Encouraging children to put the environment first develops skills in resilience and empathy. By gently teaching them to reduce waste, conserve energy and water, protect wildlife and consume less stuff, we set them up for a lifetime of connection to our natural world and prepare them for future challenges.
There are any number of easy green habits kids can develop from a young age, here are ten examples:
- Turning off the lights when leaving a room.
- Putting reusable shopping bags back in their place by the front door.
- Bringing toys in from the garden so they don’t get ruined.
- Fixing broken things (with the help of an adult).
- Checking all packaging for the recycling symbol.
- Turning off the tap while brushing their teeth.
- Tipping unused water into plants.
- Picking up litter.
- Refilling reusable water bottles.
- Walking, biking or scooting short distances.
So how do you nurture these good green habits?
1: Model the behaviours yourself.
2: Explain why you do certain things and how they impact the environment.
Be sure to frame these ideas in an age-appropriate manner, for example, on the issues of plastic waste and litter, tweens will be fascinated to learn about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch but four year olds will likely better relate to the idea of a turtle mistaking a plastic bag for food and getting sick. In our house, we conserve water so there’s enough for Fireman Sam to use in an emergency!
3: Involve children in the process of improvement.
- How can we make less rubbish this week?
- Can we try a vegetarian version of this dish?
- What do you think of the packaging used here?
4: Provide experiences that reinforce the message.
We love visiting sea-life centres or zoos with a conservation focus, where the handlers talk about the environmental challenges faced by animals. Other examples include getting out into nature, taking part in clean-ups or tree-planting days, and attending events, from festivals to protests.
5: Foster the feel-good factor.
Help kids recognise the intrinsic value of their small green habits by acknowledging how it feels to do something for a greater good. When my son chooses to pick up a stray piece of plastic on the beach and put it in the bin, I might give him a high-five or say, “You just saved a turtle”, but usually a smile is more than enough.
What are the easy green habits of your little eco-warriors?
Check out the other posts in the Easy Green series of simple suggestions for reducing your family’s impact on the environment and saving cash at the same time;
- 6 Ways to Save Money…and the Planet
- The One Bag of Trash Challenge
- Fun & Games for Green Families
- 16 Ways to Help Children Want Less
- 19 Easy Ways to Green Your Groceries