6 easy ideas to teach kids to care for our planet

As mums, we want to do the best job we can when teaching our little ones. When it comes to teaching them about caring for our environment, knowing where to start can feel overwhelming and it’s tempting to wait until we feel like we’ve earned a few more ‘eco-warrior’ credentials.

But helping our kids connect to our environment and discover ways they can create a cleaner and greener future is within the reach of every mum – and doesn’t need to take days of research and planning (ain’t nobody got time for that!).

Here are three quick things to set you on the right track before we get stuck into some easy ideas.

1. START SMALL. Pick just one or two things and work them into your week. Once they’re second nature, work in something new. Small, consistent actions create a great foundation to build on as your kids grow and you get more confident. Plus, it’s easier to be consistent when you’re not overloaded – and you’ll have more fun doing it!

2. WHAT ARE YOU PASSIONATE ABOUT? Our kids get excited about what we’re excited about, so start with something you’re passionate about (food, exercise, art, music… whatever!) and find a simple way to link it to our environment. Your little one will respond to seeing you in your happy place, you’ll genuinely be having fun, and it builds a positive memory and connection for them. Win!

3 …BUT LET THEM TAKE THE LEAD. Some of the most memorable connection moments in our family have been initiated by our kids. Be prepared to let them take the activity in a new direction or to raise new questions and ideas. One of the best things we can do is encourage their growing minds to ask questions and be creative.

Now you’re ready!

Here are 6 practical and easy first steps you can take.

1. Read them a story with an environmental message

Storytime is always a highlight. While Where is the Green Sheep? might still be on high rotation, mix it up with other books like Little Helpers by Green Start or Can You Find Me by Gordon Winch to bring the environment into the everyday. Visit your local library to find some gems.

2. Let them carry the green bags

Kids love to help so letting them carry the green bags into the shops opens up a simple conversation about how reusable bags save us from using plastic bags that can cause big problems in our environment. It may even remind you to bring them! Bonus!

3. Bring a reusable coffee (and babycino!) cup

In Sydney around 100 million coffee cups end up in landfill every year. Urgh. But by bringing your own reusable coffee cup, your daily caffeine fix becomes an opportunity to show your little one an easy way to help the planet. Investing in a reusable babycino cup gets them involved too!

4. Visit your local farmers market

Your kids will meet the people who grow our food and they’ll get access to a range of new fruits and veggies the big stores don’t stock. Plus, it shows them our fresh food doesn’t just come on a Styrofoam tray from the supermarket. Let them choose something new to take home and experiment with!

5. Swap the playground for the bush

We know how important it is for kids to get outside – it helps their brains, hearts and bodies! Taking an easy walk through local gardens or bushland helps them connect early in life to the sights, sounds and smells of nature. Check your local council website for bush or nature walks in your area.

6. Get crafty with things from nature

Not only will eco-art projects save you some coin (free materials!), they’re also a great way for kids to connect with nature and get creative. Collect fallen leaves and twigs or even just take a picture, and use it as inspiration for tracing, painting, stamping or collage.

So, don’t wait until you think you’ve unlocked ninja eco-warrior status before you start engaging your little one – find a small action you can take today, and invite them to join you in it!

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Melissa Sellen

Mel holds a Master of Environmental Education and has worked as an educator for Planet Ark and the Nature Conservation Council of NSW, as well as State and Local Government. She has sat on the Executive of the Australian Association for Environmental Education (AAEE) NSW Chapter for the past 7 years and helped write the latest NSW Framework for Environmental Education. Mel is a mum to two lovely world-changers under 5 who help her put all her ideas into practice!

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