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10 ideas for raising greener kids

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About Maya

Maya is the founder of Memetales - a mobile reader and publishing platform for children's stories. Get your child reading by downloading the FREE iphone/ipod touch app with 20 Free books included!

 

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.

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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.

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  1. We’ve started a shared garden with our neighbors this year. I’m hoping my two-year-old will also learn about working with others toward a shared goal — good, healthy food! I think it’s working. Tonight in the bathtub, as he poured out water into the tub, he said he was watering his “garden.” He also told me he’s growing carrots, tomatoes and avocados. It makes me happy to know he realizes food doesn’t actually originate in the grocery store.

    We also go huckleberry picking in late summer, and morel hunting in early spring. He is supervised intently during these activities, of course, but I love knowing that someday he can pass the love of the hunt on to his own kids!

    Shannon @ AnchorMommy´s last blog post…Cheap summer fun

  2. “Garden with your kids” this will help to create the idea of green living. This is our experience with four kids. You can explain how plants grow, you know where the fruits are from, you know that apples are on a tree and not only in a apple juice tetra pack. And you can teach the circle of nature workflow: the slug (nacktschnecke) will eat the salate. if you want to have salate you have to kill (to bring away) the slug or you won´t have any salate. Everytime in nature you have to decide and to calculate the advantages contra disadvantages.

    sevenjobs´s last blog post…Musikalische Früherziehung: muss das sein?

  3. love your ideas. we have young kids too, but we’ve been experimenting with using things we already have for crafts. we’ve built lots of playhouses and animal shelters out of cereal boxes. i’m still working on my skills, but each time i see my child play with a toy at a friend’s house, i try to think of a way to re-make it at home out of recycled goods.

    my most recent success was a lacing card made out of a postage box, some paint and modge podge. thanks for ghte great challenges.

    Burning Bushes´s last blog post…Oxi Clean…Redeemed

  4. We have a garden project together with other families. It is organized from a organic farm and real fun for all of us.

  5. I’m excited to check out the Little Green Books – thanks for mentioning!

    My 4.5 yr old son has been obsessed with garbage trucks for almost two years now, so that has afforded us many opportunities to discuss trash, recycling, waste, etc.

    Recently, a wheel from our wheelbarrow broke. To buy a new wheel was almost the same price as buying a new wheelbarrow. We talked with the kids about our choice to just buy the wheel in order to keep more stuff out of a landfill.

    Jamie

    steadymom´s last blog post…Moms Unplugged (Don’t Waste Time Online)

  6. I’ve just started this with my short-attention-spanned 3.5 year old. Here’s what is working for us:

    Some things make the Earth cry and others make it really happy.

    So far it’s made him aware of using the half-flush option (or even no flush) when he does a pee in the toilet (we have a dual flush system in Australia) and only using just enough toilet paper. We talk about how the Earth makes just enough water and trees to help all our friends and that when we waste it there is not enough so she gets sad. But when we half flush/use just enough she is so happy. He’s majorly into his role in making others sad/happy these days so it caught his attention right away.

    Tonight he woke to go to the toilet, didn’t flush and repeated the Earth crying/happy story to me, unprompted. I think this is going to be a good tool to use to talk about green topics.

    x

  7. avatar
    Courtney says:

    I highly recommend the magazine “Ranger Rick”. (When I was a child it was just $12 per year, but I suspect it’s gone up since then.)

    This is a magazine put out by the National Wildlife Foundation. It is incredibly interesting, all about animals, with a decidedly green bent. It also explains ecological issues in ways children can understand.

    To this day I remember the Dr. Seuss-style poem and illustrations in one issue about introducing a new species of fish into a lake and the negative chain reaction that occurred. It was a true story about how the people who lived near the lake had adapted to the existing species by sun-drying little fish on racks, but after the big fish were introduced, they had to smoke them, which led to air pollution and clearing of trees. A pretty complex concept, but I understood it at six years old because of the way it was presented.

    I sincerely credit Ranger Rick with my interest in ecology and wildlife today.

  8. avatar
    Courtney says:

    Note: It looks like Ranger Rick has a website for kids going green, too – http://www.nwf.org/rrgreenzone/

    Obviously, watch your kids as they’re on the Internet, but this looks like a great site.

  9. Wonderful suggestions. As a mum who throws many parties I am very concious of wastage and hate the mountain of plastic cups, cutlery, plates and even table cloths that so many use these day, my disposable cups have been used over and over, who needs plastic forks when kids love to eat with their fingers, and the wrapping paper, well, for starters I’m with you on the no presents issue, we do have so much already, but some people are taken aback when you ask them not to bring presents, I always say, bring a plate of food instead. A friend of mine doesn’t even do parties for her son, instead they go away on a weekend trip to a place of his choosing.
    Birthday Party for Kids

  10. Great ideas! I started composting about 3 months ago. Yesterday, I told my 3 year old to throw his pear core away – he responded, “I can’t mom. It has to go in the special garbage can!” Even though I never really talked to him about composting, he must have picked something up from my conversations with my husband. It was really amazing to hear! – I didn’t think he really picked up on my composting!

  11. We do a lot of talking about being “kind” to the earth. We also talk about (and practice) recycling. Composting is something we need to start doing, and it would be wonderful to include the kids in that.

    We spend a lot of time in the garden, and the kids are very aware of “good” bugs and how they help our plants grow big and strong.

    We’ve talked a little about “organic”, but I could probably go into it a little more…

    I wanted to recommend a fabulous children’s book, although it’s not seasonal. When Santa Turned Green is such a great Christmas book — a great introduction to small changes that kids can do themselves.

