Use storytelling to inspire kids to go green

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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!

A while ago I wrote about how to use storytelling to inspire frugality in our kids.  I apply the same storytelling techniques to teach my kids about the importance of being green and friendly to the earth. Some things work and some don’t, but over time, I’ve developed a system that works quite well.

Going green and being aware of the environment should be instilled deep into the hearts and minds of our kids. When better to start to instill these values than when our kids are young and we’re their biggest influence?  So, start early and put a green voice in their heads with these fun ideas.

1. Share a story about the life cycle of things that matter. Find different ways to get the message across.

Depending on the age of your child, introduce environmental concepts that matter in the world today. Choose just a couple of them.  Find interesting ways of getting your point across — and make sure you tell a complete story, which is a chain of events.


Photo by Marcus Böckmann

How is paper made? Why does it rain? How are seasons created? Why does the vegetation change with the seasons? Introduce simple environmental concepts such as these as a little story, very early on. Find innovative ways to tell your kids these stories.

Here is the rain story we share with my two-year-old and 3.5-year-old:  The oceans have so much water. Little clouds float around and sip a little bit of water everyday. The clouds get bigger and bigger. And they get heavier. The sky gets really crowded and the clouds start running into each other. Then there is thunder, and soon after comes rain.

That’s it — our rain story. The kids love to hear it and tell everyone the story. We also draw and enact the idea — drawing a story is a really great technique to help little kids learn about the environment. We use my office whiteboard to “draw” out the story — no rules really. Since I have little girls, we also do a lot of story plays in our household. We run around as clouds, act like we are all bloated up, run into each other and pour down in rain.

Before you know it, the kids have learned about the rain cycle in a fun way.

2. Help them understand the WHY behind the story.

Once your child has understood the story, start to introduce the whys into the story. Why do we need rivers and oceans? Why do we need the rain? Why do we need the clouds?

In order to help them understand the whys, ask the kids a lot of “what if?” questions. Find opportunities to talk about why each little fact in the story is important.

Since my kids know the different events that tie in to make the rain story, they understand that having no water in the rivers or having no rain for the plants can “changes the story.”

3. Connect environmental issues to every day life. Tie in the emotions effectively.

Learning to nurture the environment is key to building green consciousness. We will never hurt what we nurture, right? Get your child a plant and have them care for the plant every single day.


Photo by Thomas Guingard

We bought our kids little plants. While we don’t always want to talk about death at our home, the kids have wanted to talk about it since our dog died almost six months ago. Strangely, the kids have extended the concept into all living beings. They clearly do not want their plants to go to “plant heaven.”

Kids understand what happens to a plant if they do not water it. As a logical extension, I try to ask them if they understand what happens to the forests if there is no rain and the days get hotter and hotter. After that, I take the opportunity to explain why the  right temperature and rain are important for our forests to be healthy.

Tying tangible issues to their little lives helps them connect emotionally to bigger global issues. At a young age, there is no way children can understand global impacts, but they do have the ability to feel very strongly about things.

4. Make green choices along with them. Then talk about it.

We are extremely serious about not wasting water in our house. Waste water, and you are taking away from the precious rivers and the less fortunate kids who have to walk miles to get clean water. We will always think of ways to save and reuse water.

Every single time I notice my kids wasting water, it is a great opportunity to have a discussion about why they shouldn’t waste it.

We tie paper and forests into a story too.  A great time to tell one is when the kids are using both sides of the paper to draw and color.

It is always important to talk about the choices you make on a daily basis. This is key to driving in stories at a personal level.

5. Find your own stories. Celebrate.

Every story needs a happy ending.  In order to continue making a difference, we need to celebrate our smallest accomplishments and teach our kids to do the same. After all, each of us has to make small differences in every little way we can. So, don’t forget to celebrate your kids’ accomplishments.

We measure the plants that my kids are caring for. We share the joy of a growing plant. I appreciate every little effort they make to save paper and use fewer paper napkins at restaurants.  Positive reinforcement is key for action.

What stories do YOU share with your kids? How do you inspire them to be earth friendly?

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Comments

  1. Nice write up Maya. Thanks for the post.

  2. That’s great advice. I love how stories can really get even difficult messages across, and green vaules, sustainable living and how the planet works is certainly a very important though complex message to get across.
    .-= WorstedKnitt´s last blog ..Anemone Nemorosa sachets =-.

  3. Green topics are very common in our family especially related to food. Thank you for all the ideas!
    .-= Micha´s last blog ..sew mama sew giveaways =-.

  4. I like to use story telling also to help get my points across. My kids have been very involved from an early age with our recycling and their job is to get the cans, etc. into the bins. We talk about how long it takes for plastic bottles to disintegrate in the landfills if they’re not recycled, how important it is to recycle paper, and topics such as that.
    .-= Tina@RideOnToys´s last blog ..The Pink Pedal Car Is The Ultimate Ride For Your Princess =-.

