When Kylie, editor at Green & Growing blog, contacted me to write a guest post, I absolutely jumped at the chance.
Caring about the world is something my family take very seriously and I find it a huge responsibility knowing that it’s part of my role to encourage green behaviour in Sam. Kylie, very helpfully, suggests some easy steps we can all take to instill these values in our children; that all important next generation.
Looking after our planet comes in many forms and can definitely start at any age…
Protecting the environment and ensuring you leave a better, cleaner world for your children is one of the most important things you can do as a person and a parent. Equally important, though, is the instillation of values, beliefs, and habits in your children, that will ensure they know how to take care of this planet and will continue to do so after this generation is gone. All of the work you do now will mean nothing without a legacy to carry on what you started.
It is important that kids learn green habits early so that these habits become a part of their beliefs and ingrained actions as they get older. This will also increase the likelihood that these habits will be passed on to their own kids as well. It’s important that kids not only develop good habits but also understand the importance of their actions.
Getting children to do any chores can be difficult (!) even when we’re not talking about trying to instill environmental values. The key to getting children interested is to keep it fun and present things in a way they will understand and enjoy. If you make these values part of their every-day life, making recycling as common and necessary as brushing their teeth or washing their hands, they are more likely to carry these habits and values into adulthood.
It may seem impossible to get kids involved in recycling, but it doesn’t have to be. Instead of just yelling at them if they sort it wrong, or don’t sort it at all, turn recycling in to a family project and a fun activity. Find colour-coded recycling bins that will help your children identify what should go where, these can usually be found in supermarkets. Ask them to post the recycling as a colour matching or sorting game. Have your children draw pictures of the kinds of objects that should go in each bin. This will help get them involved and will make it easier for them to know what to throw away where, when the time comes.
Also consider using any potty-training techniques that helped when they were in that phase of life. Many of the same principles can also be applied here. Consider handing out a small prize, or treat, for properly disposed of rubbish, or create a fun song to sing that may help with sorting and will make the whole experience more fun.
Instilling healthy, clean eating habits at a young age is one of the best things you can do for your child. This will help them be healthier and have a better quality of life as they grow up while helping the environment at the same time. To do this, it’s important children know not just what is good to eat, but why something is good to eat. Get them involved in the grocery shopping; have them pick out fresh foods and help you cook fun recipes at home. For older children, when going down the aisles, have them read the ingredients on the snacks they are pestering you for. This is contingent on their reading level, but you can start teaching them early on that good foods contain words they recognise. Meanwhile, foods containing words they don’t recognise, or can’t pronounce, like carrageenan, aspartame, and sodium nitrates, should probably be avoided. You can turn this into a game too by seeing if they can identify what is healthy or unhealthy on their own.
Planting a Garden
Planting a garden will help instill an understanding and respect for the earth while reinforcing good eating habits. Children are more likely to want to eat fruits and vegetables if they help grow them and see where good food comes from. Gardening together can also help children see why composting and caring for the earth is important. They can see first-hand how the Earth effects the state of their food, and can learn to use organic pest deterrents and the importance of renewable growing methods. To really get them involved, let them pick out some plants themselves, or have a section of the garden that is their responsibility. You can help of course, but if they feel like they have a part in the project, and are not just helping you with your chores, they are more likely to enjoy caring for the plants and watching them grow.
Plant a Tree
Planting a tree as a family can be a wonderful experience, both when you plant it, and as you watch it grow over the years. Turn the initial planting into a ceremony; have a picnic, play games, and discuss why trees are important to the environment. Taking an annual family photo with the tree is a great way to document the growth of your family and the tree, while keeping the importance of both fresh in your child’s mind. This way, as your child grows up, they will have a physical, living reminder of all the values you have taught them and the importance of caring for our planet.