Globally-minded kids are environmentally-minded kids. The concepts go hand-in-hand. Our only chance to save Earth is to raise little environmentalists.
Research has shown that worldwide, we lose plant and insect species at an alarming rate-around 10,000 species per year! What can we do? We can raise eco-minded kids!
Kids who think green now will be the ones who grow up and band together with other like-minded global citizens to figure out the best and most sustainable ways to ensure that the Earth and all of its living things can thrive and carry on.
Ecological intelligence must start at home. Parents have to take a primary role in educating kids on how to create a sustainable world. If, from a young age, kids are taught to think green — that is to make decisions in a way which takes into account the health of the environment– then it is much more likely that they will grow into environmentally-conscious adults.
Here are 5 ways to inspire children to become lifelong environmental stewards:
1. Enrich Eco-Intelligence:
One of the best ways to enrich childrens’ eco-intelligence is to familiarize them with the relevant vocabulary so that they can become knowledgable about issues related to the health of the Earth. This will help them to feel confident and at ease when discussing environmental issues with others.
Some key terms are: conservation; recycle; compost; green; earth-friendly; alternative energy; global warming; carbon monoxide; and atmosphere. Use an online glossary to look up and chat about environmental definitions with your kiddos.
Kid-friendly books about the environment can also help youngsters “go green.” The Everything Kids’ Environment Book is a fun guidebook that teaches kids how they can help the environment by getting involved at school, at home, or at play.
Also, there are many environmental education resources online that can help boost a child’s eco-literacy. Here are two of our favorite resources:
EcoKids is a free program that offers learning materials and activities about the environment through interactive and fun games;
EekoWorld is a PBS website that is designed to help children between the ages of 6 and 9 learn about the important role they can play in taking care of the earth. It features an engaging and interactive format that invites children to explore, experiment, and collaborate as they learn about conservation and the environment.
Another important factor regarding eco-intelligence is knowing how to respond to negative comments from others who are less-informed (or completely ignorant) about environmental issues. Be sure that your child is armed with a “go-to” response when faced with negative sentiments. Keep it simple and tell your child to explain to naysayers firmly, but politely, something like this: “I care about the planet and that I want to help make sure that everyone has a safe and healthy environment to live in.”
2. Create a Culture of Conservation in Your Home
An excellent way to create a culture of conservation in your home is to run your household like it’s your own little fragile planet — reduce it’s carbon footprint, conserve natural resources, reduce trash, compost your food scraps, grow your own food, etc.
Even if you’re not doing any of these things, you can begin to implement a culture of conservation at home by putting just one practice into action and building up from there. You can start simple by placing a recycle bin in your child’s room for discarded paper. Or, you can take on a larger project such as setting up a monthly chart so that you can compare household utilities usage with the previous year’s usage. When the bills arrive each month, review them and record the costs on the chart, then compare the numbers with the same month of the prior year.
Let kids know that they can help reduce the monthly bills by making a conscious effort to reduce the length of time they spend in the shower, and to shut off the faucet while they brush their teeth. Air conditioning can be adjusted to keep it warmer during the summer months, and cooler in the winter. If you make these types of conservation efforts, your average monthly utility costs will go down. Kids will begin to see a pattern and become more aware of how overuse drives up the cost, and wastes valuable resources. This can motivate kids to be more conservative with their own usage so that each month they can “beat” last year’s bill.
3. Celebrate Nature
Kids love parties and season change is one of the best reasons to celebrate! Look for summer and winter solstice festivities in your area. These gatherings are great for families as there is usually fun music and dancing.
At home, kids can make seasonal crafts and use them to decorate a table-top, shelf, or mantel. On the first day of the incoming season, replace the last season’s decorations with handmade crafts that symbolize the new season.
Another way to celebrate nature is to simply set aside time to watch the sun rise or set at least once every month.
You can also commemorate seasonal change in a delicious way by preparing a feast with the season’s freshest foods so that kids can begin to make a connection with the cycles of the Earth’s crops.
4. Get Kids Outside to Play & to Become Citizen Scientists
Childhood is the perfect time to make a connection with nature, and to develop an understanding of the environment and ecology. Research shows that kids who regularly get out into nature and play outdoors will be much more likely to develop an attachment to the natural world and a desire to protect it. A wonderful way to entice kids to get outside and explore nature is to engage them in citizen science projects.
