7 Ways to Encourage Kids to be More Environmentally Friendly
Kids are quite curious at a young age. Their brains are like little sponges. They soak up lots of information and are highly perceptive and impressionable, especially when it comes to new experiences. And like many new experiences and lessons, a child can readily latch onto an idea.
This means we–as parents and adults raising our kids and teaching valuable life lessons, such as morals, friendship and compassion–should educate them on how to love the Earth, too. It’s essential to teach them early on the importance of taking care of the environment. After all, they are the ones who will inherit it.
Sometimes, all it takes is a gentle push or incentive, but however you provide the lesson, here are seven ways to encourage kids to be more environmentally friendly.
1. Spend More Time Outdoors
One essential way to get your child involved with the environment is simply to make them appreciate it. You can do this by taking them on a fun family camping trip or just enjoying an evening stroll around the block. Teach them the value of the plants and animals around, as well as the fresh air.
One thing’s for sure–your kid will begin to associate the outdoors as a place of enjoyment, which in turn will grow their respect for the Earth.
2. Teach Kids Gardening Skills
Gardening is an excellent way to get your kid to spend more time outdoors, but it does more than that. Teaching your child to plant seeds and tend to a garden instills a certain level of patience and appreciation. It teaches kids about the hard work and labor that goes into growing food. When plants and veggies are large enough to harvest, they can experience the satisfaction of plucking and eating them.
3. Adopt a Pet or Animal
Animals are a wonderful way for kids to appreciate nature. Most kids grow up with a pet in the household. But if you don’t yet have a furry family member, consider adopting a pet from your local animal shelter. Having a pet teaches lots of responsibility, but also compassion for fellow animals in which we share the Earth. It doesn’t have to be a dog or a cat. You can begin small with a hamster or even a fish.
If your child or a family member has severe allergies and a pet is out of the question, there are still ways you can introduce your kids to animals. Take them to the zoo or even a local farm. Let them watch nature-based TV shows. Kids are far more intuitive than we give them credit for. Before long, they will understand that animals everywhere–whether common pets or endangered species–are also affected by the environmental choices we make.
4. Teach Them to Recycle
Teaching a kid to recycle not only encourages good cleaning habits, but for them to be more environmentally friendly as well. Keep bins at their height level, organize and label them. Demonstrate to them how to separate bottles, cans and plastics. Teach them what can’t be recycled, too, as this can even inspire them to avoid wasteful single-use plastics and containers in the future. If possible, take them to a recycling facility so they can see the inner workings. Some kids are fascinated by these types of places.
5. Save and Conserve
Explain to your kid the concept of saving and conserving. Explain to them that showers spend less water than baths. Demonstrate energy conservation by turning off lights in unoccupied rooms. And show them how to be efficient with kitchen appliances, closing doors to preserve the chill or heat. Install energy-efficient appliances as well.
Also, teach them not to waste food. Hopefully, if you have started a garden, your kid will realize how much work goes into that one baked potato. The same concept goes for drinks. Kids tend to grab a drink, like milk, take one sip and forget it. Instead, gently remind them it’s there or ask them to put it back in the fridge for the next time they get thirsty.
6. Ride Bikes with Them
Taking a bike ride with your kid is a great way to get outdoors, which in itself encourages more environmentally friendly habits. However, by getting accustomed to the idea of biking to nearby stores or parks, they view it as an enjoyable activity–not a punishment.
They may not realize it now, but in the future, this can encourage them to bike to their friend’s house and, eventually, to work. In essence, it trains them into making it a good habit, avoiding the car and therefore saving fuel and reducing their carbon footprint. If your child is old enough to understand, also explain to them why reducing fuel consumption is important to minimize air pollution.
7. Get Involved with the Local Community
Get your kids involved with local community efforts and projects. Sometimes, this could mean joining the Scouts or simply having them carpool with friends to school. Reach out to other parents and organize activities that could teach these valuable lessons to all the kids. You could create a community garden or set a playdate where the kids can swap toys, instead of purchasing new ones, or even create their own through recycled materials.
Hopefully, this list has sparked a few ideas to encourage your kid to be more environmentally friendly. Maybe one stuck out in your mind as something they would love to participate in. Try a few and see what sticks. Each child is unique, attaining information in their own way. But if they find an activity or chore that they enjoy while it also encourages them to help the environment, you’ll know you’ve set them off on the greenest path.
Just remember that many good habits start with you, the adult. By demonstrating these actions in our own day-to-day lifestyles, we leave the most lasting impression on our little ones.