10 kid-friendly activities to celebrate Earth Day

Families can pick up a sapling to take home and plant during “Party for the Planet” at the Brookfield Zoo.

Families can pick up a sapling to take home and plant during “Party for the Planet” at the Brookfield Zoo. Photo: Courtesy Brookfield Zoo

Friday, April 20

Wishes for Fishes
Shedd Aquarium, 1200 S Lake Shore Dr (312-939-2438, sheddaquarium.org). 6pm; $65, members $60.
Come sleep with the fishes at the Shedd’s family overnight, which takes on an Earth Day theme this year. Families can expect themed presentations, animal encounters, dinner and breakfast, gallery activities and a DJ for dancing. Kids must be at least 5 years old to spend the night; an evening-only option is available. For more info, contact families@sheddaquarium.org or call 312-692-3333.

Saturday, April 21

Earth Day Concert: Children of the Earth with Joe Reilly
The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, 2430 N Cannon Dr (773-755-5100, naturemuseum.org). 11am; $15, kids $10.
Singer, songwriter, environmental educator and Ann Arbor native Joe Reilly engages kids with his interactive musical program, Children of the Earth, just in time for Earth Day. Registration recommended; contact familyprograms@naturemuseum.org or call 773-755-5100 for more information.

Start Plants from Seed with Your Family
The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, 2430 N Cannon Dr (773-755-5100, naturemuseum.org). 10am–2pm; free with museum admission ($9, students and seniors $7, kids ages 3–12 $6, under 3 free).
Get into the spirit of Earth Day by joining the Urban Habitat Chicago crew at the Notebaert’s germination station. Caregivers and their little buds learn together how to get a seed to sprout right; take home a seedling to nurture into summer maturity.

3rd Annual 5K for Earth Day
Humboldt Park, 1440 N Sacramento Ave (312-742-7549, chicagoparkdistrict.com). 8am; $30 ($35 race day), kids ages 11–18 $20 ($25 race day), kids 10 and under free.
Roadrunners ages 11 to 18 can hit the pavement with Mom and Dad at this solar energy–powered race and family festival that includes a 100-yard dash for sprinters of all ages. Register online through April 18. Race day registration begins at 7am at the Humboldt Park boat house. Visit earthday5kchicago.com for more information.

Sunday, April 22

“Bikes! The Green Revolution”
The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, 2430 N Cannon Dr (773-755-5100, naturemuseum.org). 9am–5pm; $9, kids ages 3–12 $6, seniors and students $7, Thursdays by donation. Visit also Friday or Saturday.
In support of a bike-friendly Chicago for all, the Notebaert produced this homage to pedal power on two wheels. The exhibition looks at the past, present and future of “America’s most democratic and sustainable form of transportation.” Among the highlights on display are a two-story “Franken-bike” and a 19th-century “penny-farthing,” those old-timey cycles with giant front and tiny rear wheels. Tours and other bike-related events are also in the mix; check the museum’s website for details.

Earth Day Ice Cream Social
Greenheart Shop, 1911 W Division St (312-264-1625, greenheartshop.org). Noon–5pm; free.
The nonprofit shop celebrates Earth Day with certified fair trade root beer and vanilla ice creams, fizzing up the most socially responsible, eco-friendly free floats you’ll ever suck down. Visitors also receive 30 percent off the store’s Lolita collection, a line of hand-painted dishes by artists from the Kashmir region of India.

Emily Oaks Nature Center Earth Day Celebration
Emily Oaks Nature Center, 4650 Brummel St, Skokie (847-677-7001, skokieparks.org). Noon; free.
The maypole is up and ready for the run-around at Skokie’s 13-acre oasis. Walk the grounds with an eye out for swallows and other seasonal birds, smell spring flowers, make a May basket, enjoy a parade and more. Find further details online at skokieparks.org.

Party for the Planet
Brookfield Zoo, 3300 Golf Rd, Brookfield (708-688-8000, czs.org). 10am–4pm; free with general admission ($15, kids ages 3–11 and seniors 65 and older $10.50, kids 2 and under free). $10 parking.
It’s an Earth Day celebration so dance until you drop to the “recycled” tunes of Green 13. Also: Tour the zoo’s Eco Expo, catch high-flying stunt demonstrations from Chicago Kite enthusiasts, enjoy a Zoo Chat, plant a tree and learn about composting and organic cooking. Surely you’ve got some old cell phones, mp3 players, laptops and other gadgetry lying around the house; bring ’em along for environmentally responsible recycling.

Picnic for the Planet
Shedd Aquarium South Terrace, 1200 S Lakeshore Dr (nature.org/ourinitiatives/regions). 9am–6pm; $8–$35, kids ages 3–11 $6–$26.
For Earth Day, you can taste Mother Nature’s fruits at Shedd’s Picnic for a Planet. The aquarium joins the Nature Conservancy’s nationwide effort to clinch the Guinness World Records title for the largest 24-hour outdoor eating extravaganza. At 11:30am, make a beeline for the patio, where staffers give hourly chats about their work and pass out samples of foods beloved by both humans and their wildlife brethren. Be forewarned: We’ve seen this institution filled to capacity on weekends.

“Restoring Earth.”
The Field Museum, 1400 S Lake Shore Dr (312-924-9410, fieldmuseum.org). 9am–5pm; $29, $24 students and seniors, $20 kids ages 3–11. Visit also Friday or Saturday.
For this new permanent exhibit, Field staffers worked with its scientists—including conservationists in Chicago—to educate museum-goers about biodiversity and conservation practices. Watch videos of scientists starting contained fires in prairie habitats, discovering previously unknown specimens and going on helicopter drop-downs in the Peruvian rain forest. Bonus: The displays in “Restoring Earth” are made from planet-friendly materials. Read our full review with photos here.

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Laura Baginski, Editor (@TimeOutChicago)