REDUCE! REUSE! RECYCLE! This Earth Day TALK, READ, PLAY theme is filled with learning opportunities for you and your child that will last long beyond Earth Day – which really is what Earth Day is all about, right? 

One of my favorite things to do with kiddos around Earth Day is ‘Trash to Treasure Arts & Crafts’ – REUSE discarded objects by making them into a new craft. This activity stretches their creativity, builds their critical thinking skills, is a chance for us to follow their leads and help grow their vocabulary with some great conversations, and (my favorite part) you can easily change it up depending on your child’s age and interests. 

Flexibility is important when interacting with kiddos and choosing learning activities. In fact, experts encourage us to fill our child’s days with responsive interactions – that is, we need to get into their world. Notice their signals, pay attention to what they’re interested in, and respond when they express those interests (experts call this tuning-in). Responsive interactions are all the verbal and nonverbal communication that goes back-and-forth between us (experts call this serve-and-return exchanges). These types of interactions are important to our loving relationships with them and to their learning. 

When filling our child’s day with responsive interactions, it’s important to remember that their signals and interests seem to change all the time – kind of the point of these early years, right? Every child gives us signals, or cues, that communicate their wants and needs – and they are very good at expressing those wants and needs long before they can talk. Infants might tell us what they need, want, like and don’t like by crying, cooing, smiling, kicking their legs, swinging their arms, and making eye-contact. Young toddlers might do all those things and also rely more on pointing and using words. Older toddlers and preschoolers continue to build those skills and are able to use more and more words and sentences to express themselves. 

Use these tips to practice responsive interactions as you TALK READ and PLAY with your child:

  • Tune in. Pay attention to what your child is doing, feeling or looking at and make a connection to it – “I see you looking at that crumpled piece of paper. What do you want to do with it?”
  • Ask questions and give them a chance to respond. Respond to their verbal and nonverbal answers by repeating or putting words to it – “What do you want to do with that crumpled piece of paper? (pause) Ooh, you want to grab it.”
  • Narrate. Playing sports-broadcaster is a great way to practice tuning in to their cues and start a conversation – “Oh, the sound of the recycling truck really startled you! You jumped when you heard the loud noise it made when it picked up our recyclables. Now you’re watching it go to the next house.”
  • Use facial expressions, gestures, eye-contact and gentle touch in your interactions. These can help your child understand what you’re saying.

The ‘Trash to Treasure Arts & Craft’ activity is a great Earth Day activity that you can use to share the importance of REDUCE! REUSE! RECYCLE! and practice some responsive interactions. For infants and toddlers, pre-select some discarded magazines or catalogues they can choose from, have fun tearing up the pages with them, help them glue the torn scraps into a colorful masterpiece, and be sure to talk with them throughout. Not sure what to say? Play sports broadcaster and narrate what they’re doing, seeing, feeling and choosing. Ask older kids open-ended questions about what they want to create (a robot, a self-portrait, a purse) as you rummage the recycle bin or a clean pile of discarded items together (like, “How can we use this cereal box in our creation?” or “What will you keep in your purse?”) and then help their ideas bloom into something amazing! 

‘Trash to Treasure Arts & Crafts’ not your jam or looking for other ways to make the most of Earth Day with your kiddo? Check out the other TALK READ PLAY suggestions in our REDUCE! REUSE! RECYCLE! theme. Whatever learning opportunity you choose, have fun as you REDUCE! REUSE! RECYCLE! and be RESPONSIVE!

We’d love to see what you and your kid create together! Hop over to the Cox Campus Community Discussion to share with us and other families.

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