As adults, we all know we should be taking care of our environment more but busy schedules and lifestyles sometimes prevent us from doing what we know is right. The time has long past, though, and as a society we need to take responsibility for the environmental situation we’re in right now. We need to start teaching children what this means so it becomes a natural part of their life. When asked what the best way is to help children learn to “go green”, my simple answer is teach by example.
Before I had my daughter 10 months ago, I was a Special Education, fifth grade teacher for 15 years. Teaching by example, or modeling, was my motto and I still stand by this belief. If you want your children to adopt a more environmentally friendly outlook, you need to show them that you have too. Make sure you present these practices in a way that your child will understand, depending on their age. Help them to see how saving resources impacts their lives and what they can do to make things better. Here are some examples, and please, if you know of any others, let us know:
- Recycle: Have bins for recycling outside your home and let your child sort paper, glass and plastic. Recycle toys by asking your child if they know of any younger friends who may want them instead of throwing them in the trash. Recycle clothes by asking your child if you can both pick out items that don’t fit anymore and give them to family members. Do you live near a recycling center? If so, take your child for visit so they can see where all of their hard work goes to and what happens to it.
- Reuse: Pack your child’s lunch in reusable BPA-free containers. Give them their juice, milk or water in a reusable BPA-free reusable water bottle and help them understand the amount of plastic water bottles the world uses each day that usually aren’t recycled. When products are purchased at a store, help your child generate ideas of how the packaging can be used again for arts and crafts or building, in the case of boxes. Reuse school supplies each year that are still in good shape.
- Reduce: When you’re out shopping with your child, in addition to using it as a learning experience with math, help them to choose items with less packaging and ones that are more easily recyclable.
- Use your public library or used book stores: All children should have special books of their own but they should also have a library card if you have a library in your town. Teach your child how borrowing books or buying used books saves trees and resources. Take out books on endangered species and the environment that are geared towards their age group.
- Ride your bicycle when you can or walk with your child to run errands and explain what pollution is and why the Earth has it.
- Line dry your washed clothes and let your child help.
- If you have a backyard, start a compost. Let your child be “in charge” of paying attention to which scraps of food you produce that can be added to it. Plant a garden in the spring with the dirt they’ve helped to make.
- Save energy: Keep your thermostat at a lower setting in the winter time and wear sweaters instead. Use blankets to snuggle in as you read together or play games.