Spring Yard Cleanup with the Kids for a Sustainable Summer

By Maureen Wise in Thinking Sustainably

Spring is here, but your backyard may need a little TLC before you unwind with some cucumber while your kids play nearby. You can ensure you’re protecting the environment while also getting your space ready for the warmer weather. Keep the planet in mind during your spring yard cleanup to make your relaxation even easier. With these ideas, you can get your kids involved to make it more fun!

Leave the Leaves

You haven’t mowed your grass for five months and haven’t raked the leaves in four. I know my yard is covered in leaves despite the huge piles we had in the fall. Instead of convincing your kids to rake all the leaves again, just mow over them, chopping the leaves into little bits. This will add nutrients into your soil and make your grass greener. Plus, it’s less work!

Play with Sticks

As a kid, I was never allowed to run with sticks. Now I’ve found an alternative use for sticks that doesn’t involve running: a makeshift fort! Have your kids collect all the sticks in your yard (while walking), and then use them to build tent-shaped forts before discarding them. Everyone gets to work together, and the kids are extra motivated to do the gathering!

If you’re planning to use a sheet as a cover, you only need four big sticks to create the structure of the tent. Build smaller tents for their favorite stuffed animals, dolls, or superheroes. When you’re done with your fort, break up the smaller sticks and add them to your compost pile. Larger sticks can be used for plant supports or garden edging.

Get the Gloves

Fun, patterned gloves can get kids excited about gardening.

Once your yard is cleaned up, it’s time to address the gardens. Mud is inevitable when teaching sustainable gardening for kids, so I recommend each member of your household get his or her own special set of gardening gloves. This helps to get your kids invested, especially if the gloves are printed with princesses or dinosaurs. While you’re picking out supplies at your local nursery, help your children choose their favorite flowers to plant in your garden, too.

Not All Mulch Is Created Equal

Locally sourced mulch is great for your garden.Now that your kids have gloves, they can help spread mulch. Before you begin, I’m here to tell you that not all mulch is the same. Mulch created by your local neighborhood lawn service company will be superior to whatever you can buy at a big box store. It’s made with local tree waste, doesn’t require plastic wrapping, and has a small transportation footprint. Supporting your local companies is a plus, too! Once they get over the smell, mulching can be really fun for kids. You can go the silly route and let them wear clothespins on their noses, or try some mindfulness exercises to help them accept (and even appreciate) the smell.

Compost Bin Tune Up

It’s not spring yard cleanup without yard scraps, and that means compost. My compost bin is never happy after the winter—it always needs some extra brown (the dry stuff) after months of mostly kitchen debris. Create a scavenger hunt by getting your kids to find tiny sticks, bark, crunched-up leaves, and small amounts of dead grass to add to the compost. Let them cheat by running inside to grab shredded newspaper and dryer lint (which can be added all winter but this is an educational exercise, right?).

Leftover Yard Waste

Even after the mulching, composting, and fort-building, you may still have some waste left in your yard, such as a holey hose or cracked plastic lawn chair. Why not get your kids involved in an upcycling project? Help them clean up a hose, and add some faux or dried flowers to create a wreath. Plastic lawn chair legs can be turned into trellises for your kids’ climbing flowers or plant markers in your veggie garden. This is one of the few times you want them to break something, so encourage them to really go to town.

What yard projects are you planning this spring? How do you help your compost bin recover from the winter? Who builds the best stick fort? Let us know @TomsofMaine!

Image sources: Maureen Wise | Flickr | Flickr

This article was brought to you by Tom’s of Maine. The views and opinions expressed by the author do not reflect the position of Tom’s of Maine.

Why It’s Good

Getting your kids involved with your yard cleanup after the winter will encourage them to help with home maintenance, understand the changes in seasons, and appreciate the outdoors more. By talking to them about the more environmentally friendly choices you're making in your yard work, you're instilling an even deeper love of nature.