There are over 200 citizen science projects available worldwide. The programs allow for kids to collect data that supports scientific studies and local policymaking regarding birds, plants, trees, water and more. It’s a great way for kids to collaborate on a global level as many programs are set up to allow kids from around the world to work together in cooperation and to share data internationally. This is a wonderful and unique way for kids to develop a sense of world citizenship – which will make them more likely to participate in cooperative efforts to address adverse environmental issues throughout their lives.
Here are some of the many citizen science projects currently available:
Project Noah is a tool to explore and document wildlife. The program enables anyone to upload photos of plants and wildlife around them, creating a map of the natural world and contributing to scientific research in the process. Participants can submit photos of unknown organisms to get help identifying them. There is a free Project Noah App available which aims to help people identify plants and animals as well as collect data from “citizen scientists” about where certain species are located.
The Audubon Christmas global bird-monitoring project is to help scientists better understand what is happening to bird species everywhere. Participants collect data for the organization which is used to compile a wildlife census to assess the health of bird populations. This is the longest-running citizen scientist project in history. It is designed to help guide conservation action.
World Water Monitoring Day is a chance for people everywhere around the world to take a dip and gather water quality data in their communities. (By 2012, 1 million people in 100 nations are expected to be participating.) Easy-to-use test kits are provided to citizen scientists so that they can collect sample for studies of local water bodies.
Bee Hunt a great way to teach and learn about pollination ecology and other aspects of natural history through honey bee data colelction.
Nest Watch is a citizen science project that helps to measure successes and failures of nesting birds.
The Monarch Larva Monitoring Project is a citizen science project involving volunteers from across the United States and Canada in monarch butterfly research.
Another fun program is the National Geographic Great Nature Project. With a camera and a sense of adventure they can help create a global snapshot of the Earth’s incredible biodiversity & as part of National Geographic’s Great Nature Project they can help try for a Guinness World Records® title for the Largest Online Photo Album of Animals!
5. Empower Them
Kids tend to think that they are too little to make a difference. When it comes to environmental protection, nothing could be further from the truth. It’s never too early to start making efforts to protect the environment. Kids need to know that every little bit they do to protect the planet is important. Children of all ages from around the world have done things that have truly made a difference in the health of our environment. Share the stories of 6 Child Environmentalists That Have Already Changed the World with your kiddos to empower and inspire them to take action for a healthier and more sustainable world. The Earth needs more kid environmentalists!
I put a call out to the wonderful bloggers at Multicultural Kid Blogs to get their input on ideas for “going green” with kids. Here are their insightful recommendations:
Jody Tilbury of Mud Hut Mama, who lives her life like everyday is Earth Day, has great tree-themed activities and book suggestions to help “go green” with the preschool set. Additionally, Jody’s blog features an excellent series called Conservation Corner which highlights the various ways in which people around the world are making efforts to tread more lightly on our planet. Annabelle from The Piri-Piri Lexicon recently contributed to the series with a post about using cloth diapers. She explains how this option is actually cheaper and more beneficial than you think. This is a great way to go green with your kids right from the start. It’s never too early to begin to explain to your little one the importance of protecting the Earth. Even toddlers can begin to understand the negative aspects of continuously cutting down all of the trees that are used to make disposable diapers — and that diapers do not biodegrade, but have to be thrown into a landfill.
Other posts in the series which focus on easy ways to “go green”:
In observance of “Buy Nothing New Month”, which is a worldwide movement focusing on conscientious consumption, Ute of Expat Since Birth shares great tips on how to take the challenge of resisting the urge to buy anything new (except for essentials like food, hygiene and medicines). This is a great approach to teaching kids to live a greener, clutter- free, clean and simple lifestyle.
In a post called Let’s Clean Up Our Planet, Thereza from A Path of Light suggests that we should model conscientious behavior for our children such as taking a trash bag along with you when you go for a stroll on the beach. The idea is that if your child sees you making efforts to be kind to the planet, they will instinctively follow suit.
Kim and Amanda from An Educator’s Spin On share their ideas in Raising an Eco Tot – 10 Environmentally Friendly Activities for Toddlers. They outline great ways to educate young children about the environment from planting a garden and making recycled crafts to going on a nature walk and visiting a waste management facility. They also have a fun suggestion for a kid’s photo project where kids can take pictures of all of the items in and around their home that help them to live as a “green” family (e.g., compost bin, rain water collector, bikes, re-useable bags). Such a creative idea! You and your child could even take it one step further and use the photos to create a crafty children’s book about “going green”.