Earth Day: Origin, Activities & Books for Children

Earth Day was founded by U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson in 1970 as a day to teach about the environment.  It is celebrated on April 22 in the U.S., and many countries around the world now celebrate Earth Day.  It occurs in the spring in the northern hemisphere and in the fall in the southern hemisphere.  In 1990, 200 million people around the world participated in Earth Day which boosted awareness about recycling.


  • Plant a small tree sapling at school or in the yard at home.
  • Have children plant seeds in Styrofoam cups and water them as needed.  When plants get big enough, tranplant outdoors.
  • Have a newspaper drive and have children bring newspapers.  Class or student that brings the most gets a certificate or some reward.
  • Have an aluminum can drive and have children bring soda cans that have been rinsed out with water.
  • Take a field trip to a recycling center.
  • Have a guest speaker from a recycling center.
  • Have children sign a pledge that they will turn off the water while brushing their teeth so they won’t waste water.
  • Collect used clothing to donate to a charity.
  • Have children bring items from home that aren’t used anymore (and might be thrown away).  Have a brainstorming session for ideas of ways to reuse the item in a different way.  Think “out of the box.”
  • Decorate a large box to use as a recycling container for paper.
  • Earth Day Birthday by Pattie Schnetzler contains activities for kids.
  • Earth Day Crafts by Carol Gnojewski.


  • Earth Day by Margaret McNamara.  Good for ages 4-6.  Child learns that even small ideas can help a lot.
  • Earth Day by Trudi Strain Trueit.  Good for ages 6-7.  Scholastic Books.
  • Earth Day by Linda Lowery.  Good for ages 7-9.  Tells about Earth Day in 1970 & 1990.  Discusses pollution, environmental destruction, and wasting of natural resources.
  • Earth Day – Hooray! by Stuart J. Murphy.  Good for ages 7-12.  Teaches how important it is to take care of the earth, whether by recycling cans or planting flowers.
  • Dora Celebrates Earth Day! (Dora the Explorer Series) by Emily Sollinger.  Good for ages 3-7.  Dora finds simple things to do at home that helps the planet.
  • Earth Day Birthday by Pattie Schnetzler.  Good for ages 4-10.  Can be read or sung to the “Twelve Days of Christmas” as it tells about 12 North American species in their natural habitats.  Includes suggestions for Earth Day activities.  Great illustrations!


  • RECYCLING / The Earth at Risk by Schlessinger Media.  Good for grades 5 and up.