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Teach Your Child to Care for the Environment

Teaching your child to care for the environment may make a difference in the world they live in as adults. Children seem to have a built in awareness of how and why we need to take care of our Earth. Teaching them principles of conservation as well as good problem-solving methods may ensure the future of the planet.

Children need something meaningful to invest their creative energies in. They often are able to find solutions to real life problems that adult thinkers have missed. Exploring ways to help the environment, conserve natural resources and energy, and make the Earth a safer place to live may bring about workable solutions.

What can you teach your child about caring for the environment? And how is it best taught? Hopefully the ideas below will give you an idea of where to start.

Preschool

Little ones have a natural affinity for nature. Encouraging young children to be thoughtful of how we use natural resources will instill “green thinking”.

We don’t always have a choice about what products we consume, but often we do. For many things we need on a daily basis, there is an alternative. Living green means looking for, finding and using products that are less harmful to the environment to 1) make, 2) use and 3) assimilate back into the Earth.

Using cloth diapers most or all the time saves hundreds of trees and keeps tons of plastic and harmful chemicals from filling landfills. Organic cotton diapers used with reusable and washable rubber or plastic pants is less expensive and worth the inconvenience of washing them. Letting them air dry is another savings in energy.

Using regular china or glass plates and saving paper or plastic plates for rare occasions is an easy way to save trees and keep mounds of plastic that will sit around for centuries. Washing those glass plates in biodegradable “green” dish cleaner keeps harmful chemicals from entering our water supplies.

Your preschooler can understand why you are making greener choices if you explain the cycle natural resources go through to become goods for us, and then return to the Earth after being used. Young children seem to have a natural knowing regarding our role as stewards of the Earth. Your explanations will make sense to them.

Your preschooler will love planting trees, helping in a family garden and being considerate of the animals and plants around them. Your role is simply to tell the truth and provide a helpful example.

Main points to address:

  • Choose Earth-friendly products if there is a choice.
  • Save paper or plastic plates for rare occasions.
  • Plan a family garden and make it organic. Plant some trees!
  • Tell your child where products come from and if and how they go back to the Earth.

Grades K-3rd

Young school age children love to help Mom and Dad shop. This is a wonderful time to share what you know about product safety and how certain toxic substance can be dangerous. The aim is not to scare your child (although it is scary) but to tell them what you know to be true.

Take a heavy cloth bag for each of you so that you don’t have to take your groceries and other items home in plastic or paper bags. Buy organic fruits and vegetable if they are available. Explain that many fruits and vegetables are grown with fertilizers and sprayed with pesticides. Many stores now offer organic meats and dairy products as well as whole grains and cereal products.

When selecting cleaners, look for the symbol that indicates they are “green” or safe for the environment. If you need to buy plastic bags, choose recycled ones. This goes for plastic cups and plates, too. Try to buy items with 5 or fewer ingredients. If a food item has words you can’t read or identify, you probably shouldn’t serve it!

You cannot always control what your child eats when away from you. Packing a healthy and safe lunch will give you more control over what they consume and help them know living greener is really a choice.

This is a good age for your child to participate in a neighborhood cleanup or recycling drive. Kids love working for a cause. Get together with 2 or 3 other families and beautify an area that has been neglected. Perhaps an overgrown empty lot could be transformed into a community garden or playground. Roadsides are often littered with cans, bottles and garbage. Adopt a section of road to keep clean and recycle the cans and bottles you find. There is always something that needs to be done to clean up the planet!

Main points to address:

  • Shop “green” as much as possible. Use cloth bags instead of plastic and paper bags.
  • Try to buy food items with five or fewer ingredients listed. If you can’t pronounce an ingredient, you probably shouldn’t eat it.
  • Kids will feel good about helping to cleanup a neglected area.

Grades 4-6th

Older children also love to be part of a cause. Get them involved in your efforts to live greener. Plant a garden to share with a soup kitchen or shelter. Research methods of organic fertilizing and safe pesticides. Let them help you if you freeze or preserve foods.

Science project due? Encourage your child to research alternative and renewable energy sources such as wind, sun and vegetable fuels. Or perhaps your child could try to come up with ways to deal with or reverse global warming.

If your child is an animal lover, get them involved in helping to protect endangered species. There are many groups with websites which advocate for endangered animals. Encourage your child to get involved by writing letters to government agencies or making informational posters.

Becoming a green family means making a few changes in lifestyle and buying habits. Our children will inherit the Earth and the challenge of healing the damage previous generations have caused. Your concern for the planet will influence their thinking and encourage them to look for solutions to difficult problems. Thought precedes action and action is empowering. Empower your children by becoming part of the solution!

Resources

Resources that can help you in your venture include:

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