One of the great challenges with trying to live a reasonably environmentally conscious life is teaching my children to do the same. Young children have very little sense of the future; for example, my daughter once decided she would be Rapunzel when she grew up. It takes time and patience to turn kids green.
Fortunately, kids also possess a strong desire to please. Things don’t always turn out the way they intend, but children generally do mean well. And this means you can teach them to be more eco friendly.
How To Start Turning Your Kids Green
Start out by talking about why you make the decisions you do in terms of helping the environment. Even a preschooler can begin to learn what gets recycled, thrown in the compost or in the trash. As they get older, these things should become habit.
A garden is a great way for kids to learn to care for plants, as well as a great way to get them interested in eating their vegetables. Start them out with organic techniques so that they really learn them and because it’s much safer for them than using chemicals. Let the kids pick vegetables they would like to grow, as well as your own choices. Carrots and tomatoes are popular choices.
Kids love it when they can pick fruit from the tree as well. If you don’t have a fruit tree in your yard already, find out what your family likes and will grow well in your area. Go to a nursery and find one you would enjoy. Fruit trees are cheaper when they are bare root.
Older kids can help you make more environmentally friendly household cleaning supplies if that’s one of the things you do. Measuring quantities and mixing them together is a bit of math practice and a way to teach them that harsh chemicals aren’t the only way to clean. They may also enjoy finding essential oil scents to make cleaners smell better.
Keep Turning Your Kids Green As They Get Older
As your kids get older, you can teach them more. Teach them about energy conservation. You can make any child old enough to reach the light switch be responsible for keeping extra lights off. As they get older, you can talk about the amount of power the various kinds of light bulbs use and have them help you make a good selection.
Have them help you to conserve water too. They can help you replace plants that need a lot of water with ones more suited to your area, for example. Discuss how to find the balance between an attractive yard, growing food, and appropriate water use in your area.
Show your kids ways to reuse all that wasteful packaging material found in children’s toys and electronics. So much of that doesn’t recycle easily in most areas, but you might be able to use some of it at home. Styrofoam packaging in large pieces combined with golf tees and a pounding implement makes for loads of fun for younger kids. Those dratted wires that hold just about every toy in its box these days can be added to the craft supplies.
Also talk to them about using only what they need. This is a really tough one for kids these days, as they are likely to want all the stuff their friends have. As a parent it’s up to you to help your children control their more acquisitive urges and to enjoy what they have.
Teach Them To Buy Used
Some of the things kids really want may be available at thrift stores. Electronic devices may be available second hand – not as new as others get, but still functional. Teach your kids that they can get just as much enjoyment from second hand items.
When each of my kids has reached an appropriate age for a smartphone, it has been purchased second hand. That’s why my son has an iPhone 4, not something newer. It does the job, allowing him to chat with friends, play games, and once in a very long while make a phone call.
Encourage Them To Help In The Community
Volunteer work is great for children. There will be many things they won’t be allowed to do due to age, but there are small things even very young children can do.
An easy start is picking up trash as you go for a family walk in your neighborhood or at a park. Bring a bag to collect all the trash. It’s a small thing, but it makes a great difference in how the area looks.
As children get older, they may be able to volunteer by visiting the elderly in retirement homes. Check with your local retirement homes to find out what the age and other requirements are.
I volunteer with my kids each week at a local animal shelter. Most don’t allow kids until they’re 12 or even older, but some will allow younger kids. Check with them to find out when your kids will qualify.
We help with laundry, as that’s something safe even for my youngest. If other work needs to be done we help with that as well. We go late in the day, so laundry is often it. When that’s done, we socialize with the cats. It’s fun yet necessary. Sometimes we help with the dogs, but they have more people who come in to socialize the dogs than for the cats.
Books are great for turning kids green. You can find books for all ages about being more eco friendly.
Start with your local library. You don’t need to buy every book your child wants to read on the subject. There are times when you will want to own a particular book on the subject, but much of the time borrowing the book is enough. Librarians can be very helpful in discovering new books to read.
Whether you buy or borrow, Amazon can also be a good resource for finding books you want to consider. Sometimes it’s hard to figure out what to read with your kids. If you can’t get enough ideas from your local librarian, try book reviews on Amazon.
Children don’t always take naturally to the sacrifices required to live a greener lifestyle, but it’s a great time for them to learn the skills. Have a little fun with it and let your children explore their options as they help you help the planet. Turning your kids green can be a lot of fun even when it’s challenging.