Earth Day is one of my favorite days of the year because it’s a great reminder to take a moment and be thankful for the planet we live on. I know, it sounds super crunchy but it’s like realizing that you should be thankful for your body for all that it does for you, instead of complaining that it doesn’t look like everyone else’s. I’m always looking for awesome Earth Day tips for raising environmentally aware kids.
Aside from raising your children to be good human beings (which should be first and foremost every parent’s goal) and showing them how to commit random acts of kindness in the world, we have to teach them the importance of taking care of our planet. We have to make it clear that the earth provides for us; food, water, air and everything else we need to survive and thrive in the universe. We need to take care of it in return. Like any good functional relationship, it takes two and lots of respect and reciprocity.
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Kids understand so much more, at much younger ages than we often give them credit for. They can understand concepts like climate change, endangered species and overflowing landfills better than some of their adult counterparts. Showing them the way could motivate them to adopt Earth-friendly behavior. Encourage them with your own actions.
You should be having Earth Day conversations with children as young as preschool-aged about why taking care of the planet is such a good idea. The more you talk with your kids, the more they’ll understand but don’t dumb it down too much. Talk in age-appropriate explanations.
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- Use Analogies: Wasting the Earth’s resources too quickly is like spending all your piggy bank money before allowance day.
- Outline Causal Relationships: If you throw trash down a storm drain, it can make ocean animals sick.
- Define New Vocabulary Terms: Like “biodegradable,” or “renewable energy.”
- Make Connections to Prior Knowledge: Just like plants use sunlight to make food, solar panels use it to make electricity.
Show your child how important the environment is to everyone around you. But you have to do more than just show them on Earth Day. For eco-friendly behavior to truly become second nature to our kids, it helps if it is done daily, rewarding and fun.
Here are Earth Day Tips for Raising Environmentally Aware Kids
- Recycling: Cut bottle, can and paper slot shapes into your bin lids to make sorting recyclables a fun family game. You can even sing a song while you sort. And if you take your collected items to a recycling center, consider sharing the redemption money with your kids for an added incentive.
- Transportation: Look for chances to reduce emissions (and your stress levels) by taking car-free trips whenever you can. Biking, walking and riding public transportation can give your family some exercise and make traveling a lot more fun, too. City dwellers should find this easy, but even if you live out in the suburbs, we bet you have a park, restaurant or friend’s house within pedaling distance.
- Reducing Waste: Help your kids look forward to saving electricity by having one fun candlelight dinner every week. Or encourage them to use less water by timing who can take the fastest shower (while still coming out smelling clean, of course)!
- Water: Use only the water you need, and reuse when possible.
Rain barrels can be used to collect rain and then you can use it to water a family garden.
Bathe together. Put the kids in the tub together. Shower with your kids or your husband. It saves water, creates memories and nurtures the bond between siblings Dispose of solid and liquid wastes and medications safely.
Take advantage of medication take-back programs or household hazardous waste collection programs that accept medications, pharmaceuticals, oil, paint and other liquid wastes.
- Pass on gas! For example, take public transportation, carpool, plan your day to reduce trips and vehicle emissions.
- Make sure your home’s air is healthy, learn about indoor air pollutants from indoor energy use and toxins.
- Plant a tree. Or plant many trees! Plant a garden. Plant a vegetable garden.
- Prevent additional air pollution by finding alternatives to burning your waste.
- Use pesticides safely! Reduce or eliminate where possible.
- Learn about composting, try it out!
- Reducing yard waste by recycling yard trimmings into free fertilizer.
- Learn about the native species and the negative effects of non-native plants and animals in the environment. Plant native species in your gardens, encourage important pollinators such as bees and birds by planting gardens full of their favorite plants. Join a team in your community that removes non-native species.
- Save energy at home Choose energy-saving appliances if they’re available. Look for Energy Star!
- Hang dry your clothes. This is one of my favorite things to do.
- Go renewable! Create your own power from the wind, the sun, water, or biofuels.
- Find alternate ways to reduce the use of diesel and other fuels for transportation, production and energy.
- Upcycle! Take something that is disposable and transforms it into something of greater use and value.
- Recycle metals, plastics and paper
- E-cycle Recycle and/or properly dispose of electronic waste such as computers and other gadgets
- Don’t litter! Properly dispose of trash and waste
The best thing you can do is simply the act of getting your kids outdoors; no matter the ages. In our high tech world, kids spend a lot more time indoors looking at screens. I’m not judging. I’m stating a fact. We all do it but we need to actively get our kids moving outside, for their health and the health of the planet.
One amazing experience in the great outdoors is worth a thousand nature lectures. Children who have an immersive experience in nature between the ages of 5 and 10, tend to care more about the environment. There is also a greater likelihood that they will actively work to preserve the important life-giving aspects of the environment as adults.
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Rather than teaching our Earth Day tips about sustainability, give your kids a nature experience that will instill them with an environmental ethic that will inspire them to develop their own dedication to sustainability.
We’ll be spending this beautiful Earth Day outside, as we always do, watching our girl play soccer, going for a nature walk and playing in the backyard. There is something about getting outside, breathing in the fresh air and playing that truly inspires my family. Nature is like my church. I feel most at peace just being still and taking in the wonder and beauty that is outside.