Happy Earth Day!
It has been a while since I have written a blog post here at Tots and Toddlers, and I thought, what better day than today to share some tips for encouraging children to look after our planet?
As adults, we often struggle to think ofways to “do our bit” for the environment, so it isn’t surprising to think that most parents are not sure where to start when it comes to introducing the concept to their children. Today, I have put together 10 ideas to get you started.
- Use bins. Keeping litter off the ground and out of waterways helps protect animals, and even young children can be taught to put rubbish in the bin. As children get older, you can introduce the concept of recycling and compost.
- Respect nature. It is amazing to watch a butterfly on a leaf or peek into a bird’s nest, but touching can cause all sorts of problems. Teach children about safe and respectful ways of appreciating nature.
- Plant trees. Most children love to get outside and get messy. Digging, planting and watering are fun activities that you can do together, and you will have also played your part in replacing some of the many trees cut down each year for our use.
- Save energy (and water). Turning off lights, TVs and taps when they are not in use is a skill that can take a while to learn, but also one that is worth teaching. Sometimes role modelling yourself is all a child needs in order to pick it up, but a gentle reminder can help, too.
- Choose cloth nappies. I know you may think of this as not being the child’s choice. However, as they get older, children become more
independent and like to have a say in what they do and wear. Allowing children to choose gives them a sense of agency and builds their self-esteem, and giving them the information to make that choice sets them up for the future. Having a chat about reusing things (like nappies, for example) can lead to them making positive choices about sustainability as they grow up.
- Recycle bits and pieces for craft. Cardboard boxes, straws, bottle lids, Easter egg wrappers, greeting cards and ribbons are just some ideas of things that could be reused rather than thrown out.
- Set up some water catchments outside. Please note, this will require supervision for young children, as there is a drowning risk. Set up containers outside to catch rain water. They can serve as drinking water for animals outside, and can be used to water plants when needed.
- Create a worm farm. Your child can empty food scraps into it, collect the “juice” and help to water the plants with it (once it is diluted – they will probably need help form you for this).
- Repair things. Instead of throwing out broken toys, torn clothes, etc., see if they can be mended or turned into something new. Give children some tools to work with, teach them some basic skills if you are able, and watch them go!
- Teach and learn. Read books about the Earth, sustainability and the environment (there are some really great ones out there, both fiction and non-fiction). Talk about shopping local; recycling; saving energy; the environment; animals; people (and their different situations and ideas); walking rather than driving; the world; the past and the future. Discuss how things work and what could be changed. Empower children to make a difference. (Did you know that a 16-year-old girl from Egypt discovered a way to turn waster plastic into fuel?)
You don’t have to reinvent the wheel in order to help your child learn about their world. Often, role modelling is the best way to learn, so be mindful of your own choices, and be ready to answer questions (and look for answers, if need be) as they arise. Schools and Early Childhood Education services incorporate sustainability into their curriculum these days, so by opening up discussion you may even find yourself getting a lesson or two! Best of luck!