Providing children with tools for understanding how they can positively affect the natural world can give them a sense of control and help them to feel positive about the actions they can take to protect the Earth. Here are some ways to teach your kids about the environment.
Maintain a Green Home
Maintaining a green home and explaining why you do things the way you do will help kids gain an appreciation for the environment. Some ways to do this include:
- Use homemade, environmentally friendly cleaning products, like using vinegar, lemon juice, and baking soda
- Teach “reduce, reuse, recycle”
- Reduce plastic waste by bringing reusable bags to the grocery store
- Donate still-useful clothing and toys that your kids have outgrown
- Conserve water and energy by
- Training kids to turn the water off as they brush their teeth and turn the lights off when they leave a room
- Setting the thermostat no higher than 68°F in winter and no lower than 78°F in summer
- Turning off or unplugging appliances when not in use
Ask Your Children’s Librarian for Help
Your local public library is a wonderful resource for teaching your kids about the environment. Ask for guidance in locating age-appropriate books about:
- Planting trees
- Participating in community clean-up projects
- Organic farming
- Water and energy conservation
Explore the Outdoors Together
Experiencing the outdoors is one of the best ways to teach your children about the environment. Start by using environmentally responsible transportation—walk or a bike ride to a local park. You can also:
- Visit forest preserves and talk about what you see
- Encourage interest in wildlife by setting up and properly maintaining a bird feeder or birdbath
- Identify the different ecosystems you see outside and the ways people and wildlife depend on them
Help Kids Create Their Own Mini-Environment
Terrariums and aquariums are mini-environments that teach kids about how living things need the right conditions to thrive. Help kids select the live aquarium plants and compatible fish. Middle schoolers can learn how to maintain their projects, and if something goes wrong, they learn how fragile the environmental balance can be.
First, start with hardy plants, or aquatic plants and fish that are compatible and easy to care for. Then, involve kids in understanding the need for light and nutrients. Talk about how plants take in CO2, release oxygen, and clean toxins from aquatic environments.
Also, give younger children non-toxic houseplants to care for to learn about the right amount of light and water needed to keep a plant alive.
Plant a Pollinator or Vegetable Garden
Create a raised bed vegetable garden or plant a pollinator garden so that kids can observe how plants and insects depend on each other. Have kids help with composting, watering, planting, and weeding out invasive species.
In addition to planting a pollinator or vegetable garden, introducing kids to the benefits of eating sustainably and locally is another way to inspire environmental awareness. One way to do this is to teach kids to grow shiitake mushrooms.
Growing shiitake mushrooms is an excellent way to introduce children to the benefits of sustainable agriculture and the importance of locally sourced food. By showing kids how food can be grown in their backyard, you can help them develop an appreciation for the natural world and inspire them to take action to protect it.
Taking care of our planet begins with environmental awareness, and developing that awareness in children will help them feel positive about their future using clean energy and conserving the natural world we depend on to live.