Green Family Fun

By Lina Younes

During the winter months, I find it especially challenging to identify educational activities for my youngest that will keep her away from the TV and other electronic gadgets. With the cold weather, some outdoor activities might be limited. So, what is a parent to do? Well, here are several suggestions to get the kids engaged and teach them about the love of nature and the environment.

My number one suggestion: teach your children to enjoy reading! Expose the children to good books at the earliest age possible. Reading bedtime stories or sitting together as a family reading aloud creates enduring memories. Even children who read well still enjoy being read to by their parents.

Number two: get a library card for your child and take them to the library often. Many public libraries have special activities for young kids during weekends. Having them explore the library and research issues of interest to them opens a whole world of possibilities.

Number three: invite children over for a play date and conduct some science experiments. You can find many basic science books in the library that teach you to do some simple experiments with some common household ingredients. The children will have a blast and learn some hands-on-science.

Number four: bake a cake from scratch! Teaching your children to cook or bake is very similar to conducting a science experiment. You need to measure all your ingredients, use the proper utensils, follow instructions, manage time wisely, and at the end you’ll have a tasty result. Even if the outcome is not fit for Julia Child’s kitchen, it’s great family fun. The lessons last a lifetime.

Number five: take your child to a local museum. In the Washington metropolitan area we are lucky to have many museums that offer special family events on weekends. You can go online for the latest information or check your local newspaper for information on weekend activities.

Number six: volunteer for the environment. Many community-based, faith-based, service organizations have events for the whole family to help with a local stream cleanup, a recycling campaign or some local activities that will instill the love of nature in our kids, the earlier the better.

So, while many of us are still mulling over our New Year resolutions, why not think of doing more activities with our kids? Would love to hear your suggestions, as always.

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves as acting associate director for environmental education. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

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