Getting our kids outside during the summertime is more challenging today than ever. Most little ones would rather spend their time in front of the television or computer than head out that door and explore the world around them. Add to that the fact that many of the classic summer activities aren’t as eco-friendly as they could be, leaving many sustainable parents wondering what they can do with their kids during the vacation that doesn’t involve electronics.
“Getting our kids outside
during the summertime is more
challenging today than ever.”
With that in mind, here are some nontoxic, eco-friendly projects your kids can do outside this summer.
1. Plant a Garden
This project might require a bit of supervision, but it can be a great way to teach your little ones about where their food is coming from while providing some farm-fresh produce for your kitchen at the end of the season. If your kids are interested in planting a garden, start by choosing a place in the yard you can dig up — or purchase a few raised garden boxes if your local soil is not conducive to growing anything. Then, spend an afternoon or two teaching them how to plant each type of fruit or vegetable you’re going to grow.
You can also use this as an opportunity — or an excuse — to start a compost pile. Start tossing all your organic waste, from coffee grounds to eggshells and vegetable peelings, into a pile or barrel in your yard. Assign a different child every day to move all compostables to the pile.
2. Pizza Box Solar Oven
Solar power is becoming more popular as more homeowners make the transition to green energy, but you don’t have to spend thousands of dollars to buy solar panels for your home to teach your little ones about solar energy. All you need is an old pizza box, some aluminum foil and black construction paper. This project helps your kids upcycle pizza boxes, which aren’t recyclable because they’re full of pizza grease.
Start by cutting a flap in the lid that’s roughly an inch from each side. Fold it back, and line the entire interior of the box — including the flap — with aluminum foil. Secure the foil in place with nontoxic white Elmer’s glue. You can find full instructions here, but once you finish assembling, all you need is some food you want to heat up and a sunny afternoon, and suddenly you’re cooking with solar power.
3. Build a Birdfeeder and Birdwatch
You don’t need to break out the lumber and heavy equipment so your kids can build a birdfeeder for your yard. All you need is a handful of oranges, some birdseed and a mixture of butter and peanut butter. Start by cutting the oranges in half and removing the flesh — juice them for some fresh-squeezed OJ or snack on them. You just want to make sure not to damage the skin.
Once the halves are empty, pour in some birdseed and top it with a mixture of melted butter and peanut butter. Then, set them where the birds will find them and head back inside so they can watch what birdies and other critters show up to snack on their masterpieces.
4. Play with Polymer Clay
Polymer clay is a fantastic project base for kids. It’s infinitely moldable and malleable, and if they happen to forget it out on the porch or in the backyard, it won’t dry out. Polymer clay is nontoxic, but it only hardens if baked, providing days and days of fun. Hand your children some polymer clay for a multi-sensory experience, and encourage them to shape it into whatever sparks their imagination.
5. Make DIY Paints
Kids love to paint, but most paints contain a variety of different chemicals. Instead of hovering over them to make sure they don’t lick their paintbrushes, why not teach them how to make paint? Flour paint adheres to a variety of different surfaces and only contains flour, water, clay and mica. Start by mixing one cup of flour with two cups of cold water, then bringing another one and a half cups of water to a boil before adding the flour mixture. Next, cook it down until it turns into a thick paste, and take it off the heat and dilute with water.
Once you’ve added another two cups of water, mix in the mica and clay — which comes in different colors, so you don’t need to add any additional colorants — until it’s at the right consistency. Other than working with the stove, this is an eco-friendly project kids of any age can do.
6. Reusable Water Balloons
Water balloon fights are a quintessential part of childhood, but they’re a pain to clean up after, and the rubber balloons are terrible for the environment. Your kids can make reusable water bombs with nothing more than some eco-friendly cellulose sponges and a few zip ties. Cut each sponge into thirds, then stack them up and secure them together with a zip tie. Cut off the excess, fluff the ends a little bit and you’ve got a reusable water bomb — all you need is a bucket to fill them up!
Going Green This Summer
Summertime projects don’t have to be bad for the environment. Spend a little time looking over these eco-friendly projects and figure out which ones your kids might enjoy the most.
What are some of your favorite nontoxic, eco-friendly projects for kids to do outside?
Share your thoughts and comments with us.
About the Author
Kacey Bradley is the blogger behind The Drifter Collective, an eclectic lifestyle blog that expresses various forms of style through the influence of culture and the world around us. Along with writing for her blog, she has written for sites like U.S. News, SUCCESS, Guides for Brides, Hotel Online and more! Follow Kacey on Twitter and subscribe to her blog to keep up with her travels and inspiring posts!