Heads-up: If you’re banking on cartoon characters, friends, or your children’s schools to teach your kids to “think green,” then stop reading.
It may be obvious to you why we need to eat, drink, and think green – but the concept can be much more difficult for your kids to grasp. This isn’t just because kids are usually self-centered (side note: all kids are, as it is part of their typical development), but also because they’ve been raised this way since birth.
If you and your partner are emphasizing the importance of purchasing organic veggies and fruit, Fair Trade clothing, and sustainably-sourced toys, it’s equally important to share the reasoning behind these choices with your children.
It’s never too early, but how do you start? You might be surprised to find that it’s easier than you imagine. Just follow each of these three simple tips for green living:
We’ve highlighted each green living tip specifically to show you exactly how you can encourage your kids to think and act in an environmentally friendly manner. After all, going green is a cycle, and eco kids often grow to be eco adults!
When you recycle an item, such as a bottle, don’t just ask your kids to throw it in the bin. Instead, get down on their level and make them part of the process.
Explain WHY we recycle: “Because it takes less energy and less resources to make new bottles and cans. We save trees, oil, energy, and water by recycling.”
Explain HOW we recycle: “We put our plastic, paper, glass, and tin cans in this special bin. A special truck takes them to a recycling center and makes new things from them.”
You can also show them about recycling with great videos on YouTube, like this one:
Or this Discovery Channel video about recycling paper:
Hollering at your kids to turn off the faucet after washing their hands can make them follow your command, but it doesn’t explain why they should listen in the first place. The same goes for turning off the lights when they leave a room. The key is to speak openly with them about why we avoid wasting resources. After all, it’s not just a matter of higher bills.
Explain WHY we reduce: Example: “Paper is made from trees. Do trees grow quickly or slowly? It takes a long time for a tree to grow. If we use a lot of paper all the time, we have to cut down many, many trees very quickly, and they won’t have enough time to grow back. If we try to use less paper, we don’t have to cut down as many trees. This gives more time for new trees to grow.”
You can use this same format for explaining about any energy source or product, such as water, oil, gas or electricity. Simply tweak the wording, but the basic idea remains the same:
“If we use too much of X there won’t be enough left for you/your friends/our family/all the people in the world.”
Explain HOW we reduce:
- “We buy milk and eggs in recycled cartons.”
- “We can plant new trees.”
- “We walk or ride bikes instead of taking the car.”
- “We put on sweaters in winter instead of turning up the heat.”
- “We set a timer to make sure we don’t waste water in the shower.”
- “We turn off the faucet quickly and make sure it doesn’t drip.”
These are just some ideas to start you off. Be creative and come up with others of your own!
The last step is to encourage your children to reuse. In today’s society, everything seems to have a short shelf life – mobile phones, clothes, etc. The moment something is no longer trendy or “new,” it is omitted and replaced. Encourage your children to reuse, especially everyday items.
Explain WHY we reuse: “By throwing items away, it creates a lot of garbage. This garbage gets into our rivers and oceans, and it can make the fish and birds really sick. We also can’t drink the water because it gets very dirty.”
Explain HOW we reuse: Get their creative caps on for this concept by partaking in an activity. Save the following items:
- cardboard from some toilet paper rolls
- old newspapers or used printer paper
- fruit/vegetable seeds or scraps
Partake in the following activities:
Draw faces on the toilet paper rolls and decorate with fabric scraps to make family action figures to play with.
Wrap presents with old newspaper, or shred to make paper of your own for holiday cards!
Color on the second side of printer paper, instead of just one side. You can then cut the paper into strips and make chains to decorate your home for the holidays!
Take some saved seeds (red bell pepper, chili, and tomato are good for this) and plant them in the ground – water them and watch them grow!
Make your own organic fertilizer by composting vegetable and fruit scraps, and watch how the nutrient-rich soil helps your garden grow better.
There are many different ways to educate your children about the environment in order to raise eco-friendly kids. What do you think about our tips? Do you know of anything else that has worked for you? Share what you’ve tried and loved!
A freelance copywriter and content strategist, Eden is also a crunchy, eco-mom to 4 healthy kids (under the age of 6!). When not busy writing, she loves getting her hands dirty by making her own yogurt, mixing homemade laundry detergent, or chasing her kids in the garden with a Super Soaker.