience, scientific reasoning, and a sense of adventure with your child. Learning animal habits by watching their tracks also fosters a sense of wonder and appreciation for nature. BioKids hosts an online track and sign guide for children wanting to learn about tracking animals in the wild. For more information about where to start, read our article about How to Spot Animals in the Wild.
Playing with dirt, sand, and water is a great way for kids to experience the properties of surface water hydrology. But more than building sandcastles at the beach, creating your own backyard river system is an exciting way for kids to observe how water works in relation to land over a period of time. Involving little more than a patch of sloping ground and a few boards, this activity can keep you both absorbed for hours. For more information, visit our guide about Building Your Own Backyard River System.
Whether you live in a city’s urban core or in a rural community, birds are likely all around you. Taking the time to stop and learn more about their habits and unique characteristics is one way to develop a deep appreciation for nature in your child.
For more information about bird watching with your child, read our article about How to Get Started in Birding.
Having a good sense of direction may seem irrelevant in this age of GPS navigation, but finding your way using a compass and map is an excellent way for children to develop spatial skills. It’s also a fun adventure. Try setting up a course through your neighbourhood, or design a simple treasure hunt for your child’s next birthday party. For more information, read our guide about hosting a Compass Treasure Hunt.
What miracle is greater than planting a seed and having the soil transform it into a living plant? Children love getting their hands dirty, and here’s a chance to dig with a purpose. Plant seeds in pots for a simple beginner’s project or designate a row in your garden for your child to grow their favorite flowers or vegetables.
Getting into the great outdoors opens a new window for children who spend their weekdays inside. Whether you’re setting up camp in your backyard or pitching a tent in a wilderness park, camping introduces children to a close-up view of nature and encourages respect for our environment. For more information on how to get started, read our Kids and Camping guide.
Exploring renewable energy
In North America, most children use electricity every day without thinking about where it comes from. Show your child how to harness nature’s resources to power simple toys and cook their food. Working together on renewable energy projects is not only fun, it can expand your child’s scientific reasoning skills and awake a passion for green technology.
Putting on a puppet show
Puppets have long been a simple do-it-yourself toy for a rainy afternoon, and puppet-making supplies can range from old socks to fabulous felts. Putting on a puppet show with your child can also teach you new things about how he or she sees the world.
Make a simple puppet theatre with a large cardboard box or use the back of a couch or curtained doorway for an instant stage. For more information about how to create your own puppet show script, or for script ideas, visit Legends and Lore. You can also purchase recycled fleece puppet kits to extend the fun.
In the Waldorf tradition, ‘handwork’ refers to any project made by a child’s own hand and most often includes working with yarn through sewing, knitting, and crocheting. The benefits of handwork are numerous. Children develop fine motor skills. They learn to work out patterns using numbers and to create and blend palettes artistically. Even more important, children find an outlet for emotions that may be too big to handle, because handwork promotes conversation and mindfulness.
If you already know how to knit, sew, or crochet, excellent! If not, consider finding an elder who can teach both you and your children. Online videos abound, and crocheting is often the simplest place to start. This page from Lion Brand yarns offers video tutorials for beginners.
Build a child's wheelbarrow
The scale of this project is just right for a parent/child activity and a great way to teach your child basic woodworking skills. A child who has helped build his/her own wheelbarrow will use it with pride. Visit our shop to learn more about our DIY wheelbarrow plans.
More ideas and resources
There is a great deal of talk today about the need to expose children to more science and math, to develop a recycle mentality, to promote family time together, and to merge the virtual world with the real world. Build-It-Yourself addresses all these important issues in a playful way. Build-It-Yourself has won the support of kids, parents, teachers, community businesses and the media.
Do you build or want to design your own model rockets? Do you need some help getting started? Even if you do design your own models, would you like to make them even better and more unique? This web site offers basic information on model rockets, construction plans, parts, flying tips and technical information.
Here are some simple ideas for hands-on engineering, math, and science activities that you and your child can try at home. Use them to encourage your child’s natural curiosity and to have fun making discoveries together.
Hunkins’ experiments were designed by a cartoonist for inquiring minds. Using cartoon-like examples in topics like food and clothes and light and sound, families can make an edible candle, learn to use a watch as a compass, drawing water from a desert or making a rubberband, for instance. Simple but engaging.
Wooden forts and swing sets. Detailed plans and kits you can assemble yourself for backyard play. Large assortment of designs which can be downloaded instantly from the site. Good pictures and thorough explanations of the play systems offered.
The largest database of paper airplane designs with easy-to-follow, printable instructions. Choose from a large selection of models from simple to complex. Great parent-child activity, and a good format for learning the principles of flight and aerodynamics. Inexpensive and rewarding – these little paper planes are fun to fly!
A large list of activities for kids with Autism, SPD and ADHD to try. Includes crafts that appeal to the visual, tactile and olfactory senses.
A portal to 2000+ free online learning games and activities for Preschool – Grade 6 students. Readquarium, a section of Gamequarium, will help your child learn to read.
Creative kids at home
Each month this website posts new ideas for childrens craft activities and science projects that kids and adults can do together. These free childrens crafts and science activities should be fun for one or more kids as long as the adults plan to be involved too. The crafts supplies needed will be items commonly found in most households.
Grow your math brain
New research out of Stanford University suggests that children who are allowed to struggle and make mistakes in math experience more brain growth than those who continually get right answers. Visit youcubed.org for an exciting look into how anyone can learn math. The site posts fun problems to puzzle over with your children, and helps you expand your math brain along with your child. Nrich Maths is another site with a large variety of exciting activities.