How To: Teach Your Children About the Environment
By Chelsea Alcock
When we look to the future of our environment, we must look to our children. As the soon-to-be leaders of our world, they will be faced with a pivotal time for our planet. The earth’s ecosystems are becoming more and more fragile, so we must teach our children about the environment and how we all have a part to play in helping it.
From the garden in your backyard to the forests around your community, we’re highlighting several, fun and engaging ways to educate your children on the environment and sustainability.
There’s no better time to get active and learn how you can challenge your kids to become young eco-warriors!
Change Up Chores
Chores are never really that fun for kids. And doing the same ones over and over again is sure to become mundane for them. With a focus on the environment, you have an opportunity to make them green and fun!
For example, put a bucket in the sink so that after the dishes have been washed, they can use the excess water to care for the plants around the house. This practice saves water and teaches the children how to take care of plants. And if you continue this practice, it will instil a sustainable way of thinking.
Or, instead of just having them take out the garbage, you can get two or three garbage bins (depending on how you recycle) and play a basketball shooting game to show them which items go in which bin. Recycling is one of the first essential learnings for kids and if you prioritize it throughout their childhood, they’ll carry that knowledge and mindset with them as they get older.
Get out in the Garden
Whether you have a “green thumb” or not, you should inspire your children to learn the essentials of gardening. You can plant flowers, grow food, or even add a tree to your yard – the options are nearly endless!
To make it extra fun for kids, we recommend gardening with plants and food they enjoy. So if your children love big sunflowers or pretty roses, plant those! If you know they enjoy carrots or the taste of basil, grow those! Then, get down in the dirt with them. Together you can set up a nice gardening area, add new dirt or mulch, plant the seeds and flowers, water them, and pull weeds away.
Once you’ve started gardening, here are some teachings for them along the way:
- How much water each plant, food, or tree needs
- The importance of photosynthesis and how plants and trees provide us with oxygen
- Why growing your own food contributes to sustainability
- How plants and bees help each other—and us!
Here’s a helpful guide to get you started!
Use Kid-Friendly Entertainment
From movies and books to apps and games, there’s plenty of entertainment options that focus on the environment and the world around us. If you’re stuck inside on a rainy day or don’t have a chance to get outdoors, these are great alternatives for eco-education.
Disney has created a plethora of exciting documentaries about animals and nature, including DisneyNature Earth, DisneyNature Oceans, and many other films on different animals. The BBC Earth series also offers captivating imagery and learnings. If they enjoy cartoons, watch a Greenpop favourite—Dr. Suess’ The Lorax! (“I speak for the trees!”)
The Lorax is also a fun and educational book to read! Its story teaches us about the trees and how they are crucial to the environment. The poetry-based book, We Planted a Tree by Diane Muldrow, also teaches the importance of trees and cultural diversity. Another favourite is The Water Princess by Susan Verde, a moving story about a girl who brings portable drinking water to her West African community.
If your kids need a daily fix of technology, we suggest these two environmentally-focused apps: Care for Our World and NAMOO Wonders of Plant Life. The first encourages environmental stewardship and the latter explores the life of plants and how they grow. If you want to take a break from your screens, play a game of trivia or Pictionary that incorporates information and ideas about the environment!
Threading eco-education into their daily entertainment will teach them about the environment in fun, easy, and engaging ways.
Introduce Them to Young Activists
Children and young adults love to have heroes to look up to. They hang posters of them, follow them on social media, and take on their ideas. Why not introduce them to leaders who are fighting against climate change and striving for more sustainability?
Greta Thunberg is one of the world’s most popular young environmental activists. She’s the front-figure of the “Fridays For Future”-movement and uses her smarts and savvy to not only speak with adults about complicated problems but also effectively communicate those thoughts to the youth.
Or, you can turn to another young advocate for the environment like Bruno Rodriquez from Buenos Aires, who is bold and opinionated. He has organized student walkouts and even spoke at the UN Youth Climate Summit. His big fight is against large corporations and fossil fuels, which are topics young adults can really benefit from learning more about.
Even right here in Cape Town there are young activists to look up to. Take, for example, Yola Mgogwana. At just 11 years old, she began volunteering with the Earthchild Project and also spoke in front of thousands of people about sustainability throughout Cape Town’s community and schools.
Here’s a list of more activists from around the world that could become heroes to your kids.
Join Community Events and Initiatives
Coming together to take care of the earth around us is one of the most profound and thrilling ways to educate your children about the environment. We know first hand what it means when people from all walks of life come together to plant trees, clean up hiking trails and forests, or raise money for environmental initiatives.
Learning about Mother Earth is not just about the dirt under our feet and the trees that help us breathe—it’s about our fellow humans, too. We’re here to look out for each other and learn from one another. It’s one of the greatest learnings: no one accomplishes anything alone. And that sentiment can be applied to preserving our environment too.
So join others in your community to learn how to plant trees, grow food, and live more sustainably!
Create Eco-Friendly Crafts
Getting creative and working towards a more sustainable world go hand in hand. Coming up with new ways to help the earth has always taken both smarts and creativity! It can all start with eco-friendly crafts.
One craft we love is recycling cans as planters! Check out Greenpop’s Plant and Play Series on Instagram and Facebook to get creative and crafty whilst caring for the environment.
If you have a little one that likes wearing handmade jewellery, you can upcycle a myriad of materials to make necklaces, bracelets, and earrings. Items like buttons, rocks, cloth from old items of clothing, bottle caps, soda can tabs, and more will work great!
Crafting is a great way to be creative, and it also gets your children thinking outside the box when it comes to being sustainable and taking care of the environment.
Pick up more nifty craft ideas here.
Keep Challenging Them as They Get Older
As your kids go through different stages in life, it’s important to keep challenging them to understand more and more about the environment and our world. It starts with simple learnings like the different types of trees, plants, and animals, then moves into processes of plant life and how all life is connected. As they begin comprehending scientific terms and making basic hypotheses, you can start incorporating problems facing the environment and solutions we are trying to achieve. When children become young adults, it’s all about getting them active! Challenge them to grow a garden on their own, give them thought-provoking books to read, or encourage them to get involved with programs where they raise money or work with the community.
It’s never too late to teach your children about the environment and how they can make an impact. It’s all about making eco-education fun and positive! Encourage them to take action—whether that means they work on sustainable crafts or join green programs in their community.
No matter your child’s interests, these ideas can provide a great basis, to begin with!
Cover image by: Claire Louise Thomas
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