Our children are more likely to live in a city than any other generation in human history. The city can sometimes seem opposed to nature. But according to Richard Register, founder of Ecocity Builders, cities are parts of nature and exist dependent on their surrounding environment. Here are seven sustainable children’s activities to prepare your young ones to be informed, questioning, and proactive citizens of their communities and the natural world.
1. Borrow Something From a Neighbor
Reduce your impact and get the added benefit of strengthening community ties by borrowing something from a neighbor instead of buying some-thing new. It could be a cup of sugar, a packet of seeds, a hot glue gun, a movie, a book, or anything!
2. Take Public Transit
Taking public transit is a great way to get around the city and interact with the people in your community. Sure, it may sometimes take longer than driving, but it gives you valuable time together to enjoy the journey and take in the sights and sounds of the city. Teach your children how to navigate your local public transit by making the journey an adventure. Pick a fun destination, research bus and rail lines beforehand, plan your trip, and work together on way-finding. Start a conversation with a bus driver or friendly co-traveler. When you come home, draw pictures of the steps you took on your journey. Visit 511.org to start planning a trip.
3. Use Re-Usable Containers!
No need to buy Tupperware®: jars, sturdy take-out containers, and bottles can be reused over and over once they are empty. Personalizing reusable containers is an excellent rainy-day sustainable children’s activity. Let each family member use paint, glue, and stickers to decorate his and her personal container!
4. Visit an Urban Creek
Most urban areas were built around sources of water and many have still-active streams and creeks that run through them. There are places in the city where you can still see the wild creeks and all the hummingbirds, frogs, and fish that live in them. Closely inspect a map of your city to find the little green pockets of wild spaces you might have missed before. Or call your local Parks and Recreation Department for directions to your nearest riparian environment.
5. Visit a Farmers Market
Farmers Markets have proliferated over the past decade and can now be found in nearly every major city in America. It’s easy to feel disassociated from your food source when living in the city. Markets can help you and your children make the connection of urban center to rural nature. Visiting a market is a perfect family outing for a weekend morning or weeknight evening. Stroll, taste, hand pick your favorite fruits and veggies, and maybe even hear live music. Encourage your children to ask questions and give their own answers and interact with the vendors and farmers.
6. Investigate an Urban Mystery
Stairs that lead nowhere…bricked up old doorways…a gnarled apple tree growing in a vacant lot. These mysteries are hints of history of your urban fabric. Cities are always transforming. Take a walk around a neighborhood and try to find some funny elements. Speculate together why things look the way they do, and find clues to what buildings might have been used for years ago. Go ask your city historical organization for advice if a mystery keeps gnawing at you!
7. Meet Your District Representative
Cities can feel large and out of our control even though every neighborhood has a person that represents it in the city government. Help your child understand her power (and responsibility) to impact her environment at the decision-making level. Come up with a list of questions or suggestions for your neighborhood to discuss with your representative. Go to your city’s website to find your representative and make an appointment. Afterwards discuss what was easy, difficult, or interesting about the experience.
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