Let me preface everything I write by saying: I could never have survived both of my children’s infancies and toddlerhoods without disposable diapers. I use plastic bags by the dozen on a daily basis, and I’d likely choose going to the movies over taking a hike in the forest.
But I’ve also become incredibly anxious ever since I saw the documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth,” about the seriousness of global warming and the undeniably horrific effects it will have on the earth we’re leaving to our children.
These children that we hold so dear, that we run ourselves ragged for, whose fragile psyches we painstakingly nurture, and whose college tuitions we save for as soon as they’re safely out of the womb – well, if we’re not careful, all that planning will not mean much if the world they’re living in is physically depleted of its natural resources, and their main concern is not about what type of career to pursue, but rather, their basic survival.
BUT – and this is a big but – right now we have a chance to keep global warming’s effects at bay. So, before I get off my soapbox, I want to make you aware of the abundance of eco-friendly activities offered in the area for the rare weekend you and your kids have no plans.
These activities will kick-start your kids’ understanding of their unique role in preserving the environment. Even if you don’t consider yourself a “crunchy granola” backpacker type, most of these activities are fun, FREE and a great way to spend time with your kids and in the process educate them about our sacred planet.
STATEN ISLAND GREENBELT
This borough of ours is host to 2,800 acres of unspoiled woodlands, wetlands and meadows, which are just waiting to be discovered by little fingers and traversed by soft-soled Robeez shoes.
The Staten Island Greenbelt features over 35 miles of marked hiking trails that are accessible from the Greenbelt Nature Center. The trails are marked with color-coded symbols to help guide people from start to finish so they don’t get lost. Check out the visitor’s center, from which point you can access all the hiking trails and participate in interactive workshops.
Address: The Greenbelt Nature Center, 700 Rockland Ave.
Admission: Free or a nominal fee.
Age appeal: Infants and up.
What kids will go gaga for this weekend: Weekend Warriors: 10am All ages. There is a war against weeds, and we would love to enlist you in the battle. Help us spruce up the grounds of the Greenbelt Nature Center at the peak of the growing season and keep things lush, green, and healthy. Bring water and a snack. Community service credit available. Registration required. Phone or e-mail
Parent perks: 90 percent of these activities are free, you don’t need to trek upstate to get your kids outdoors in the natural environment, and you might actually enjoy yourself!
Drawbacks: Most of these activities are on the weekends and require pre-registration (so get on the phone and register!)
Overall: Walking through the woods with your child is an incredible bonding experience; you can explore, listen and hear new things together. Or, you can use your imaginations, and pretend you’re in a jungle, and develop a whole imaginative story with your child.
Information: 718-351-3450, www.sigreenbelt.org.
URBAN PARK RANGERSIn almost every flagship park in New York City, you can find the Urban Rangers dressed in their signature Indiana Jones wide-brimmed khaki hats and green pants. Their mission is simple: to teach us urbanites to appreciate the fragile ecosystem present in our parks by providing us with beginner canoe paddling lessons at the Willowbrook Pond, sending us all over the parks for scavenger hunts and serving up edible insects.
Address The Urban Park Rangers can be found in Blue Heron Park, High Rock Park, Marine Park, Prospect Park, Central Park, Van Cortlandt Park and Pelham Bay Park.
Admission: Free, or a nominal fee.
Age appeal: Toddlers and up.
What kids will go gaga for: Being outdoors wiht their parents!
Parent perks: Activities are usually free and parents can often drop in at the spur-of-the-moment programs; no registration is required.
Drawbacks: Getting your kids psyched to go on a hike or get in a canoe can be a bit daunting, but after just one try, they’ll be begging for more. Also, a lot of programs are only on the weekends.
Overall: So few things in New York City are low-cost, especially when it comes to entertaining our kids, so take advantage of these activities!
Information Call 866-692-4295 or visit the Web at www.nycgovparks.org/sub_about/parks_divisions/urban_park_rangers. Download a copy of its publication: “Outdoors in NYC” which includes all its free activities.
AT HOME: Here are some activities you can do with your kids in your own back yard, literally.
Recycle: Don’t just tell your kids to recycle newspapers and bottles, but help them find uses for old things rather than disposing of them. Use things like old greeting cards and wrapping paper for art crafts, and empty coffee canisters for your kids’ toys.Build a bird feeder
Teaching your kids to nurture other living creatures is another great way to get them involved in the world around them. My kids LOVE to watch the birds flock to our makeshift feeder and always remind me when it’s time to refill the seed.
To make, you’ll need pine cones, peanut butter, margarine, yarn or wire.
Tie or twist the yarn or wire onto the pine cone for the hanger. Mix one part peanut butter to one part margarine. Spread the peanut butter and margarine mixture onto the pine cone.
Pour some bird seed onto a plate or shallow dish and roll the pine cone in it. Place the seed-covered pine cones in the freezer for about an hour or until it is set. Hang outside!
For more fun “green” activities, check out www.epa.gov/water/kids.html.