No matter where you are in the country, spring is time of transformation. Through the ages, many cultures have looked at springtime as the Earth’s birthday, celebrating this time of rebirth and renewal. And, it’s no surprise that the people who started Earth Day chose this time of year. The chance to stage a birthday party for the Earth is a marvelous, age appropriate way to inspire creative mess-making, pretend play and a genuine connection to and appreciation for our planet. To kids, it’s just a good old time.
Plant the seeds: Ask kids about which season it is. Talk a bit about how spring looks in your neck of the woods. Look for and point out the changes in plants, bodies of water, climate and even new additions to animal families. Talk about how the earth is starting over into a new year...just like we do when it’s our birthdays.
Let’s have a party! Suggest, “Hey, do you think we should throw a birthday party for the Earth? What do you think we’d need for a party? What would the Earth want at its party? What do you like about birthday parties?
Whip up treats! Set up an impromptu outdoor kitchen and start making favorite party treats. Mud pies, cakes and cupcakes along with stone soup make a great spread. Sticks make easy candles and, since the Earth is so old, you can just use a few.
Deck out the area Use the things around you to decorate for the party. Sticks and other items can be laid to make a great dining table, complete with placemats. Wildflowers, dandelions and fallen petals can make lovely centerpieces. String up some twine to make a nature curtain. Note: Be mindful to help kids understand which nature objects can be taken for play. At Tinkergarten, we say that objects that are “found on the ground” are what we use for our play (e.g. fallen petals, leaves, sticks, tree fruits, bits of bark as well as grasses/ground cover). Objects still on a growing plant are needed by that plant and are not for our play.
What could be our present? If you have children over 3 with you, wonder together about what might be a present worthy of our planet Earth. Kids have absolutely marvelous ideas. Some of our favorites have included lovely nature displays, a pile of trash cleaned up from the park and ready to recycle, and pledges to care for the planet (e.g. use less water, recycle, etc.).
Feast and sing Do a little clean up (we recommend washing with castille soap and water). Then, as goofy as it may feel, have a feast, pretending to savor your nature treats and nibbling on real treats that you’ve packed. Take a minute to talk about what makes our planet Earth such an amazing home. Sing the Earth Happy Birthday. Do whatever kids want to do to make this a party worthy of our planet.
Why is this activity great for kids?
Hosting a birthday party offers children a marvelous play scenario in which all ages can engage. Even toddlers know what a birthday party is and can join the pretending. Young children move effortlessly between reality and fantasy, and the blending of the two supports their developing sense of the world. So, it is an easy leap to personify our Earth just a bit and throw the planet a party. By doing so, you can activate imaginations, build and a sense of empathy and a greater, more personal connection to the natural world.
Kids also engage in several behavioral schema (e.g. transporting, rotation and transforming) as they gather materials, stir up and mix or mash batches of yummy birthday treats. All of this leads to a great deal of sustained, brain and body boosting play.
Nature party prep also encourages children to work freely, engage multiple senses, and make a mess. We know that the chance to act messy now maps to a young person’s ability to think messy down the road. And, you really can’t be a creative thinker unless you are prepared to think flexibly!
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