By: Deborah Salazar Shapiro, MSW—
“The earth laughs in flowers,” said the American poet Ralph Waldo Emerson. I believe the earth not only laughs in flowers but also in trees, animals, fruits, and vegetables! Her generosity toward all of us is beyond compare. But can you remember the last time you connected with the joy, compassion, and abundance our planet gives us? Or the last time you invited your children to show appreciation as well? If the answer is no, you are not alone. Most of us are so consumed by our work, family life, and our never-ending to-do lists that there is very little room for anything else.
Luckily, once a year, on April 22nd, we have an opportunity to show our love and appreciation for our planet. A good way to start is by setting an intention with your children to take positive actions on that day that can contribute to the benefit of all living beings. An intention is a powerful guide to remind us what we want to achieve. Here are five ways to celebrate Earth Day with your children:
Spend the Day Outdoors
This sounds like a no-brainer, right? Okay, but what can you do differently on this special day? Consider taking a break from your electronics and social media for one day and invite the rest of your family to do the same. Discuss in advance that this will be a day to connect as a family and with the natural world and its beauty. Make a plan with your children to explore a place that you have never seen before. Perhaps a natural reserve, a lake, a different beach, a hiking trail, or a new park. Make it fun! If you’re excited, your children will be excited too.
Eat the Colors of the Rainbow
The food we consume can have a big impact on the health of our planet. For one day, if possible, avoid consuming processed foods and other items that have artificial flavors and colorings. Try a new vegetable or legume—ask your children to pick a food in every color of the rainbow. Or play a guessing game of how many colors of fruits and vegetables are available where you live. How many do you like and why? After eating “colorfully,” see if you and your children can notice how your body feels.
Express Your Gratitude to the Earth
This may feel awkward, because you’re probably not used to communicating with inanimate objects such as the food you eat or a beautiful flower or tree. That’s completely normal. Expressing our gratitude not only makes us feel joyful but also has the potential to help us develop respect and care toward animals or other living beings in nature. On Earth Day, you might encourage your children to take a brief pause and say “thank you” to the fruit or veggie they are going to eat, “thank you” to a tree, or even bow to show respect and appreciation for simply existing. How about hugging that tree? Some might think it’s too earthy-crunchy, but it feels so good!”
Ditch Plastic Objects
Plastic is everywhere! And it is affecting our animals and especially our oceans. We are so accustomed to using a wide range of plastic objects that we might not even know where to start in eliminating them from our lives. On Earth Day, start with one simple action, such as having a picnic with reusable utensils. Ask your children for their ideas and suggestions of how to cut back on plastic. For example, help them to be mindful of carrying reusable bags and bottles or refusing a plastic straw at a restaurant. Make a list together as a family and then implement your ideas over time.
Read an inspirational book to your children or watch a movie together that honors the earth. Even better, celebrate with a community or do your own ritual with your loved ones such as writing a letter or a prayer in which they send good wishes to the planet. Connect with your compassionate and loving heart. Guide your children to use their imagination to visualize the planet and all living beings thriving. Finally, join a green organization or take a pledge to protect our wild animals and our natural resources. Check out the National Geographic Society or the World Wildlife Fund, where you can make a symbolic “species adoption” that contributes to their conservation efforts.
By now, you might realize that these steps are things that you and your family can do on a regular basis, some even daily. Maybe you are already do. If so, I bow to you in gratitude. The beauty is that if all of us take a pledge or make a commitment to make simple changes that can benefit the earth and its living beings, together, we can all make a difference to honor and heal our planet.
Deborah Salazar Shapiro, MSW, is a psychotherapist, mindfulness teacher, author, and artist who was born and raised in San Salvador, El Salvador. She has been working with children and families for over 15 years. Deborah holds an MSW from the University of Southern California and a master’s-level degree in psychology from the University Dr. Jose Matias Delgado in San Salvador. She lives in San Diego, California with her husband, two daughters, and a wise cat named Thay. For more information, please visit www.DeborahSalazarShapiro.com and The Magical Mindful Day