Earth Day 2023 is on its way! On the 22nd of April, nurseries and schools will be given the opportunity to explore different ways they can look after our world. It is never too early to learn about the importance of environmental stewardship, and nursery is the perfect place to start. We explore how to teach sustainability to toddlers and share 14 fun Earth Day activities for kids to try in your nursery.
In this article, you’ll find:
What is Earth Day 2023?
So, what is Earth Day and why do we recognise it? It is celebrated on 22nd April every year and aims to raise awareness about issues that threaten our environment. Celebrations stem from 1970 when US Senator Nelson nominated the day following the Santa Barbara oil spill in 1969. It wasn’t until 1990 when over 141 countries joined in the celebrations on this day, totalling over 200 million people who recognised 22nd April as World Earth Day.
Over 190 countries now support this global movement, aiming to increase awareness and responsibility for our world. This is a popular calendar event in EYFS, creating the opportunity to link cross-curricular subjects and aid children’s development. The environmental issues this day aims to talk about focuses on protecting the environment through conservation (of land, water and energy) and promoting sustainability in everyday life. Some of the key environmental issues discussed on this day include climate change, pollution, deforestation, habitat destruction, and biodiversity loss.
How to teach toddlers about sustainability?
Sustainability in everyday life is an important topic to discuss from a young age. Swedish environmental activist, Greta Thunberg, highlighted that there is no age limit on learning how to help and protect our planet. And global citizenship is a topic that can be simplified for toddlers.
Keep the message simple. What are the main points about sustainability, and your setting’s ethos on this, that you’d like to highlight to parents and teach your children? Remember to share this message with your parents by sending a quick notice, or newsletter update via your Blossom Parent App. By sending this communication to parents, it helps to continue the discussion at home. Sustainability is being mindful that when we don’t need something anymore, we can try to turn it into something new rather than just throwing it away.
Children learn through seeing and doing. By modelling good examples of recycling and living sustainably, toddlers can begin to understand the importance of positive habits to help the planet. Evaluate how prominent your recycling system is in your nursery. Are the children encouraged to separate their lunchtime plastic waste into recyclable and non-recyclable materials? The recycling arrows are easy to spot, and ensure you encourage the children to look out for them during mealtimes.
For 4 and 5-year-olds, taking care of the environment around them might mean picking up litter in the local community. Litter pickers require strong gross motor skills; for those who can use them. This is an option worth considering as it develops physical strength and dexterity whilst promoting global and community responsibility. Take care to show the children how to pick up rubbish and litter hygienically, wear gloves (gardening gloves can prevent any cuts from uneven edges) and encourage them to let an adult pick up anything sharp, heavy or dirty. Remember to share photos and videos with your parents via Blossom’s online diary of all these exciting and valuable activities your setting is doing!
Storytime in EYFS is an important part of the day. It is the perfect time to share age-appropriate stories about the environment and how we care for our world. There are several books that are suitable for EYFS about Earth Day, recycling and sustainability. Parents may appreciate a recommended reading list shared regularly within your nursery newsletters- you can do this for all celebrated awareness events like black history month, pride month and world poetry day!
14 Fun ideas to celebrate Earth Day 2023 in EYFS
This day can be celebrated in lots of different ways. However, thinking of new, exciting ways to raise awareness of the world we live in can be tricky. We have collated 14 of the best ways to celebrate Earth Day in nurseries.
1. Get green-fingered
Planting seeds outdoors (or indoors) is an excellent learning opportunity for little ones. They are able to learn about following instructions, getting messy and, most importantly, learning about how important plants are to humans and animals. Feeling the texture of the soil is an excellent way to try new sensory play activities that will build their understanding of texture and feel.
2. Enjoy a nature walk
If you are fortunate enough to be located with greenery around you, enjoy a nature walk as a small group. Listen to the sounds of the spring birds in the trees and smell the rain on the soil. You may wish to collect some natural materials on your walk, and give each child a small container to collect their favourite twigs and leaves. These can be useful for creating natural artworks later on!
3. Create a recycled masterpiece
Using recycled materials in your nursery (an empty milk carton, cardboard boxes etc.), encourage the children to make something new with the unwanted materials. You may choose to use bottle tops as stamps with paint or stack them as high as possible without them tumbling down. Be creative!
This may also spark ideas for parents to try further sustainability-friendly activities at home. And you can remind them to share their explorations with a home observation on Blossom, so your practitioners can build on what they learnt at home, at your nursery as well.
4. Earth-friendly art
Using your natural materials collected on your nature walk earlier, encourage the children to make their own earth-friendly art projects. They may choose to reuse recycled materials to make a sculpture. Or use soil as their painting material.
5. Earth-related story time
Many age-appropriate books are available to read to the children in your nursery. Your nursery’s story time curriculum should cover topical events such as World Earth Day. Here are a few examples of EYFS-friendly environment books:
6. Litter-picking fun
As mentioned earlier, litter picking can be great for gross motor skill development in preschool children. It also teaches a valuable lesson about responsibility for your local community. Your older children may enjoy throwing on their hi-vis jackets and clearing small pieces of litter in the car park.
7. Nature’s perfume
Perfume is often designed to smell like flowers and nature, a breath of fresh air! Although these creations may not be sellable, they can be made using nature’s resources. Try mixing some berries, leaves and flowers into a paste with water and create a new fragrance! It is important to know of any allergies when coming into close contact with items such as berries. Remember to consult the Blossom child profile to check for any allergies or concerns before enjoying this activity.
8. Cloud watching
Take the children outside to cloud-watch on a sunny day with a slight breeze. You can lie blankets and mats on the ground and encourage the children to pause and focus on the shapes and sizes of the clouds they can see in the sky. This mindful exercise is an excellent introduction to learning about self-regulation strategies for developing mentally healthy habits.
9. Bee or flower hunt
If your nursery has a flower garden, hanging baskets or flower pots, they may attract bees. Taking care the children are aware a bee can sting when threatened, undertake a bee hunt. The children will be on the lookout for bees and can learn about some interesting bee facts whilst they search.
10. Grow a herb garden
Herbs can be much easier to grow than some flowers. Mint is an easy herb to grow and can survive in small pots on window ledges making it an easy first-herb garden for EYFS children. Encourage the children to plant some herbs and monitor their progress.
11. Create a recycled bird bath
Birds are an important part of any garden; they can eat pests (some insects) and can help pollinate flowers. Encourage more birds into your nursery outdoor space with the introduction of bird baths. It will be even better if you are able to use recycled materials for a suitable bathing station!
12. Flower press
Pressing of flowers is an excellent way to study the features of different flowers or plants and even turn them into an everyday item like a bookmark. Encourage the children to choose a plant or flower (ferns are brilliant for this) and press the flower between the pages of a heavy book (with tissue or a paper towel on either side of the flower). Leave the flowers for over a week and admire them.
13. Let’s go fly a kite
If the wind is picking up, use it as a learning opportunity. Create a kite from an old plastic bag and some string, or make a diamond kit from sticks and strong paper. Notice the difference in wind strength and wind direction when flying a kite.
14. The importance of worms
Worms can often be forgotten creatures in gardens. It is important to share the important jobs worms do to help plants grow. When digging your soil to plant your flowers or herbs, encourage the children to look out for worms, thanking them for the hard work they do.