Childhood is a great time to learn about being environmentally friendly. It’s hard in many ways, as your kids see their friends live without thinking about how their actions matter, the toys they play with, the things they have.
The first step is to keep things age appropriate. You can teach children very young about some things. My 2-1/2 year old, for example, already knows the difference between the trash and recycle bins. He asks where to put everything.
My 5 year old is getting into reusing things. An amazing range of things are great for art projects. Old magazines, cardboard boxes, egg cartons and many other items have been saved for later projects. It saves a lot of shopping for ways to help my daughter be creative.
As they reach school age you can teach them by not sending lunches in disposable baggies or containers. At my daughter’s preschool, she was pretty much the only kid to bring her drink in a cup from home and snack in reusable containers. While these are still plastic, we’ll be using them for years rather than just once.
Some parts of green living are pretty easy on the kids. Throwing things in the recycle bin rather than the trash is pretty easy. Getting kids to reuse things, especially as they get older and more self conscious can be harder. The social pressures really add to the challenge.
The Shopping Challenge
Sometimes you can point out the advantages that may not be so obvious at first. If you have a good resale or thrift shop in your area, sometimes you can get fairly trendy clothes for much less than you would have paid for new. There’s nothing wrong with indulging your child’s desire to look good if you can show them the best ways to do so.
Handmedowns can also be an issue, but if you handle it well the clothes are more likely to be acceptable to the recipient. Go through and agree on which ones are actually wanted. The excess can be donated.
Reduce is perhaps one of the most difficult sections to handle. This is especially true when birthdays and holidays come around and you have little control over what other people give to them. We regularly go through our children’s things and talk about what is ready to be sold or donated. I also very rarely buy more toys for my kids. Quite frankly, between birthdays and Christmas they end up with more than they can play with anyhow.
But as they get older the issue often drifts toward the latest fashions and/or gadgets. I’ve already discussed how we cope with fashion, although since my oldest is 5 I have yet to deal with a truly fashion conscious child. She only thinks she has a fashion sense. Mostly involving dresses.
Gadgets such as cell phones, MP3 players and so forth are another matter. I dislike this trend of getting children a cell phone so very young, but at the same time I really do understand and sympathize. It can be pure torture wondering what is happening at your child’ school some days. I watched some mothers in my area go through that recently when their children’s high school had a shooting threat.
As I see it, it’s one thing to get a cell phone or other gadget, another to keep updating it with the latest technology. I decided that I didn’t need a cell phone that takes pictures, for example. Mine is only about 2-1/2 years old, but I can’t count how many people I know who have replaced their cell phones only because they wanted the latest addition to it. Don’t give in on this and explain why.
Kids Need Nature
I think it is very important to show your kids the beauty of the natural world. Take advantage of nature hikes in your area. Go camping as a family.
When you do go out hiking or camping, do your best to respect nature as you do so. There’s the standard rule of “take out what you bring in” for example. Sticking to existing trails may not be as much fun some ways, but it is less damaging to nature than breaking your own.
There are few things like watching a child see an animal in the wild. It’s a magic moment for them.
Garden. It’s an affordable way to get organically grown produce and it helps to get your children into fresh fruits and vegetables. It’s good exercise for you as well. Most children will be quite interested in foods they helped to grow, and most love to dig.
Teaching your kids to live green will not always be easy. They will resist at least some of the time. But through the years you can give them an appreciation for the world they live in and what they can do for it.