It can be tough just getting your kids to clean their rooms, let alone pitching in to save the planet.  Yet that’s exactly what Senator Gaylord Nelson had in mind when he founded Earth Day  years ago. On April 22nd, it’s time for every man, woman and child to do his or her part to save this planet.

Actually, it’s easy to motivate kids when you remind them that this is their chance to be a superhero.  When someone picks up a piece of litter, walks instead of drives, recycles a tin can, or plants a tree, they make the planet a cooler, cleaner, and safer place for everyone.  That’s an empowering message, and a reminder that, for better or worse, everything we do has consequences. With young children, it’s probably better to avoid frightening descriptions of environmental disaster.  Rather than presenting the gloom and doom forecast, focus on the steps we can all take to protect our most precious resource.  

Kids of every age can learn never to litter, to turn off the light when leaving a room, and not to waste water. Cleaning up the planet needn’t feel like a chore.  Challenge your kids to a litter scavenger hunt; whoever collects the most trash wins a prize.  Most kids love the chance to be the boss once in a while; ask them to scold you if they catch you running water you’re not using or throwing a can in the trash instead of the recycling bin.  Make sure you’re setting a good example.

The three Rs used to refer to “reading, writing and ‘rithmetic”.  These days, they usually mean “reduce, reuse, recycle.”  Ask if your local recycling facility offers tours; young children, who often love trucks, are usually enthusiastic guests.  Afterwards, ask your kids to brainstorm some ways to reuse all the things you usually throw out.  Could something be used in art projects, donated to charity, or put to use in some other way?

Finally, get outside and enjoy yourself!  Let your kids get their hands dirty planting a tree or walking through the woods.  Children who enjoy nature will want to preserve it – and no one has more stake in our planet’s future than they do.