  5. What a wonderful post! I love your ideas! My caution is not to delve too deep, too early. What I mean is that at a young age, children are not developmentally ready to learn about big worldwide environmental issues and devastation like global warming. (I’ve did a bit of research on the subject for my master’s thesis.) I love your rain cycle story for 2′s and 3′s. That’s a perfect example of what is developmentally appropriate! Nuture a love of nature and a curiosity of natural systems first and then when children begin to ask about the bigger issues, that’s when it’s time to discuss them. Lots of people like the think of child development like a circle that is constantly expanding, me-my family- my neighborhood- my town, etc. I think environmental education be quite similar. Start local and build on up!

    Thanks for your great ideas!

    • You are right Chrissy. I work with a lot of children now and I have learned that it always possible to teach kids about a subject as long as we are flexible, add a little play and take into account a child’s personality and development.

      And yes, if I can get my kids to always be curious about the world that will be such a sweet victory :)

  6. Maya,

    I LOVE this idea! I think kids do really “get it” — we just need to tell them why and they’re more than happy to take care of the earth.

    I’m terrible with my plants – your post is making me think that if I train my kids in the plant care, they can take over for their forgetful mama.

    Thanks!
    Melissa

    • Oh yes, your kids will indeed take over :)
      I learn as I teach my kids. This year, for the first time, I am growing vegetables from seeds. I told my kids I was not so sure about it and they were quick to assure me that the plants will do fine if we care for them :)

  7. Every year around Earth Day, my grandmother (a professional storyteller) tells The Wartville Wizard by Don Madden–a fairytale about a neat and tidy old man who possesses magical power over trash and uses it to make litter stick to the person who threw it out! It’s an inspiring green story that certainly influences me even now. In fact, I loved hearing her tell it so much, I’m making the movie!

    Follow the wizard on Twitter: @WartvilleWiz or Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/wartvillemovie
    .-= Lindsay´s last blog ..1 School + Recycling = -2/3 Trash Sent To The Landfill Imagine the impact if 5 schools, 10 schools, 20 schools… Do the math. Save the world. http://bit.ly/bwtKsg =-.

  8. Wonderful ideas, Maya!

    We’ve always done this with our child as well! I think it is so very important to be aware of what we are putting into our child’s consciousness, even from conception. We started telling stories to her ( and reading in two languages) in the womb! ;)

    “It is always important to talk about the choices you make on a daily basis”

    That is truly fundamental in so many ways. I’ve always told my daughter about the “7 generation” concept & how she will pass it on to her children, then their children etc, so it is very important what choices we make and we must consider the next 7 generations, not just our lives.

    We bring that theme back again about nursing, living green, living large on little, doing service etc in our daily conversations , creative play and story telling. She is 91/2 now and I see how these stories and talking about choices on a daily basis help shape how she sees life.
    .-= soultravelers3´s last blog ..Can Globe Trotting Location Independent Kids Have Friends? =-.

  9. Tsh, I love your site, and your ideas about how to simplify life has been changing my life day after day. Thank you so much.

    Maya, your post inspired me in all the possible ways you can imagine. I am a mom of a 19 month old who quit her job as a geologist to stay home and have fun with her little boy and who dreams of becoming a children’s book illustrator one day.

    I just love storytelling, drawing, making up songs and plays, but have never considered using stories to introduce environmental concepts. The rain story is brilliant and now I see so many possibilities for other similar stories! Not mentioning that it is a great way, for us parents, to build our own green consciousness and to be sure we also understand the natural cycles and the impact we make to them every day.

    I also loved Memetales! Great job!

    Luciana
    .-= Luciana´s last blog ..Primeira semana, novos olhares, corte de cabelo =-.

  10. Children build a treasure trove of memories listening to and reading stories. Stories speak as a third party – and so we can talk about the issues with the book as our reference.
    .-= Nadene´s last blog ..Maths Flowers ~ More Mental Maths Worksheets =-.

  11. Love this post! We do a lot of ‘drawing the story’ and story play as well. On a related note, two books that have sparked discussion of these topics as well as the frugality mentioned in the other post were Everybody Needs A Rock and The Table Where Rich People Sit, both by Byrd Baylor.
    .-= Olugbemisola´s last blog ..News and Updates =-.

  12. This is great advice. Kids learn so much of their information through story telling and first-hand experience, and it’s so fun to watch them repeating information to others after they learn it from us. We need to teach our children to take care of the earth if we want them to have a chance at saving it for future generations.
    .-= Suzanne´s last blog ..homepage =-.

  13. Thanks for sharing this! I think storytelling is so powerful and they learn so much from listening. My kids love to hear how things work and why.
    Scarlet´s latest post: Citizenpip Waste Free Lunchbox Kit Review- Discount- and Giveaway

  14. I applaud your efforts to promote green living. I too, want to encourage kids to become wise stewards of our precious natural resources. To promote this, I am writing a series of eco mysteries centered around six determined teens with attitude and a touch of humor. Please visit my website to review the first two books in the series. If you are interested in reviewing the books, please let me know and I would be glad to send you copies.

    Claire Datnow,

  15. I applaud your efforts to inspire kids to go green through the magic of stories. I am on the same mission, and have published the first two books in a series of Eco mysteries, The adventures of the Sizzling Six. Keep up the goo work.

  16. Nice post… I am going to try have my kids go more green than i did growing up : )
    Ashley´s latest post: Kids Pottery Wheel Encourage Artistic Development

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