One day, when my son was about 6 years old, we were driving down the road and stopped at a red light. Along the side of the road there was a new building being built and I commented “I wonder what they are building there”. My son answered me “Probably something we don’t need”. I had to chuckle at that and it really hit home at that exact moment that my kids learn from the things I do and say. As a small town girl moved to the big city I am often appalled by the number of nail salons, dry cleaners, and dollar stores along every road in this city. Many times I have commented (obviously in front of my children!) that there is no way we need another store when we have too many strip malls already. Children learn what we as parents teach them and if there is any hope for the survival of this planet it has to come from our children. How can we teach them how to care for the environment and be mindful of their carbon footprint if we as adults do not lead by example? If you want to help raise a generation of Eco-conscious children, I hope you will read through these tips for teaching kids about the environment and begin practicing a few of them in your own home. Remember, making changes in your own lives helps ensure that your great grandchildren have a planet to call home in the future!
Tips for Teaching Kids about the Environment
1. Go for a nature walk: If your children are never outside learning to appreciate the beauty and frailty of nature, they will have no reason to protect it when they get older. Teach your children about the types of flowers, trees, and animals that are living in your local area. Bring a bird book and binoculars and try to identify the type of birds in your neighborhood. Collect leaves to study online and bring home rocks to look at with a magnifying glass. Encourage your children to explore nature and maybe this life long passion will create biologists with a passion for preserving nature when they get older!
2. Plant a garden with them. Teach your children about how our food is grown and let them explore the soil it grows in. Explain the importance of earth worms and honey bees. Get out a globe and show them how far away South Africa really is and suggest looking for food that is grown a little closer to home. Teaching children how our food system effects the environment is extremely important. Once you bring your harvest inside, make sure you get your kids into the kitchen to help you create dinner.
3. Put your child in charge of recycling. Taking the recycling from the kitchen out to the recycle bin is an easy chore for small children. It will also start them on a life long road to reducing their carbon footprint. Teaching children that we reuse, reduce and recycle as often as possible will help ensure that the future generation is a bit more conscious of how much stuff they are sending off to the landfills.
4. Check out some eco friendly crafts: Children love crafts and hands on learning is often the most fun and the most memorable. You can make seed balls to help beautify an empty lot or make a bird feeder out of an old tin can. Explain to your children the benefits of making something new from something old. Ask your child what sort of things they can think to do with an old yogurt container. You might be surprised what they come up with! We made yogurt cup bracelets out of a few of ours.
5. Choose media with an eco friendly message! There are tons of books and movies nowadays that have a green theme to them. Encourage your child’s love of the environment by showing them how to reduce their carbon footprint in ways they will really understand. Children’s books, movies and cartoons really catch their attention and choosing books and movies with a green message will help a lot in their understanding of environmental issues.
While it may seem like we have so many responsibilities as parents, it really is important that we make time for teaching kids about the environment. We have only been given ONE planet on which to live and it makes sense to take care of it the best we can!
Do you have other tips for teaching kids about the environment? Please share!