Green Goes Simple: Family Footprints
Winter Boredom Be Gone
By Lynda Fassa for Green Goes Simple
It may be cold outside, but have no fear! Kids can be entertained — and educated — inside. Here are six eco-conscious activities guaranteed to engage any antsy kid.
Not sure what to do with that Christmas tree post-holiday? It actually contains all the ingredients needed to make lovely keepsake sachets. Collect needles and set kids up with 6 x 6-inch patterned fabric squares. Spread the fabric out, pattern-side down, drop a tablespoon of pine needles in, gather into a ghost shape and secure with a ribbon. The bundles can also be filled with dried flowers, herbs or potpourri, and then hidden away in drawers and closets to give spaces a lovely scent.
Start a Pretty-things Box
Often, what’s economical is also eco-friendly! This is especially true when you reuse what you were planning to throw away. After all those carefully chosen and meticulously wrapped holiday presents are, well, presented, there’s an awful lot of paper and ribbons that often get tossed. Save those — not for next year, but for the next time you hear, “I’m bored!” Tuck them away and start a pretty-things box. Arm each kid with a shoebox and have them collect the really good stuff after the presents have been unwrapped: ribbons, foiled paper, glittery name-cards and the like. Let your kids sort and label the goods, then stash them with the art supplies for the ultimate addition to a snowy, crafty day.
Create Your Own Telescopes
For this crafty creation, you’ll need:
- Paper-towel tubes
- Colorful cellophane
- Rubber bands
- Pretty-things boxes
Have kids decorate the outside of their telescopes with the contents of their pretty-things boxes, but leave the ends unadorned. Cut colored cellophane into squares and affix over one end with a rubber band. The world suddenly looks very pink, orange or green!
Clay Your Way
You can cook up your own clay in less than five minutes — and kids can make anything with it, from ornaments to dinosaurs.
What you’ll need:
- 1 cup flour
- 1/2 cup salt
- 2 tablespoons oil
- 2 tablespoons cream of tartar
- Food coloring
Mix the flour, salt and oil, and then slowly add water. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until dough becomes stiff. Drop onto foil and let cool. Knead until it reaches the proper molding consistency. Divide and add food coloring. If you want to go super-natural, color with spices like turmeric and cinnamon. Try to keep kids and pets from eating this dough — it’s filled with way too much salt! You can store unused dough in zippered plastic bags for the next indoor-activity day.
Baking is truly the activity that gives back. The process is fun and messy, and the results are sweet and delicious! My family can’t get enough of these couldn’t-be-easier peanut butter drop cookies.
What you’ll need:
- 1 cup peanut butter
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 egg
Mix together sugar, peanut butter and egg. Roll into balls and pattern with a fork. Bake at 350 F for 12 minutes. Makes 12 chewy cookies.
Think Apple Pie — All Year Long
Apples are a favorite fruit that won’t break the budget. If you want to put them to use through the winter, try canning — an easy and fun activity to do with the kids.
What you’ll need for apple pie filling and canning:
- 7 quart-sized canning jars, cleaned and sterilized
- Apples, peeled and sliced (enough to fill all 7 jars)
What you’ll need for the syrup:
- 4 cups sugar
- 2 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup cornstarch
- 1/3 teaspoon nutmeg
- 12 cups water
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice
For the syrup, cook the sugar, cinnamon, salt, cornstarch, nutmeg and water together until they thicken. Stir in 3 tablespoons lemon juice. Pour over apples in jars. Seal and process in a canner for 20 minutes. This also makes a great topping for ice cream!
Lynda Fassa is the founder of Green Babies, an organic-cotton baby clothing company, and the author of two books (Green Babies, Sage Moms and Green Kids, Sage Families). She is a frequent blogger for sites like Grist.org, ParentsConnect.com, Treehugger.com and PlanetGreen.com. Lynda has also appeared in People, The New York Times, Parents and Parenting, and on the “Today” show, “Planet Green,” “Fox News Happy Hour,” “CBS Sunday Morning,” “ABC News” and more.