April marks the return of spring. And with it comes a plethora of holidays and observances that focus on health awareness, the arts and reading, and community service. Some are month-long observances with regional events throughout the country. Others are week-long celebrations centered around a theme. And still, other April days mark national holidays that note the arrival of spring's new growth. Each one of these observances provides an opportunity for a special family outing. Just pick a day that works with your schedule, check your community calendar for local events (or plan a festivity of your own), and rustle up the posse for an activity centered around a day that reinforces family values.
Autism Awareness Month
Autism, one of the fastest growing developmental difficulties, makes its statement in April. Sponsored by the Autism Society, National Autism Month focuses on autism awareness and inclusion for all. Whether it's a brother, a cousin, or a friend of a friend, we all know someone on the autism spectrum and this national awareness provides an opportunity to teach kids that difficulties don't have to be disabilities. Have them "Light it Up Blue" on April 2 by wearing blue and taking a selfie. Then, share it on social media to express your support for families with autistic members.
National Garden Month
Did you know that cultivating a garden eases stress and actually makes you happier? Plus, growing your own food instills healthy practices in your kids. This year, celebrate National Garden Month by starting and planting your own garden. Let your kids pick out their favorite veggies to grow, and then attend a gardening workshop at your local nursery to learn the tricks of the trade. If you don't have the space for a garden this year, volunteer in your kid's school garden instead (if your local school has one) or purchase a few pots to grow a beautiful container garden on your front porch.
National Poetry Month
Inaugurated by the Academy of American Poets in 1996, National Poetry Month is one of the largest literary celebrations in the world. Schools, libraries, bookstores, and publishers all join in on the fun by hosting poetry events, teachings, and workshops. And poetry doesn't have to be taught in school. This April, have your kids chalk a few poems on the sidewalk, slip a printed poem into each of their lunchboxes, or organize a family outing around a poetry reading at your local library. Prelude the reading with dinner and top it off with a trip to an ice cream parlor.
National Volunteer Week
Held annually each April, national volunteer week celebrates the impact service can have on an individual or a community. The #ivolunteer campaign, hosted by Points of Light, urges people to create a signboard displaying the reasons why they volunteer, and then share it on social media. Volunteering in a highway or town cleanup, delivering food to those in need, walking a dog for your local pound, and visiting a nursing home are all ways you can provide service as a family. Then, shout out your good deed on Facebook.
April Fool's Day
Around the turn of the 16th century, the French moved New Year's Day from April 1st to January 1st. Some say the origins of this light-hearted holiday—April Fool's Day (or All Fool's Day)—centered on those who refused to accept the new date. They were called "April fools." Today, April Fool's Day is a good time to play pranks or tricks on your loved ones. And kids absolutely love this day! So play a few tricks on them—like turning their cereal milk blue with food coloring—and then watch out for the mischief to come back your way.
If you live in New England, you may spend Patriot's Day attending, or even participating in, the Boston Marathon. This historical holiday celebrated on the third Monday of April commemorates the Battles of Lexington and Concord, which started the Revolutionary War in 1775 and marked the first step toward American independence. Traditionally, sporting events are hosted on this day, especially in New England, where most schools give kids the day off. Why not run a marathon together or participate in a family Tough Mudder? Whatever you do, get outside and exercise.
What started as an earth-conscious gesture has now become a national holiday and a full-blown environmental movement. Held each year on April 22 (but really, "every day is Earth Day"), this is a good day to plant trees in a community park, clean up plastic on the beach, bicycle to school, work, or a local Earth Day event, or hold a yard sale where proceeds go to a school or local nonprofit. Artsy types can even teach an earth-centric craft project in your kid's classroom. Teachers usually welcome any parental involvement.
The last Friday in April sounds like a great day to plant a tree, right? Well, the Arbor Day Foundation certainly thinks so. This day celebrates trees and how they filter our clean air, slow climate change, provide habitat to birds and animals, and supply oxygen through their photosynthesis process. Check your community calendar on Arbor Day and attend a tree-planting event with your family. Chances are, the children will learn something new and you will help beautify your own town in the process.