8 Eco-Friendly Activities to do with Children

Fiona McKenzie Johnston shares eight ideas for eco-friendly activities to do with children over the holidays.

You might already have got the summer holiday plan sewn up.  But just in case, here are some ideas for children’s activities that don’t cost the earth (either way) and won’t (all) clutter up your house with twig, leaf and air-dry clay ‘ornaments’.  There are pursuits for the scorching days of summer (here’s hoping) and crafting projects for rainy-day relief – and all appeal in different ways to a variety of different age groups.  

Make Your Own Bags for Life

If you’ve got a sewing machine you can easily run up  a bag using any strong-ish fabric you have to hand, otherwise plain linen bags are available from Hobbycraft (you can buy them cheaply in bundles – it’s also an excellent children’s birthday party/ school summer fair activity).  Decoration, depending on the age of the child, can take the shape of embroidery – sketch out the design first, and then go over it using a simple backstitch – or painting, using Eco brush pens by OkoNorm, available from Conscious Craft.

Do a Litter Sweep

Take inspiration both from Easter egg hunts, and from movements such as Take 3 For the Sea and collect rubbish from your local area (wearing rubber gloves for protection)  knowing that you’re helping to protect our planet from plastic pollution.  You could even use what you find to create a piece of art that can be added to in months to come, using more found treasures.  One person’s trash, as the idiom goes . . .

Make Seed Bombs for Guerrilla Gardening

Identify where in your local area could do with some extra greening – it might be around the base of trees that line your street, or you might have come across a patchy piece of grass that could benefit from some love – it might even be in your own garden.  The National Trust have got an excellent recipe for seed bombs and you can admire your work in weeks to come.  

Sow – and Grow Your Own 

It’s not too late for planting – tomatoes, especially, prefer a warm soil, and summer planted tomato plants, available from your local garden shop, often flourish fast.  Look for plants that are bushy rather than leggy, and you’ll be eating home grown tomato salad for the rest of the summer.  For those short of space, look at Mini Green Fingers’ planting kits – ideal for younger children and kitchen window-sill gardeners alike. 

Go on a Nature Treasure Hunt

Write a list of things you’d like to find, from oak leaves and dandelion clocks to a woodlouse – and simply hearing a bird sing – and set off to find them.  Remind your children that respecting nature means leaving it in situ and hopefully you’ll avoid taking the leaves home, although there are some you might want to collect – see the next activity idea. 

Revive Old Clothes Using Plant Dyes

Consider dying discoloured t-shirts, or even tie dying them, which is enormous fun (though messy.  It’s an outdoor activity). Jenny Dean’s book Wild Colour: How To Make and Use Natural Dyes gives clear guidance on how to extract colours from plants, how to produce dyes from them, and how to make those dyes hold fast.   Even if you decide to use regular commercial dye on this occasion, remember that you are still giving your clothes another life rather than buying new ones.

Go Wild Swimming

No chlorine, no charges, no over-heated changing room, and a chance to get that dye off your hands . . .    It sounds the dream, and it is.   Britain has an abundance of rivers, lakes, waterfalls and streams (and of course beaches) the majority of which are safe to swim in – or, for the less immune to cold, paddle in. Even in London there’s the Serpentine Lido in Hyde Park and the Hampstead Swimming Ponds (although there is a small fee for using these.)  Wild Swimming is an excellent resource – take a picnic for after the adventure, and perhaps a thermos flask of hot chocolate, depending on the weather.  

Make Your Own Beauty Products

This is a favourite with tweens and teens – and fans of Roald Dahl’s George’s Marvellous Medicine.  Mix one egg white and one tablespoon of honey for rather an effective face mask. Mix two table spoons of used coffee grounds (you can request them from your local coffee shop), three table spoons of coconut oil and one table spoon of granular sugar for a body and facial scrub.   Equal amounts of coconut oil, bicarbonate of soda and cornflour, scented with a few drops of essential oil (lemongrass works well) gives you deodorant.  Neal’s Yard have published a whole book of different beauty recipes – or see our Self Care Sunday Recipes for inspiration.