Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Kids' outdoor fun can be eco-friendly

The warm weather is tailor made for children who want to enjoy some fun in the sun. As the kids get ready for summer, parents can find activities that are fun and beneficial to the environment.

Consider the activities that fill warm days: Pool parties, water balloon tosses, bicycle riding, and afternoons spent on a swing set are just a few ideas that come to mind. Small changes can add up to big benefits for the planet.

* Bye, bye balloons:What's more fun that getting sprayed with cold water on a hot day? Instead of purchasing disposable latex balloons that will end up in the trash after the first pop, look for reusable absorbent balls that can be dipped into a bucket and then tossed to a partner. When he or she catches the ball, splashes of water will fly out.

* Pool vs. sprinkler: Sure it's fun running through an icy-cold sprinkler, but leaving a sprinkler running for a while is a waste of water. Plus, it can drown surrounding plants and other landscaping items. Instead, take a dip in the pool or fill up a child-sized pool and later use the water to give a drink to potted plants.

* Go safe with swing sets: Safety is often the name of the game when erecting a swing set in the yard. It's a good idea to surround the ground surface with a material that will cushion falls. There are mulches and rubber pellets for this purpose, but these may be treated with chemicals and not be good for the environment. See if a local lumberyard or building supply store can drop sand in the area. It's all-natural and can be a good shock absorber.

* Recycle toys: While on the subject of swing sets and play materials, check out consignment shops or tag sales for gently used play items rather than brand new toys. Or initiate a toy swap in the neighborhood where once a year neighbors swap toys with one another so the kids have something "new"to play with.

* Jump on a bike: Bicycles remain one of the greenest modes of transportation. Children clamoring for a new bike this season may be pleasantly surprised at how well a used bike or a hand-me-down may ride and look. Sometimes all it takes is a little elbow grease to tune up a tired bike.

* Enjoy nature: Instead of plastic toys and electronics, kids with creative imaginations can turn items outdoors into nice play props. Twigs can serve as dueling swords while rocks and leaves can be piled to make an impromptu fort or home base. Kids may enjoy themselves exploring parks and caves right in their own neighborhoods. Just be sure to stress the "carry in, carry out policy" whenever enjoying nature. That means not to leave trash behind and to disturb natural wildlife the least amount as possible.

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