Unbelievable as it may seem, the kids are heading back to school for another year of learning. Since they are going to be learning all kinds of new things to help their minds grow and futures unfold, now is a great time to bring your kids into the eco-friendly fold (if you haven’t already).
It doesn’t take much, but by educating and enlightening your children on the benefits of living a more eco-friendly life, you will be giving them tools to help them understand and care for the environment around them. A little bit of information, along with some practical experience, can go a long way.
Here are 6 ways you can help bring your kids into the eco-friendly fold:
1) Get the kids to unplug. In this day and age, most kids have some form of electronic device; a phone, an iPad, a Kindle Fire (yes, that’s my kids), the television, or something. While many of these can have educational benefits, and sometimes it’s fun to just play games, etc., there are so many other activities kids can and should be involved in…especially at a young age.
A few years ago, when the kids and I were at the park, two kids arrived with their sitter. My daughter, who loves to make new friends, decided she’d ask the older girl if she wanted to play. To my surprise, the girl said yes and pulled out her cell phone or PSP or something and asked if my daughter wanted to play a game. My daughter gave her a weird look and told the girl she’d rather play on the play equipment. (That’s my girl!) Note that the young girl was probably no older than 7 or 8.
So while it was great the girl was taken to the park, wouldn’t it have been better to have her play outdoors, instead of on her electronic game, while she was there? I think so!
I mean, there are so many things kids can do that don’t involve being plugged in all day. How about building a fort? What about playing a board game? Reading books are always good. How about going for a walk or a hike? How about riding their bikes or scooters around? Besides, being bored now and again can actually be good for kids.
2) Get the kids to help grow their own food. From my own personal experience I have found that kids love to be included. They love to be involved, feel like they are helping, contributing and being part of the family unit. So, naturally, having the kids help grow some of their own food is a smart way to teach them about food, gardening, healthy eating and more.
3) Speaking of healthy eating, help your kids build their own healthy eating habits. I don’t mean only by eating organic or local foods, but by eating natural, unprocessed foods. I admit that I could do a lot better in this department, but I’m working on it. (Both for myself and my kids.)
I’ve been a picky eater all my life, and my daughter is the same way, but thankfully there are a lot of different fruits and some vegetables that I enjoy. I’ve also found that getting the kids involved by having them help us buy fresh fruits and vegetables direct from the local farmers, has gone a long way. (We’re still working on our own garden). But they do love helping grandma and pop with their tomatoes, lettuce, carrots, and herbs.
4) Instill a love of nature and the great outdoors. I don’t know about you, but I spent a lot of my childhood playing outside. Whether it was at the beach, in the park, in the backyard, along the bridle trail or wherever, I LOVED playing outside. I want my kids to have that same kind of love.
My friend Bethe Almeras (aka @balmeras) describes it really well in this quote:
Image courtesy of The Grass Stain Guru
5) While they are playing outdoors, teach your kids the value of leaving no trace. Teach them to clean up after themselves. Teach them about respecting the environment. Show them how they can share the beauty of nature with others, by leaving the outdoors the way they found it. Your kids can enjoy nature and the great outdoors without damaging it. You and I did, so can they. As a bonus, teaching your kids to leave no trace outdoors may help give them the additional skill of being able to clean up after themselves indoors.
6) Teach your kids about reducing, reusing and recycling. Didn’t your mother ever tell you to finish the food on your plate and not let anything go to waste? Mine sure did. Did your parents ever take items and reuse them for something else, rather than simply throwing them away? Mine did. Did your parents ever have bins for newspapers, plastics and cans, that they would then take down to the local recycling center to cash in? Mine did!
In fact, those are some of the things I remember that we did in our family simply as a matter of course. It wasn’t something spectacular. It wasn’t something we did to be “green”. It was something we did because it made sense, and I’m sure it saved us money to boot. That’s the way it should be though, don’t you think? Why buy more than you need? Why waste what you have? Teach your children to value what they have, be creative in their ability to reuse items, and recycle those items that can’t be reused. Our landfills have a lot more in them today than when we were younger, maybe it is time we all look at how we can reduce, reuse and recycle.
You know what is funny, though? While I have been writing this I realized that some people may consider these actions only for treehuggers or people who want to “go green”, when in fact, these actions are for anyone. They are common sense actions that every parent can and should do with their child(ren). If you look back, you’ll probably see that you did these things, and your parents and/or grandparents did these things. It is not just about being eco-friendly, it is about instilling values in our children. Values that will help them both now and in the future.