9 Ways to Have a Zero Waste Summer with Kids
Believe it or not, summer is here! The kids have finished school and the sun is shining, well not everyday but its warm at least. So how are we going to keep the little ones and ourselves entertained, educated and reduce our waste all at the same time without going crazy? The answer is super easy, lets get back to nature.
It can be so easy to get caught up in lots of screen time, planned activities or visiting lots of different places. Did you know, the average child before the age of five is watching around 4.5 hours of television per day, that’s about 40% of their waking hours! Trips to places like the zoo, museum, indoor play centre and the cinema are all great things to do but all cost money, involve driving and usually come with packaged snacks or eating out that can end being rather expensive as well as wasteful. I’m not saying never do these things but maybe just visit occasionally. This summer, why not slow down and leave their devices at home and get outside to enjoy the good weather.
The benefits of playing in nature
One of the simplest ways to have a fun filled, meaningful and sustainable summer is to get back to nature. Children of all ages benefit hugely from being outside playing in the natural world around them, both mentally and physically. The exercise they can get from running, jumping, climbing and walking will always have a positive effect on their physical being and should be encouraged whenever you have the chance.
Getting outside is also exceedingly important for their mental well-being. Being in nature can help with their need for experimenting, taking risks, imagination, exploring and discovering. It can also help them to learn their physical boundaries as well as reducing stress and increasing creativity.
Introducing your children to the wonders of nature is a fantastic opportunity to show them how much of an impact we as a species have on our amazing planet. There are so many fascinating things to see and learn that most children relish getting their hands dirty in the name of curiosity.
Getting back to nature
As a kid I spent a lot of time outdoors, mostly with my sister and our friends. We would often explore and play in the woods and fields close to our home, mostly without our parents. We would walk, run and climb trees for hours and then rush home at the end of the day, sun kissed, muddy and hungry for our dinner. I have such fond memories of those times, so much fun and freedom.
Now, it’s no longer the 90’s and the world has changed a lot since then so lets take a look at some of the ways you could get back to nature this summer as a family, kids and grown up’s too.
Step out your back door
No matter how big or small your outdoor space is, try to spend some time out there everyday. Even a balcony area can be used to invite nature in and provide opportunities to learn and explore.
Build a bug hotel
Creating a space, even a small one for insects to call home is a great way to invite nature into your garden. It doesn’t have to be costly or time consuming either. A small pile of stones, twigs and pine cones can provide shelter and safety for many different creatures for your children to investigate. Pick a cool, shady place and make sure there are lot of holes and crevices for bugs to hide in. It should only take a couple of days before the creepy crawlies find it and then you can go out and see who has moved in. My daughter loves all things tiny and looking for spiders, snails, beetles and worms can keep her entertained for quite some time. We have even added a tiny pond to our garden using and old sweetie tub, wood and pebbles which sees a nightly visit from not one but two hedgehogs! All animals and insects need water to drink so having water available for them helps to invite them to stay.
Build a den
Den building is another great way to engage children outside. It encourages them to problem solve while being creative too. You can make them from wood, sticks and leaves in the trees or even throw a sheet or blanket over the washing line. Kids love to hide and by providing them with a nice shady space on a hot day also helps to protect them from the sun. We are short on space at home so will occasionally take a pop up play tent outside, put some cushions inside and she will play until her hearts content.
Grown your own veggies
A fantastic way to teach kids about where their food comes from is to grow your own. We are fortunate enough to keep an allotment near to our home and we thoroughly enjoy planting seeds and watching them grow into something we can eat. Our garden at home is very small, graveled and rather shady but we still grow some things there too. We have lots of pots dotted around filled with strawberries and flowers as well as a mini green house, which is rammed full of tomatoes as the moment, and a cold frame for our young seedlings. Lots of things can be grown in pots such as herbs, berries, carrots, salad leaves, potatoes, tomatoes and even dwarf fruit trees. A few packets of seeds and a bag of compost won’t cost you a lot of money and remember, anything can be a plant pot if you use your imagination. In turn, your children will learn so much and have real sense of achievement eating something they have grown for themselves.
Kids love to play with water, especially on a glorious summers days. Water play has so many benefits from keeping them cool and providing sensory stimulation with the added bonus of the plants getting a good soaking at the same time. For babies and toddlers, playing with water can help them to develop gross and fine motor skills through pouring, dunking, mixing and squeezing. You don’t need any fancy toys to get involved, a bowl full of water with some cups, bottles, spoons or anything else you can find in your kitchen or garden. My daughter loves nothing more than a bucket full of water to play with, she will pour and squirt water all day long, or at least until the bucket is empty.
Water play is not just for little kids, the bigger ones can get involved too. Playing with water can give older children, as well as teenagers, the opportunity to explore basic physics, maths and problem solving in a really fun and hands on way. Games such as sink or float or even building water ways are fab experiments for kids of all ages. Water is also a great stress buster too, it can be soothing and calming or even a fun way to release any tension or frustrations.
Who doesn’t love a picnic? We have one at least once a week, whether that’s at home, at the allotment or the park. Grab a blanket, a few sandwiches with some chopped up fruit and vegetables and everyone is happy. I love siting in nature while eating so we try to eat outside as much as we can when the weather is good. Try and stick to package free food using the containers you already have and, of course, your reusable drinks bottles for a zero waste picnic.
Getting out and about
Sometimes we all need a change of scenery and exploring your local area is a good way to do that. Even though my husband and I are both in our 30’s, we have lived in our city our whole lives and recently we have found new places that we have never been before.
Go for a bike ride
Cycling is another fantastic way for the whole family to get out and enjoy some fresh air. Kids love riding their bikes, it can be fun and fast and gives them a sense of freedom. There are a ton of physical health benefits that come from cycling but it is also a great way to relieve stress and can help improve co-ordination too. It also means you can get out and explore more of your local area, whether that is the woods, park or city streets with the added benefit of zero pollution.. win win!
Visit your local park
We are fortunate to have a number of parks, rivers and nature reserves close by. There are so many things to do, see and explore. For my daughter, playing on the swings and feeding the ducks is great way to spend a whole morning. We all know that you shouldn’t feed bread to ducks so when we are heading to the park I fill up a reusable snack bag with bird seed and we are ready to go. Remember to take your reusable water bottles and snacks in case anyone gets thirsty or peckish.
Go for a walk
The best way to find new places to explore is by getting out and walking around. Why not follow that foot path that you’ve never noticed before, who knows what you might find on your way. Recently, we have been making an effort to walk down foot paths we have not explored before, even paths that look like they don’t lead anywhere and found some surprising places.
Go on a nature hunt
Why not add a nature scavenger hunt to your next walk or bike ride. Getting children to look, search and really take notice of the nature all around them is a really fun way for them to reconnect with nature. The more that they see, learn and appreciate the natural world the more likely they will be to take care of our planet as they grow up and go on to have their own children.
Check out my free printable below.
I hope you have found some great ways to help you and your family get out and enjoy your summer with any added pollution, cost and waste.
If you are wondering about other ways you can reduce your waste, check out 5 Easy Ways To Start Your Journey To Zero Waste
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