HERE’S HOW TO BE ECO-FRIENDLY
photo credit: @forestmonster

We need to show our love for and protect and preserve our natural environment by being eco-friendly. Here are nine projects children can do at home.

Nature provides children with many learning experiences and activities. These nine eco-friendly projects will show children how to care for and love our earth.

Eggshell herb people

This eco-friendly project benefits your garden. What you need: empty eggshells with the tops removed; egg box; koki pens; potting soil; and seeds such as watercress or wheatgrass

What to do: Carefully remove the tops and inside from hard-boiled eggs, leaving an opening big enough to spoon the soil into the shell. Stand the shells in the egg box and draw faces on them. Fill each with a few teaspoons of soil and then sprinkle seeds into each shell. Cover lightly with a little more soil. Water gently. When the seeds start to sprout your eggshell people will look as though they’re growing hair. When the herbs grow too big, simply crumble the eggshell and plant the herbs in a bigger container or in the garden.

Miniature garden

A terrarium is a closed environment that allows you to create your own little eco-friendly ecosystem – rain forest or desert, whichever you prefer.

What you need: empty two-litre plastic cold drink bottle with lid; small plants (miniature ferns, African violets and small palms work well); potting soil

What to do: Remove the label from the bottle and clean the inside and cap well. Cut the bottle near the bottom (where the label used to be). Fill the base with soil and plant your plants. Place the cap on the bottle and wedge the upper half of the bottle onto the base (you may have to play around a bit to get it to fit). Place your terrarium in a sunny spot and water your plants as needed. You can also place coloured glass, rocks, toy dinosaurs or fairies inside the bottle before sealing it. Then watch your terrarium turn into a mini wonderland as your plants grow.

Shoebox Zen garden

An eco-friendly project that is also beautiful and has a calming effect. Zen gardens originated in Japan where they’re made with sand or gravel, which is raked into beautiful patterns. The shoebox version is a great way to display special holiday treasures such as shells and pebbles.

What you need: shoebox lid; fine sand (such as sandpit sand); pebbles, small rocks, shells; and a plastic fork

What to do: Fill the shoebox lid with sand. Arrange the pebbles and shells in the lid. Now use the plastic fork to rake patterns in the sand. The raking has a way of quieting the mind.

Portable mini-golf vourse

Mini golf is also called putt-putt, crazy golf, goofy golf or adventure golf. Whatever you call it, you’re sure to have loads of fun creating and mastering your very own miniature course, while reusing materials that would normally end up in the waste basket.

What you need: 9 x two-litre plastic cold drink bottles; coloured electrical tape; and permanent marker

What to do: Remove the labels and cut off the bottom of the bottles. Cut an arched hole at the base of each bottle (approximately 8cm x 8cm). Use coloured tape and permanent markers to decorate and number the bottles from one to nine.

Place the bottles in the garden and use your imagination to create a great mini-golf course, right in your own garden, by using logs, rocks or pot plants.

Pinhole camera

The first camera was invented over 2 000 years ago. It was a very simple device using a box, a pinhole and light to create an image. You can recreate the simple camera using simple household items.

What you need: a cardboard tube (like the kind crisps come in); wax paper; an elastic band; a drawing pin; and tin foil or thick black cardboard

What to do: Make a hole in the centre bottom of the tube using the drawing pin. Cut a piece of wax paper big enough to cover the opening of the container. Wrap the wax paper over the top of the tube and stretch the elastic band around the opening of the container to secure the wax paper in place. Wrap a sheet of tin foil or thick black cardboard around the camera to keep the light out.

Stand in a dark room and point the bottom of the container out of the window, making sure that it’s pointing at a brightly lit object. When you look at the wax paper, the scene reflected through the pinhole will appear upside down.

Growing cards

This is an eco-friendly way to beautify your garden. Plant these cards in the ground and watch them turn into flowers.

What you need: 1.5 cups of newspaper torn into 2.5 centimetre strips; bowl of warm water; masking tape; baking tray; piece of fine wire mesh as a screen (window mesh works well, just make sure that the piece is slightly smaller than your baking tray); seeds such as marigold or lobelia; and a towel

What to do: Place the strips of newspaper in the bowl of warm water and soak them overnight. Fold strips of masking tape around the edges of the wire mesh to make it easier to handle. Mix the mushy paper well, gradually adding fresh water until the mixture looks like a creamy soup (you can use a blender if you like). Add water to the baking tray until it’s a quarter full, then pour in your paper mixture. Add the flower seeds and mix well with your hands. Slip the screen into the pan so that it slides under the pulp and seeds. Lift the screen gently and make sure that you catch the pulp mixture in an even layer on top and allow the water to drain off. Lay the screen on a towel and let your paper dry for at least 24 hours. When your paper is completely dry, gently remove it from the screen. You can add a drop of food colouring to the mixture to make different coloured paper. Write a message on the cards and you have a note and a gift all rolled into one.

Compost bin

Your children will need adult help with the drilling.

What you need: 20–25 litre plastic storage box with lid; craft paint; power drill; clear varnish; and soil

What to do: Drill 1cm holes along both long edges of the bin (holes should be about 3cm apart). Cut holes in two opposite corners at the bottom of the bin (1cm wide x 3cm). Decorate your compost bin. Paint bright flowers and leaves, or paint the word compost as a daisy chain. You can also create fingerprint insects like ladybirds. Once you’ve finished decorating your bin, spray the varnish onto the bin. Allow it to dry and then give it two more coats. When your bin is finished, line the inside with a layer of soil and some dry leaves and you’re ready to start composting. Vegetable peels and fruit scraps are best for making compost. This is a truly eco-friendly project as it has long-term benefits for your garden soil and plants.

Solar oven

Most of the earth’s energy comes from the sun. You can use this energy to create your own solar oven, which can heat up to 200 degrees Celsius on a sunny day.

What you need: empty pizza box; tin foil; plastic cling wrap; thick black cardboard; and a stick or dowel

What to do: Make a flap in the lid of the pizza box by cutting along three sides, leave a 2cm rim between the flap and the edge of the box. Fold the flap over so that it stands up when the box lid is closed. Cover the inside of the flap with tin foil (shiny side up) so that it can reflect the sun’s rays. Open the box and tape a double layer of cling wrap securely over the opening you cut for the flap. Make sure that it’s airtight. Line the bottom of the box with tin foil (shiny side up) and cover it with thick black cardboard. Take your oven to a sunny spot and adjust the flap so that it reflects lots of sunlight through the plastic window. Use your stick or dowel to prop your flap open at a right angle.

Now try melting some cheese on toast. Get creative by adding tomatoes, fresh herbs or even pineapple and mushrooms.

Junkyard vegetable garden

What you need: old containers such as yoghurt pots, mugs with broken handles, old buckets, colanders, even old tyres or a wheelbarrow; vegetable seeds (onions, lettuce, carrots and tomatoes grow well from seeds); old wooden spoons; craft paint and koki pens; potting soil; and compost

What to do: Decorate your wooden spoons and write on the name of the vegetables. Place potting soil and compost in your containers. Sprinkle the seeds on top and then cover lightly with soil. Plant your wooden spoons in the containers and then arrange the containers to form a pleasing configuration. Remember to water your seeds and wait patiently for your vegetables to start growing.

Apart from these eco-friendly projects, you can show your love and appreciation for earth by recycling or upcycling when and where ever possible. And, find out why it is important to be a green parent.

Chareen Boake