  12. I love to talk to my son about taking care of our environment everytime I get the chance. He recycles in automated mode and this is good since when we get back to Puerto Rico it will take a lot of patience and willingness to keep doing it since there is not as simple as here.
    Even when he take showers I remind him that that water is not going to run forever, that it can run out! lol

    lvlc @ FromMomToMom´s last blog post…Stop and Smell the Roses: Taking care of myself

  13. I think it’s definitely important to teach kids not to be wasteful, and leading by example and conversations is a great way to do it! Great ideas!

  14. This is post after my own heart :) We try to do all of these with my daughter every day, though we’re more successful with some of these points than with others. For example, the whole family is working on eating more green, and I’ll admit I’m the worst offender when it comes to this particular area. But my daughter loves getting her fingers in the dirt and playing with caterpillars. And if there’s ever a movie every green parent should let their kids see, it’s “Wall-E.” That movie helped me explain to my 3-year-old the cycle of waste in terms she could actually understand.

    And I’ll actually be talking about green birthday parties tonight on my blog talk radio show, Green & Gorgeous. If anyone wants to know more, feel free to stop by at 8:30 p.m. EST, or you can listen to it on demand later: http://blogtalkradio.com/greenandgorgeous

    Jennae @ Green Your Decor´s last blog post…Serve Up a Little Color: Soleil Serving Trays from Bambeco

  15. Maya, thank you so much for these wonderful tips! I grew up in the country and now raising kids in the suburbs, I feel it is sometimes hard to “connect” them to the real earth, envrionment, and nature that is living all around them. We read books and do crafts, but when I was a kid, we simply went outdoors and explored!

    My children are fortunate enough to have a dad who works in the renewable energy industry. (He is actually in banking but works closely with developers who do installations like the solar panel project that powers the Denver Airport tram) I think one of the ways my children will learn more about the impact of energy consumption on the envrionment is simply through their father.

    Thanks again for a wonderful post!
    Abbie

  16. Maya – what a fantastically helpful post! I know many children’s programs and literature are starting to have green themes. My daughter is all the time asking now “Can this be recycled?” and she can spot the recycling arrows sign a mile away.

    Thanks for laying out some really practical and easy ways to make conservation and proactive earth awareness a part of our everyday lives!

    Megan at Simple Kids´s last blog post…Lessons from the Robins’ Family

  17. I’ve been talking about environmental issues with my kids, now 5 and 7, since they were toddlers. They have a pretty good understanding of why we don’t “hurt the earth.” I also try to tie what they are interested in into environmental lessons. They are crazy about polar bears, which has provided numerous teaching opportunities. My mother laughed when she heard me explain to my 5yo why throwing something away is bad because landfills create greenhouse gases that warm up the earth, which melts the ice that polar bears live and hunt on. The thing is, he GOT it.

    Casey´s last blog post…A life changing week

  18. What great ideas. We are trying to find ways to incorporate these choices into daily living and this is a perfect starting point for us.

  19. I’ve been trying to change old habits and bring in new “green” ones. This is a good place for us to start. Thank you for the tips.

    Rana´s last blog post…Can you slow down?

  20. This covers all the bases = saves you money, helps the environment, helps your health, makes you feel better, it’s so easy to do and it costs less than $50.00; Save money and the Earth and be clean at the same time! Add Bathroom Bidet Sprayers to all your bathrooms. I think Dr. Oz on Oprah said it best: “if you had pee or poop on your hand, you wouldn’t wipe it off with paper, would you? You’d wash it off” Available at http://www.bathroomsprayers.com with these you won’t even need toilet paper any more, just a towel to dry off! Don’t worry, you can still leave some out for guests and can even make it the soft stuff without felling guilty. It’s cheap and can be installed without a plumber; and runs off the same water line to your toilet. You’ll probably pay for it in a few months of toilet paper savings. And after using one of these you won’t know how you lasted all those years with wadded up handfuls of toilet paper. As for water use a drought is always a concern and must be dealt far exceed the water use of household users and in the case of toilet paper manufacture it is huge. The pollution and significant power use from that manufacturing process also contributes to global warming so switching to a hand bidet sprayer and lowering your toilet paper use is very green in multiple ways. Blog; THE BUTT OF TOO MANY JOKES;http://jeff9.livejournal.com/1603.html

  21. These are great ideas. We are not full blown green but I try my best to live green and teach my kids!

    Danielle´s last blog post…Cross-Blog Conversation with Melitsa Avila

  22. We can’t even get our girls to understand the importance of recycling. Go clean your room means tossing all pop cans, water bottles etc in the normal garbage. then good ole dad must go fetch these out to recycle. However, on a more positive note, we do garden in a rented plot we got from the city. You won’t believe how many families we now see there. Maybe due to the recession or people are more aware now of the importance of growing organic vegetables and the power of spending time as a family doing so. When I spoke with the administrator of the community gardens she said this is the 1st year all the plots in the city were sold/used.

    Chris De La Rosa´s last blog post…You say guacamole, I say zaboca choka.

  23. We just live it, without fanfare, marketing or any real special effort. We take only re-usable bags to the store, and we look for food that has no plastic packaging. Everything we buy, we consider how it will be disposed of. We reduce our consumption whenever possible. We look for ways to give, rather than take. We just live it. It’s not special, it’s just How It Is.

    Amy´s last blog post…Religion doesn’t work

  24. Great article!
    We have a 2 year old, and we’re trying to teach her “green” lessons, although we have far to go! We garden, use cloth bags and go to the farmer’s market, reuse things for crafts, we used cloth diapers and wipes, and she helps us put things in the recycling and compost bins. Also things she wouldn’t understand now, but hopefully she will as she gets older, like choosing sustainably grown wood to make a picnic table and using a non-toxic/seed oil stain (hard to find!) .

    SkylarKD´s last blog post…Coffee filter butterflies

  25. We teach by example. Thanks for all the great green advice and tips.

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