Over the next few weeks I’ll be taking a look at how we can best nurture our kids to develop a love and respect for our environment.
Regardless of whether or not you have young children yourself, no doubt there are kids in your life – perhaps nieces or nephews, grandchildren, students if you’re a teacher or carer of any sort, patients if you’re in the health profession, or maybe you just see your friend’s children from time to time.
Regardless of your relationship to the children in your life, I’d love you to keep these points in mind as you interact with them. In most cases, what I’m recommending to help nurture an eco-consciousness in children has many other benefits as well.
In this post I’ll share four ways you can nurture eco conscious kids.
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Why Is It Important To Nurture Eco Conscious Kids?
Before I jump in and cover how we can nurture eco conscious kids, let’s touch on why it’s important.
Kids who are connected to and aware of their environment are happier and healthier than those who aren’t. But it goes a little further than that too…. As the world’s environmental problems become more and more complex, we’re going to be looking towards the next generation to help solve these issues, and that’s our kids.
In a nutshell, kids who are more connected to nature today, will be much more inclined to help preserve it tomorrow. (Click to tweet)
You’re probably wondering how my parents nurtured my love and respect for the environment, especially considering my strong passion for sustainability.
To be honest with you they did, and they didn’t.
We lived in a country town, spent most of our time playing outdoors, and we were lucky enough to go on some lovely family holidays. Destinations like the Victorian High Country and Gippsland Lakes were family favourites.
My mum was also amazingly thrifty. She was, and still is a fabulous cook, and I’d sit on a kitchen stool for hours with her and cook as a child. She was also super crafty and handy with the sewing machine. Basically mum ran a pretty sustainable household and I learnt so much from her.
On the other hand, while my father loved the outdoors too, he was a bit contradictory as he was quite the litterbug, to the point where it made me really angry as a kid. It wasn’t uncommon for us to go on a country drive with him, when mum was working an afternoon shift as a nurse at the local hospital, only to watch him toss drink bottles out the car window into the bushland we’d be driving past.
I’d say stuff of course….all my sisters did as it made us so cross, but it kind of fell on deaf ears. I think this, among other events, fired me up and maybe I subconsciously thought if I couldn’t change my dad, perhaps I could change others to kind of balance it all out. Who knows!?!
Either way, I grew up in a household where I learnt what to do and what not to do when it came to sustainable living.
So, what are the things I recommend you do to help nurture eco conscious kids?
1. Get Kids Out In Nature
We’re going to talk about this in plenty of detail next week when we’re joined by Sarah Sutter of Nature Play SA, but in short, our early connections with nature are deeply cemented in us and make us more likely to value its conservation in future.
Children who spend more time outdoors are also happier, calmer, and healthier than those who don’t.
When I was studying environmental engineering at university in the mid 1990’s, I observed that a large proportion of the students enrolled in my degree grew up in the country. They spent their weekends playing down the local creek, picnicking in the countryside, or helping out on their family farm.
Of the city students who were enrolled, they were the outdoor adventure types and still camped and went on bushwalks with their families. So, despite growing up in the greater city of Melbourne, their parents had ensured they were connected to nature from a young age. They didn’t value it any less than the country kids.
So make the effort to get out in nature with your kids, for their own health and benefit, and yours!
If you’re looking for nature play ideas for babies and young children, I have a simple one page cheat-sheet with 25+ Easy Nature Play Ideas for Kids, so be sure to download it here and get your kids outside!
2. Read Your Children Books About Sustainability
In her book ‘Reading Magic’, Mem Fox states: “If every parent understood the huge educational benefits and intense happiness brought about by reading aloud to their children, and if every parent – and every adult caring for a child – read aloud a minimum of three stories a day to the children in their lives, we could probably wipe out illiteracy within one generation.”
There are countless benefits of reading to children. Sharing stories and songs with your baby or young child is one of the most important things you can do to help their developing brain. As a baby absorbs new sights, textures, scents and sounds, the connections in their brain that make learning possible multiply and become stronger.
Children’s books focused on caring for the environment help nurture sustainability values within your child from an early age. I love the Little Green Books series for teaching young children about sustainability and of course, The Lorax is always a popular favourite.
Reading is also an activity that can be eco-friendly and free! Just join your local library to start enjoying the benefits.
3. Be A Role Model
When it comes to leading by example I think the following quote by Wilferd Peterson sums it up perfectly…..“Our children are watching us live and what we are shouts louder than anything we can say.”
Put simply, how can we expect our children to live sustainably and care about the environment if we don’t?
This is where we need to walk the talk and lead by example. It’s not always an easy task, but don’t underestimate its effectiveness.
4. Give Them A Chance To Shine
I totally understand that having your kids pitch in around the home initially takes A LOT of patience, time, and perhaps a few broken household items or three before they learn the ropes, but really, kids learn when you get them involved.
Give your kids a chance to shine and watch them rise to the occasion. (Click to tweet.)
Perhaps you can give them a section in the garden that’s theirs to grow what they want. Maybe they can collect the eggs from the chickens each day, take out the rubbish or recycling, be the light police and catch anyone out who leaves lights on in vacant rooms. Or if you have older children, hand over the responsibility of cooking dinner one night a week to them.
It’s not cruel – it’s smart and it’s called in-sourcing.
I left home at the age of 17 knowing how to cook, clean, and run a household and while I thought I was hard done by on many occasions in my teenage years, I now know what a great gift my parents gave me.
I didn’t fall flat on my face when I moved out of home, I just got on with living and cooked an awesome celebratory dinner… from scratch … and invited all my uni friends over to celebrate my new found freedom!
So that’s pretty much it! The four best ways to nurture eco conscious children.
If we can all focus on these areas, our planet will be in very good hands, and we would have all done our little bit to help make green mainstream.
How do you nurture a love and connection for the environment with the children in your life? Feel free to share below!