We understand that as busy parents with so many plates in the air, moving to a sustainable lifestyle can seem like a daunting task.
Many parents shy away from teaching sustainability for kids, not because they don’t believe it’s essential, but rather because they don’t know where to start themselves. Here’s the thing, a sustainable lifestyle doesn’t happen overnight and all of the little things soon add up.
Whether you change one thing weekly, daily or monthly, know that the small changes are making a difference. The same approach can be used when it comes to sustainability for children. Certainly, we all want to leave our little people a better world and a healthy planet, and we want them to understand the importance of looking after it.
There is no doubt that our children will grow up and make their decisions independently from us one day. They might grow up to be educators or even important policymakers. The habits we teach them today will affect their future life choices. If we can build sustainability into our kid’s daily lives, they are more likely to grow up and make healthier life choices.
Sustainability often leads to healthier choices for us but also for the planet. We shouldn’t overlook the fact that by teaching our children to take responsibility for their environment and world, we also teach them to take responsibility for themselves and their own actions.
Going eco-friendly doesn’t have to be overwhelming for you or your children, and we’ve put together five practical ways to teach your little one’s sustainability that we have tried and tested ourselves.
1. Get outside to go green
This has to be, by far, the easiest way we’ve found to teach our kids respect for nature and their environment. Getting outdoors and connecting with the natural world is one of the best ways to teach children about sustainability.
When we’re in the great outdoors with our kids, it’s easy to have conversations about the importance of our natural world. Explaining to our children that trees are the Earth’s lungs gives them a sense of awe about forests and trails. These huge beautiful plants do so much more than provide us with a beautiful environment. Above all, they help to keep us and the whole planet alive.
2. The three R's
Reduce, reuse and recycle. Many parents still have difficulty with this, but it doesn’t have to be a challenge. In some communities, the three R’s are already mandatory, so it’s only a matter of time before becoming the norm across the world.
A fantastic way we’ve found for us as parents and our kids is to head out and buy an indoor recycle trash can thing. They can be purchased from most DIY or home stores, and they come ready divided into sections to make recycling easy.
We’ve found a wonderful way to help kids identify which trash goes in which section is to draw or paint pictures for each area. Once they are stuck on, they give a visual representation that even tots understand. You can even save up your piles of newspapers or your cans and allocate a kid a section to fill. Little ones especially love this, and it becomes a game rather than a chore. Developing lifelong habits through fun is the easiest way to make them stick.
3. Compost is cool
Many people shy away from composting. If you don’t know where to start, it can feel a little overwhelming. There are so many kids composting kits online nowadays that are straightforward for kids and parents.
A quick Google search and you could be making your own compost for your garden while the little ones mimic your actions with their very own compost kit in miniature. The cuteness factor of this alone makes us want to get outside and put those banana peels to work in the garden.
Composting also follows on from the three R’s as it shows children just how much of our trash can be put to use.
4. Gardening rules
Gardening follows on from composting nicely. Teaching kids to garden from a young age teaches them about the lifecycle of living things. It also gives them a solid idea of the environment needed to sustain life and teaches them responsibility for something that is alive.
Kids thrive in a gardening environment. The benefits are far-reaching, and many pre-schools now incorporate it as part of their curriculum, and with good reason. Giving kids a love of cultivation from an early age instils a healthy respect for nature and the environment. Sustainability develops from that naturally.
Another bonus of gardening is that it is an open-ended activity. There are no real rules or end time, and kids can make mistakes and learn in a calm and relaxed environment. Studies show that when this happens, little brains absorb the blueprints for their lives.
5. Get involved in community projects
Many communities have projects that involve beach cleanups, community cleanups and other initiatives. Getting your kids involved in the community early teaches them respect for their whole area and not just their home. Volunteering and giving back will become an ingrained habit in your children.
Other community projects may be upcycled projects or yard sales that save sending items to the trash. If there aren’t any initiatives in your area already, why not have a go at creating one. We love the idea of old upcycling materials into toys or games, or pieces of furniture. The most special thing of all is that they are made with mum and dad.
Sustainability for kids: The takeaway
Many of us find the idea of sustainability daunting, but when we really look at our daily lives, there are steps that we take towards it naturally. Gardening, upcycling and hiking all teach sustainability. All we have to do is be a little more intentional with our conversations while doing these activities. Little by little, we will all become eco-warriors.