As Crosby, Stills and Nash sang Teach Your Children well. Also Whitney Houston once sang, the children are our future. So if you want to protect the ongoing health of planet Earth, the best thing you can do is to raise your kids to live as greenly as possible.
How can you instill eco-friendliness in your children? First, you need to become a positive role model yourself. Then, engage them in activities that raise their awareness of the environment we call home.
Go Hiking Together
Recent research in the Journal of Environmental Psychology indicates that children demonstrated a closer connection with nature after a four-hour excursion. The best way to instill respect for the natural world is to get your little ones out and move in it.
Spend a Saturday afternoon taking a walk at a nearby nature preserve. Many museums have beautifully manicured grounds and signs identifying different trees and plants. With autumn here, rake a big pile of leaves and jump in them. Anything that gets your kids outdoors will help strengthen their bond with the Earth.
Promote Outdoor Recess at School
Sadly, many schools have curtailed recess time even though children benefit from outdoor play in many ways. Become an advocate and attend school board meetings. Make sure your school builds time into the daily schedule for recess — and that it is unstructured playtime.
Unstructured play engages your child’s mind and helps their social development as they make up rules for various games. It also provides time for them to find heaven in a wildflower, to paraphrase Blake. It allows them to burn off excess energy and improves their behavior in class, as well as fostering environmental stewardship.
Walk or Bike to School
Most children relish the freedom to walk or bike to school. However, if your little ones balk, create a teachable moment from their reluctance and discuss the impact idling cars have on carbon emissions.
Personal vehicle idling generates 30 million tons of carbon dioxide annually and wastes 3 billion gallons of fuel. Even if you turn your car off at the parent pickup, you release emissions driving to and from the facility. Some days are too snowy or rainy, but opt for foot power whenever the weather permits.
Decorate Reusable Bottles Together
Is your 10-going-on-20 a budding VSCO girl in training? Why not invest in one of the positive aspects of the trend by decorating reusable water bottles together?
If you have the budget, you can invest in vinyl stickers. However, you don’t have to spend a dime if you get a bit creative. You can cut images from favorite photos or magazines to deck out your vessel. You can use nontoxic paint to create a stained glass effect.
Tour a Local Science Center
Winter is coming, and for parents, this means contending with moans of, “I’m bored. There’s nothing to do.” Why not take a day trip to your local science center one weekend and learn more about ecology? Many museums and exploration facilities offer discounted tickets for youth.
While there, encourage your little ones to engage all their senses. When you’re admiring various wildflowers, ask them what the fragrance smells like. If exhibits permit touching, let your children manipulate models and sample different textures. Take them to the planetarium and ask them to reflect afterward on the tiny place humans inhabit in the vastness of space — and why we need to protect it.
Visit the Farmers Market
Many children think the grocery store is where their food originates. Teach your kids how the Earth provides nourishment by taking them to the farmers market on the weekend — and don’t forget to bring reusable shopping totes. While there, speak with the different vendors. What do they do to help their plants grow?
Plant a Family Garden
If you want to save money and instill a love of the planet in your children, why not plant a garden together? Even if you dwell in an apartment, you can plant container gardens in pots on a sunny patio. The process of nurturing plants instills empathy in your children, which they then extend to other living things.
Make Saving Energy Into a Game
Who says you have to turn saving energy into a chore? Why not get your kids engaged by making it a game to see who can remember to unplug small appliances before you leave the house?
Challenge your children to think of ways they can save on electricity. If they suggest turning the thermostat down a degree, honor their ingenuity by doing so. Reward behaviors like turning off the lights when they leave their room.
Take the Family Camping
Do your little ones spend nearly every spare minute staring at a screen? Get them to unplug by loading up the car and taking a camping trip. You can find campgrounds with no Wi-Fi access so they can’t hop online even if they want to. You can inspire their love of the natural world while making memories that last a lifetime. Set a positive example by packing your snacks in reusable bags and throwing out all your trash when you leave. Teach your children to take only photographs and leave only footprints.
A Greener Planet Starts With Your Children
Children who learn environmental stewardship when they’re young carry that attitude throughout life. You can do your part to make the world a better place — it all starts in the home.