Even for children, Christmas gifts don’t all have to be about the toys. You can get them plenty excited about experiences, or special times with their families. Think about the experiences you and your family could share that will help your children to continue to grow and love the environment.
I’ll try to avoid experiences that absolutely require travel out of your local area. The idea here is things that will be very affordable with minimal concerns for the impact of doing them. It’s for parents who are trying to encourage green behavior, after all!
1. Zoo passes.
Not everyone likes zoos, but modern ones do a lot of work toward conservation and have helped to keep certain species alive.
The best zoos to get passes for, of course, are the ones that have modern cages that put some serious effort into making life comfortable and interesting for the animals. I remember going to the San Diego Zoo as a child, when the cages were pretty dull for the animals. These days they are much more complex, with appropriate scenery for many animals, and lots for them to do. They’re also far more beautiful than the old style. They’re still working on improvements too.
2. Snorkling or SCUBA diving.
You can often rent rather than buy equipment if you aren’t going to be doing this regularly. This would be great fun for kids who really love the ocean.
3. Visit to local nature centers.
The availability of nature centers may vary widely by where you live. I can think of a few nature preserves in my area. Some are free to get into while others do charge a small fee.
These can be great for hiking, and some may include educational literature so you can learn about the wildlife your family is seeing.
4. Camping trips.
Whether you go to a National Park or a local campground, camping is a great time to get in touch with nature. If your child has a favorite place to go camping, make up a gift certificate for a trip there at an appropriate time of year.
Pick them by the space you have. Even an apartment can often support an herb garden in the kitchen window, patio or balcony.
My kids love learning about herbs, and during the growing season know which plants they are allowed to pick leaves from to eat, and which they must ask first… plus, of course, which plants they simply may not touch at all. You do have to be careful about the eating part with young children, and emphasize the rule that they have to ask about specific plants, not just what they think the leaves look like.
If you have the space, a back yard garden is great for the entire family. Growing vegetables in your home garden is a great way to get superior quality produce.
Don’t forget appropriately sized garden tools. You can get a decent quality of tool for children too.
You may have to pick up some binoculars for this if you don’t have them already. You can spend quite a bit or just get an inexpensive pair appropriate for a child’s use. A book on bird identification can be helpful as well.
If you’re lucky, this can be done in your back yard. If not, start keeping an eye on local parks, fields and nature centers where you might get to see some interesting birds.
7. A Library Card.
Sure, you should have one already for your kids, but if not, get one and commit to going to the library regularly! Free access to books and even movies at many libraries. And all it costs is time.