We can all agree that self-isolating with our families is a small price to pay for helping slow a global pandemic. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Parents around the world have suddenly found themselves thrust into the role of teachers and daycare specialists—basically three-ring circus-masters—often while trying to work from home (or worse, worrying about the financial fall-out of lost work).
This mother of four made us laugh with her comic shriek about the unrealistic expectations of distance learning; meanwhile, educators—all of them finally being recognized as the heroes they are—have had to invent a new way of teaching overnight. Whether you’re working at home or not working at all, whether your child is engaged in remote schooling or left at loose ends—it’s all massively stressful.
The Rainforest Alliance would like to first urge parents and guardians to be kind to themselves. Our primary responsibility to our children is not to drill them in multiplication facts but to provide a sense of safety and security—and that’s not possible if we parents are stressed beyond our capacity. If ever there were a moment to not guilt-trip yourself over lax parenting, it’s now. There are worse things than handing over the iPad in the middle of a pandemic.
If you do want to sneak in some educational activities now and then, we’ve put together a short list of rainforest-related activities for kids. Some suggestions require adult guidance, while others may even let you take that shower you so desperately need—and with any luck, come out refreshed and ready to enjoy the peculiar pleasures of forced family time.
Rainforest facts and activities for the littlest explorers
An animal a day keeps the boredom away! We’ve compiled these kid-friendly fact pages about rainforest species, which happen to be some of the most awe-inspiring on Earth. Did you know, for example, that an African forest elephant has more than 100,000 muscles in its trunk alone? Or that the cries of a Black howler monkey—the loudest mammal in the Amazon—can be heard up to 3km away?
Let your child pick a rainforest species each day. Depending on the level of adult involvement possible and your child’s age, you might have children draw a picture of the animal and hang the masterpiece on the fridge; by the end of the week you’ll have a rainforest menagerie brightening the kitchen. Older kids can can google videos to hear the specific roars, squawks, and calls of their chosen species (educational screen time!) and create trivia cards. Making animal masks, shadow puppets, or playdough figures can help wile away the time, too. And there’s always coloring! Check out one of our many downloadable wildlife coloring pages.
Nickelodeon offers rainforest fun for middle-grade kids
We teamed up with Nickelodeon and the inspired minds at We are Teachers, who put together these fun educational resources for kindergarten through elementary school. But don’t let your kids be deterred by the word “educational”! The materials are not just for teachers. Our interactive printable flipbook for ages 8 to 10 certainly includes many fascinating facts, but it’s also just plain old fun. Each page visualizes a different layer of the rainforest, from the forest floor to the canopy’s highest treetops—and did we mention that it doubles as a coloring book?
You can also check out Nickelodeon’s nickHELPS.com for hours of entertainment. In addition to offerings like Sponge Bob’s hilarious tutorial on how to wash your hands properly, there are many quizzes, puzzles, and polls about the rainforest and the environment—including our #FollowTheFrog challenge. There could hardly be a better time to give children a sense of wonder and delight at the wider world, which may seem a little menacing right now.
Books: You can’t lock down the imagination
Luckily, there is no lockdown on our imaginations—and, if you ask us, there is nothing quite like a book to set young minds alight. Check out our free Rainforest Short Stories series and introduce your kids to young characters like Clara, whose parents grow coffee in the mountains of Colombia. Our friends at We Are Teachers have put together this amazing list of rainforest-related books, which range from picture books for the very young to research resources to species-specific books. (Goliath beetles, anyone?)
And in case you haven’t heard, the digital audiobook provider Audible has made hundreds of its titles completely free for as long as schools are closed during the coronavirus crisis. Just download, press play, and bask in the calm of story-time. We especially love some of the nature-themed books like Kevin Kurtz’s “A Day in a Forested Wetland,” which is ideal for the littlest listeners. For older kids, we’re already obsessed with Katherine Krull’s magnificent “Giants of Science” series, which includes familiar names like Marie Curie and Leonardo Da Vinci.
Pick and choose: Our environmental curricula for schools
OK, we promised not to pressure you to play teacher, but you’ll have to agree, once you take a look at our free pre-kindergarten through eighth grade environmental curricula (ages 3 to 14), that there’s something here for everyone. Kindergarteners (ages 3-5), can explore the mystical oak forests of Cachalú, high in the Colombian Andes, where they will learn the difference between temperate and tropical forests. Fourth graders (ages 9-10) will discover the sweet science behind the most delicious thing to come from the rainforests of Latin America—chocolate! Meanwhile, older kids in the eighth grade can analyze maps to discover how the forests of Guatemala are changing and learn about the importance of protecting natural resources through sustainability.
Should you be inspired to homeschool, you’ll be happy to know that these lesson plans follow age-appropriate standards for English language, arts, mathematics, and science education. And each unit has been carefully designed to ensure that kids have fun while learning all about these precious ecosystems and the people and wildlife that call them home.
Guilt-free screen-time: Animated environmentalism
When you’re all out of steam or need a moment (or heck, just want a moment), go ahead and fire up the television or iPad. You can feel good about sharing these animated series and movies with your little ones: Dora the Explorer, who runs around the rainforest with a map (sharing a few words of Spanish along the way); The Wild Thornberrys, which charts the adventures of eleven-year-old Eliza Thornberry who can talk to animals; and Over the Hedge, which features a silly gang of animal pals fighting suburban sprawl. Don’t forget Frozen II, in which sisters Anna and Elsa learn the importance of living in harmony with nature—a theme near and dear to us here at the Rainforest Alliance.