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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—whether this be the TV, computer, mobile phone, or video game console. In many cases, this is more time than spent with his/her own parents.

TV and the Internet 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 gadget, but do they understand the cost to the environment 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.

Here are some ideas, activities, and inspiration for parents and children to enjoy and explore together.

Fun Activities for Parents and Children

Tracking Animals

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.

Exploring Hydrology

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.

Watching Birds

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. Watching birds can include taking nature walks to fill out a dedicated bird journal, taking part in the annual bird count in your area, or simply observing the birds that visit your bird feeder. For more information about bird watching with your child, read our article about How to Get Started in Birding.

Orienteering

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.

Gardening

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. Simple, easy-to-grow plants include sunflowers, peas, beans, and many more. For further information, read our article about Getting Your Kids in the Garden or our guide about Gardening With Kids.

Camping

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. Try these simple projects at Alliant Energy Kids or explore a variety of wind energy projects at Stem Works. You can also purchase build-it-yourself kits for wind turbines, powerhouses, and waterwheels.

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.

Teaching Handwork

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. Click here for the plans.

Build a Child's Wheelbarrow

More Ideas and Resources

Build-It-Yourself Toy Laboratory

Build-It-Yourself Toy Laboratory

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.

Apogee Model Rocketry

Apogee Model Rocketry

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.

Curious George

Curious George

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

Hunkins Experiments

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.

Detailed Play Systems

Detailed Play Systems

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.

Whitewings

Whitewings

The best in paper gliders. Choose from a large selection of models from simple to complex. Build your glider from a kit, using paper, balsa, glue and a rubber band for propulsion. Great parent-child activity, and a good format for learning construction, principles of flight and aerodynamics. Inexpensive and rewarding – these little paper gliders are fun to fly!

Advocates for Children

Advocates for Children

A large list of activities for you and your fmily to try. Includes animal crafts, crafts requiring adult help, crafts by age group, family-centered crafts and holiday crafts.

Gamequarium

Gamequarium

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.

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