Most of us have children, spend time with children, or work with children on a regular basis. Instilling a sense of green consciousness in the hearts of these children is a powerful way to make our green efforts last way past us. Here are some simple, everyday ideas to help build a greener generations for the future.
1. Read green books.
Books are a great way to introduce the earth, basic concepts around the environmental issues, and create a sense of awe for nature. Little Green Books has a number of books you can choose from. Books can be powerful in sparking a child’s imagination, curiosity, and conversations around even complex topics, such as global warming.
2. Engage in green activities and crafts.
The simplest activities and crafts are those that involve things lying around the house and the recycle bin. Here is a collage my daughters and I made one Sunday morning, using newspaper right out of our recycle bin. We used starch from boiled rice as glue to make our activity safe for my then one-year-old.
Don’t run to the store right before craft time — there is a LOT you can do with just about nothing. Here are some great Earth Day ideas for activities that you can do every day.
3. Have green conversations and make associations.
Spark your child’s curiosity by talking about the cycle of natural resources. Talk about how food is digested, how rain is caused, and how paper is made. The next time your child makes a less than wise food choice, remind her about what bad food does to the body. And the next time your child forgets to recycle, talk about how many more trees would possibly be cut down when we don’t (don’t heap on the guilt, though). Children, like adults, are motivated to do the right thing when they understand the why behind it.
Photo by Kate Weber
4. Pose a green challenge.
The next time you have a bunch of older energetic children at your home, offer them a green challenge. Give them a word such as water, forest, or earth, and challenge them to create a story, a craft, a song, or a play. Have them create costumes using things lying at home, and film the show for a celebration at the end of the evening.
5. Emphasize eating green.
Food is one of the biggest players in our efforts to go green — the recent Book Club selection, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, brilliantly explains how our food choices affect the environment. Not everyone can afford all things organic, but while you are out grocery shopping, talk about the food choices you are making. Kids can read food labels and can help them make wise food choices. Kids will eventually learn to recognize organic food labels and the importance of shopping at local farmers markets.
6. Garden with your kids.
A little vegetable patch in the garden is a great way for kids to learn about growing food (sustainability) and understanding in-season fruits and vegetables. Don’t worry about involving the child at every level — I learned a lot just by watching my mom prune and water the garden every day.
7. Make walking fun.
Most kids love to walk, but they might get tired on longer walks. Fill your walks with a little adventures. My children love to spot bugs, name the cars, study pot holes, and even sing songs while they are on a walk. Park at the farthest spot from your child’s favorite store, go on a bus ride for fun, and learn colors and counting by watching the cars drive by.
8. Involve your children in green events.
Keep up with local non-profit organizations that hold events around where you live. My children and I recently did the water walk in our city. Group efforts help children understand that the struggle to save the earth is really a collective one, and that individual efforts add up to make bigger impacts.
9. Have a green theme day once a month.
Set a green-day once in a while, and involve your children in the planning and preparations. Give them some options like donating their books, clothes, or toys, helping clean a local park, or cooking a green meal. Using different themes will expose children to a number of green issues and possible solutions or actions around them.
Photo by Gavin Stewart
10. Have green celebrations.
This is my most favorite idea. Make a commitment to have an environmentally-friendly birthday celebration, and talk about it with your child. Use environmentally-friendly party goods, have a “no presents book-exchange party” or even have your child choose a favorite cause to share his birthday with. Don’t feel guilty about your child having fewer presents. The pride in helping a good cause will be much more valuable than any developmental opportunity provided by a bunch of snazzy toys.
Let children explore, run around, and get dirty and wet. Let them roam free and wander outdoors. Let them connect with nature and enjoy the raw beauty of the earth. A true love for, and connection with, the earth will instill in them a stronger commitment to save the planet. For more about getting your kids outside, join us with our current Book Club selection, Last Child in the Woods.
My kids are still very young, so I’m curious — how you are raising your children to be more green-aware? Share your ideas in the comments.