Sustainable summer: 5 Earth-friendly ideas for keeping kids entertained

Allecia Vermillion

Summer demands activities to keep kids from defaulting to television or video games while the sun shines outside. A summer spent flopping around the living room certainly isn’t stimulating for kids. Getting children out of the house also helps parents minimize air conditioner use and keep summer energy bills under control. Here are some ways to get kids off the couch this summer.

Plant a garden

Vegetable gardens are increasingly popular among families interested in local, high-quality produce. It’s a big undertaking for just one person, so make it a family project. Depending on your climate, crops like spinach, lettuce, carrots, cauliflower and corn can be planted during summertime. Contact your local university extension office for planting tips specific to your area.

Head to the library

The library is much more than a place to keep quiet. It’s still an excellent resource for books — and air conditioning. But most local systems, as well as local park districts, offer a wealth of activities for kids of all ages. Check out your library’s schedule for concerts, readings, craft activities, even day camps. But don’t forget to take advantage of everyday resources as well. Help your kids research the history of your house, your ancestors, even how your street got its name.

Visit the farmers market — then get cooking

Compared with the grocery store, a farmers market is like an exploratorium for children, offering a chance to taste (and maybe even enjoy) unusual produce like kohlrabi, or bits of local honeycomb. Seeing food in its natural state, sold by the people who grow it, is also a powerful lesson in the origins of our meals.

Make the farmers market a weekly outing, but don’t let the experience end there. Enlist kids’ help in selecting seasonal recipes you can prepare together. Focus on cold salads, marinated vegetables for the grill, or other dishes that don’t require you to fire up the stove or oven.

Go for a bike ride

If your kids don’t have bicycles, it may be time to outfit each member of the family with his or her own set of wheels. Save money by finding used or outgrown bikes in the classifieds or from friends and neighbors.

Green summer camp

If the budget allows, summer camps can offer good times and an appreciation for nature that kids remember for a lifetime. The American Camp Association’s website,, offers a search feature to help you find age-appropriate programs that focus on environmental awareness.