As a parent who tries very hard to live simple and green, it important to me that my toddler learns the same. Sustainable living is all about ensuring that we create the least amount of impact on our environment while fulfilling our own needs and requirements. While it may seem tough or challenging to explain all of this to a preschooler or even, an older kid, it really isn’t so. In fact, if you use the right tools and ideas you can make sustainable living fun, interesting and educational for young children.
Here are some easy-to-do and fun ways to teach kids about sustainability and why it is important live in an earth-friendly way.
- Get Down and Dirty. Gardening is a great way for kids to learn about sustainable living. Give them a patch of their own to dig into, feel the earth, weed and plant. This will also teach them about being responsible since they’ll have to feed and water the plant as well. My toddler, like most toddlers, loves to get all messy and what better way to do that than have them dig around and learn how to be responsible for a plant. Even if you live in an apartment, like me, you can buy small flowerpots and grow herbs and flowers. Have your children paint and decorate the pots and take turns in digging and watering them.
- Nature Walks and Talks. Another fun way to learn about sustainability is to spend time with Nature. Walks in the park, day trips to the lake, a camp out in a wooded area are all great ways to learn about the importance of Nature. Depending upon the age of your child, you can talk about how the ecosystem works and point out different species of plants, bugs and animals. A favorite craft activity for us is to pick leaves and flowers, dry them and then, glue them onto cards and sheets of notepaper.
- Have Fun Shopping Green. Older kids will enjoy learning about how their decisions can impact the environment. Back to school shopping can include buying eco-friendly backpacks made of recycled material, organic cotton or hemp, instead of toxic PVC, notebooks made of recycled paper and pencils made of FSC-certified wood or even, recycled newspapers such as the ones made by Tree Smart!
- Visit the Farmer’s Market or a Farm. A fun day trip idea is to visit a farmer’s market and pick up new and interesting fruits and vegetables. This is also a good trick to get picky kids to eat those fruits and veggies. Several families also farm their own produce so if you can visit one of those farms, it will be a great way for kids to see how food is grown.
- Books, Videos and Websites. One of my favorite websites is Ollie’s World. It offers great tips and activities for kids to learn about the earth, an eco-friendly life and living sustainably. Books and videos are another great tool for teaching even toddlers about living green. A few great books that I’ve read and used with my toddler are Easy to be Green by Ellie O’Ryan, The Greenzys by Danielle Mentzer and William is Going Green from the William the Garbage Truck and Crew series.
While these are some great ways to teach kids about sustainable living, they are relatively long-term. However, there are several baby steps that you, as a green parent, can start taking right away.
Baby Steps for Sustainable Living
- Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.
- Turn off the lights as soon as you leave the room.
- Save water by turning it off when brushing teeth.
- Take a bath with a bucket of water rather than showering. In fact, fill up an inflatable pool and let the kids splash around instead of a regular shower one day a week.
- Walk for groceries rather than drive.
- Spend at least 30 minutes outdoors, running, playing and basically, having fun with Nature.
Simple steps such as these are ideal for teaching sustainable living to children of all ages. Just choose the ideas that work best for your family and start small, but do start. Meanwhile, do share your own tips for teaching kids about sustainable living. What works best with you to show kids how to lead a greener and more earth-friendly life?
About the Author: Prerna Malik is a mom, a wife, a writer and woman who believes in living green and simple, parenting with love and creating a home that invites you to put your feet up and relax. Find her sharing her journey and experiences with all of this at The Mom Writes.