Our children are the future, which is why we need to make teaching them to be keepers of the Earth a priority. We talk with our girls every day about why we make lifestyle choices so they can understand the why and not just the how.
I feel so much joy when my older daughter gets mad that she’s given a paper towel rather than a cloth napkin. And I swell with pride when she asks me, “Why does that family have junk in their grocery cart? Don’t they know it has GMOs in it?”
Children are little sponges, and even small conversations can have a big impact on them. These are 5 simple, everyday activities that you can use to teach your kids about sustainable living.
Plant a Tree or Herb Garden
A lot of families don’t have a lot of space for a full garden, or are overwhelmed by the thought of starting one without much experience. Something most families can do is plant a fruit tree in their yard. While it may not produce fruit the first year, it will eventually. It’s a great lesson for kids to see how food is truly grown, and to be able to walk out your door and pick an apple is a fun experience for kids! You can also plant a small herb garden with very little effort. It can even be grown in a pot and kept on a front porch or windowsill. Then when it’s time to cook, have your child pick the herbs you need and they can see them go right into their meal!
Join a CSA or Visit a Local Farm
Most children think their food comes from the grocery store, and don’t have any comprehension of the farm it was grown on. Most homes have a farm within driving distances that welcome visitors on certain days. Often, CSA’s open their farms to their members a few times a year. It’s really neat to see kids’ eyes light up when they see first-hand how their food is grown. If you can find a local organic farm, that’s ideal.
Go on a Hike or Nature Walk
Teaching your children about the sanctity of the earth can be simple as walking out your front door and exploring your community. Start by sitting down together and making a list of native plants and animals. On your walk, you can look for them and have a fun way to document them. Depending upon your child’s age, you can have them check them off a list, take a picture for a digital scrapbook or even draw a picture of the plant or animal when they locate it. When they understand their environment, they are more likely to appreciate and respect it.
Collect Toys and Clothes to Donate
While one of the “3 Rs” is reuse, we live in a throw away society. Teaching your kids that not everything has to be purchased new and thrown away at the slightest sign of wear and tear is a great lesson in sustainability. We like to have our girls choose toys to donate (because we have far too many of them at all times) and hand their clothes down to other little girls in need. We also like to have them pick out second hand items for themselves so that they can appreciate that purchasing something second-hand is more sustainable that purchasing something new.
Upcycle Something Old Into Something New
Upcycle is one of my older daughter’s favorite words. She always wants to know what she can upcycle things into. A simple project is making a milk carton into a birdhouse. You can decorate empty glass jars to make simple vases or storage for craft supplies. You can use egg cartons to start seeds for your spring garden or to organize your child’s tiny treasures. Once your child understands the concept of upcycling, the sky is the limit!
These are just a few of the many ways you can teach your children small lessons in sustainability.