Every parent knows that raising children can feel like being a member of the “challenge-of-the-day” (or hour, or even minute) club! We often juggle their daily needs with our desire to raise kind, intelligent, and environmentally responsible children. We want them to understand the virtues of helping and sharing, and in our complex world, teaching our children to care includes teaching them how to help heal the planet.
Raising children in a world of dramatic climate change and its consequences may seem like doom and gloom but teaching your kids about the environment can be met with enthusiasm and enjoyment!
Introducing your children to the environment
The lessons can start as early as infancy. Make your children aware of the beauty and bounty of the natural world, especially in its unspoiled state. Sometimes, we’ll spend hours in the garden or in the park smelling the flowers and watching the bugs.
As they grow older and their capacity to understand grows with them, you can start to make them aware of the ways in which we’ve harmed our world and show them the ways you and your family’s lifestyle are helping repair some of the damage. As soon as they know the difference between green, blue, and black, you could talk to them about composting, recycling, and waste.
Play the “donation game” to reduce consumption: for every two items donated to charity, your child gets to take one new-to-them item home.
When you take them shopping, take the time to explain why you purchase Free Trade and sustainable foods. Let them know why you avoid, as much as possible, single use plastic products. One concept that works well with young children is the ‘recycle pile’ for old toys. We designate a donation box with the instructions that once a toy is no longer interesting, we put it in the box. If she doesn’t remove the toy before the donation day (about twice a year), we take it down to the local Goodwill together. And for every two toys that get donated, we get to choose one new-to-us item from the store.
Going from child-proofing to pollution-proofing your home
All parents are familiar with child-proofing their homes for their children’s safety. How about showing your older children how you go about “pollution-proofing” your home for the planet’s safety? This is a great way to show how you minimize your household’s carbon footprint.
You can also take this one step further. Take an afternoon and challenge them—and yourself—to find five ways your family could further reduce its impact on the environment. You might be surprised what your kids find that you’ve overlooked!
Virtually every family activity, large or small, offers the opportunity for such lessons and activities. And virtually every one of them can be made engaging and entertaining, as well as instructive.
When it comes to larger family steps and purchases — a car or new home for example — be sure to make your children aware of your environmental evaluations of the planned purchase. And if you find yourself with too much stuff when downsizing, your children can help sort what gets donated to the charities, schools, or community shelters.
The result? Your children will become both environmentally aware citizens and responsible consumers—which, after all, is the same thing.