There are many concepts that are simply too grandiose for children to understand. You wouldn’t expect a toddler to grasp physics or a preschooler to diagram a sentence. Yet, there are some notions that even the tiniest minds can somewhat comprehend. One of those is the importance of taking care of the Earth. They run in the grass and climb the trees but how much do your kids really know about its value, importance and upkeep?
Thankfully, there are simple steps you can take to help your children respect their natural surroundings. They don’t have to understand the depths of it quite yet but by following these simple steps you can help them better appreciate and take care of the ground they walk on.
1. Grow your own food.
You don’t have to move off the grid and start making everything from scratch but a simple backyard vegetable garden can do wonders to open your child’s eyes up to the magic of the Earth. As they watch a tiny seed sprout, then grow bigger, then produce enormous veggies, they’ll be amazed at how special the process is.
Even if you’re pressed for space, there are plenty of alternative gardening ideas, such as container gardens or vertical gardens that you can pursue. The key is simply to show them the transformation, teach them about the details and let them get their hands dirty in the process.
2. Reward recycling.
If you’re anything like us, you have a recycling can alongside your trash can and every time before you take it out, you have to sort through it to get rid of all the extraneous, non-recyclable items that your children have inadvertently tossed in there. To this end, after explaining the rules of what is and is not recyclable, set a simple reward system for following along with the guidelines.
While this step might be lost on the youngest of your brood, the older kids will especially appreciate getting in on the action and the responsibility you’ve given them can be a big confidence builder. Let them see you sort through the trash and encourage them to give away, rather than toss, any unused clothes or toys they have in their rooms.
3. Start a Family Green Day.
We’re so dependent upon technology these days it’s not even funny. For all the energy we consume, we’re doing more harm to the environment than good. As such, it’s helpful (and fun) to set aside one day of the week with your family where you all make a valiant effort to use as little power as possible throughout the day. This might mean taking a two-minute shower versus a 15-minute one, turning off the tablet or television before the usual time, unplugging any devices that are already charged and more. While you’re at it, talk to your kids about alternative and renewable energy resources that can change the way we live, work and play for the better.
4. Take a bike ride.
Sure, cars are quicker and when you’ve got a fussy baby on your hands you just want to get from Point A to Point B as fast as possible. That makes sense if you’re running errands, going shopping or heading to the grocery store. Yet, if you’re just going for a joy ride to calm the fussies or see the pretty sunset, consider biking around a safe area instead.
Make sure you’ve got the proper gear and safety equipment before setting out and pick a location that’s safe and free from traffic, preferably a park. Then, get your family outdoors and allow your children to see firsthand the masterpiece of nature—from a seat with a view.
5. Turn off the tap during tooth brushing.
My daughter loves to brush her teeth. She loves it so much that I often find her upstairs in her bathroom during the middle of the day, brushing her teeth and her brother’s at the same time (against his will), the water running on full blast the entire time. Of course, as soon as I catch it, I turn it off and shoo them downstairs but what if I used that interaction as a valuable teaching moment instead?
By teaching our children to conserve water, we’re helping to relay the fact that we must conserve and protect our natural resources, on a level that they can understand. Don’t overwhelm them by discussing all of the ways we waste or overuse water (in the bathtub, on the stove, in the garden hose, etc.). Instead, focus just on their tooth brushing routine and they’re more likely to remember it for longer.
Teaching kids to care for the Earth requires making baby steps toward a bigger goal. By showing them the beauty that surrounds them, letting them actively participate in conservation efforts and reminding them to be cognizant of how they use power and water, we’re setting the stage for the next generation to take even better care of the environment than we did.