COVID-19

25 public interest challenges kids can do at home

By Danielle Melgar
Make It Toxic Free Campaign, Advocate

As people in my city and across the United States adapt to school and business closures and practice social distancing, we’re all looking for opportunities to do some good for our communities. So I asked my colleagues at U.S. PIRG to help me come up with a list of ideas, especially for kids who are out of school.

 

Help others in your community

  1. Make cards for people in nursing homes or neighbors who live alone.

  2. Write thank you letters to nurses, doctors, grocers, and other people in your community who are working hard to make sure we all stay healthy and have the supplies we need during this time.

  3. Make a jar for your household to collect spare change to donate to a good cause. Start with change you find around the house or out on walks--just remember to wash your hands after touching money. Make a plan to donate it to a food bank or other important cause when it fills up, or at the end of the year. 

  4. Build your own little free library with books from around the house that you don’t read.

Practice democracy

  1. Read the newspaper as a family, and discuss what’s going on in the world. Extra challenge for older kids: try this media literacy challenge.

  2. Hold an election--for what movie to watch, what park to visit, etc. Give everyone a chance to campaign. You can even try rank choice voting.

  3. Make a list of family members and friends who are old enough to vote and give them a call to make sure they’re registered to vote and have a plan to vote in their state’s primary and the upcoming general election.

  4. Write a letter to an elected official about an issue that you care about. Bonus: it’s great language arts practice for the day!

  5. Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper about an issue that you care about. How do you write a letter to the editor? Check out page 51 of this activist toolkit!

Fix your stuff

  1. Find something around the house that needs repairing and learn how to fix it instead of buying a replacement. Look for YouTube videos, or just experiment to figure it out on your own! Then talk with your family about how repair cuts waste.

  2. Learn about simple machines to start to understand how everyday items work. See if you can find all 6 types of simple machines in objects around your home!

  3. Learn how to sew on a button and use your new skill to repair coats or other items of clothing with missing buttons.

Make your home a safer place to live

  1. Plant a pollinator friendly garden, free of harmful pesticides. Look for these 21 plants that bees love!

  2. Learn about the problem of lead in drinking water, then take water samples from your faucets and send them to a lab to make sure your family’s water is safe from lead contamination.

  3. Learn about toxic chemicals that are commonly found in personal care products such as shampoo, deodorant, and sunscreen. Then, gather up the products you use and find the ones that list “fragrance” as an ingredient. Put those in one pile, and keep fragrance-free products in another pile. Take a picture and send it to us at toxicfree@pirg.org!

  4. If you are 6+, use a toilet paper tube to test for choking hazards around your house. Anything that can fit through the tube is a choking hazard. Make sure these items are put away somewhere that younger kids (under 6) can’t reach them.

Explore kid-friendly transportation

  1. Print a map of your neighborhood, then go on a walk or bike ride around and highlight places on the map where there isn’t a sidewalk or a bike lane. Then make a copy of your map and send it to an elected official with a letter asking them to put more sidewalks and bike lanes in your neighborhood.

  2. Learn bike hand signals to keep you safe while you ride.

  3. Write a letter to your school district officials asking them to adopt electric school buses.

Move toward zero waste

  1. Do a neighborhood litter cleanup (wear gloves!). See who can pick up the most stuff! 

  2. Make a “can we recycle that?” sign for your recycling bin.

  3. Make zero waste art using items from your recycling bin.

  4. Make a compost bin for your kitchen.

  5. Make reusable items for your household to use instead of single-use versions (e.g. your own beeswax wraps for food storage, reusable grocery bags made out of your old t-shirts, and your own produce bags for fruits and vegetables.)

  6. Learn about plastic pollution and the campaign to move beyond plastic. Then, write a letter to your school district officials and ask them to stop using plastic straws in school cafeterias.

 

BONUS: Take action to protect the environment

Check out Environment America’s list of 50 Environmental Activities Kids Can Do at Home!

 

If you document all the public interest activities you’re doing at home, be sure to tag U.S. PIRG on social media  and use the hashtag #publicinterestkids! 

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