Tomorrow’s sustainable leaders are paying attention.
They’ve seen how humans have created enough plastic to cover the world’s 8th largest country. They’re feeling the effects of climate change. Thanks to social media, they’ve witnessed environmental strides and failures all around the globe.
Today’s kids have more distractions than ever before. A national survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that children and adolescents aged 8 – 11 spend 7.5 hours a day on entertainment media including television, computers, mobile phones, and game consoles. That’s why the need to teach kids to make better lifestyle choices is even more pressing.
Whatever actions or choices we make today will affect future generations. Developments, innovations, and lifestyle changes have become so great and radical that the standards of living became too complicated and put earth’s resources in danger. At an early age, parents should teach their kids to live more simply, more sustainably, and more responsibly. Here are 12 sure-fire, fun, and bizarre ways to introduce your kids to sustainable living.
Practice What You Preach
If you instruct your child to be kind and then she sees you treating a server rudely or bashing someone at work who disagreed with you… what lesson is she really learning? There is no better way to teach and involve kids than to SHOW them. Children look up to their parents, and they’re watching even when we think they aren’t.
Your child will value healthy foods if they grow up watching their parents enjoy them. She’ll instinctively know how to recycle, compost, or use less energy when that’s the habit of the home she grew up in.
Find a local volunteer job that will teach your kids the importance of sustainable living. Join clean up groups and introduce your kids to the value of volunteerism, keep them active, physically fit and well-informed.
If your son loves animals, help him think of how his passion can make a difference. He may want to volunteer together at an animal shelter or dog-sit for a friend.
If your daughter loves to read, bring her to read to seniors at a retirement community. It’s a great way to serve happiness and impact someone’s life for the better.
Stay Active as a Family
Sustainable living does not only refer to the earth’s ecosystems and what we could do to save it. It also involves choices that sustain a healthier lifestyle. The sooner kids are made aware of this; the better. Latest data by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that childhood obesity in America has more than doubled in the past 30 years with 18% of children aged 6 – 11 considered obese.
The question is: how did we get here? Let’s Move is a campaign led by former First Lady Michelle Obama and aims to address today’s obesity crisis. According to its website, children today are having as much as six snacks a day, eat bigger portion sizes, and drink 20 ounces of sweetened beverage. In total, kids are now eating 31 percent more calories.
Aside from eating more greens, it also encourages kids to move more — exercise, dance, yoga, and play. Getting fit should be fun. Introduce your kids to the playground. Fun play time is more than just a bonding exercise but an opportunity for physical fitness for kids in playground. Simple playground exercises like climbing up the slide, jumping up and down the trampoline; balancing at the beam and running from one playground equipment to another are fun ways to be healthy.
Read to Lead
Kids love bedtime stories and they usually take the lessons they learn from books up to the time they grow up. Read books that teach about how to save and how to be responsible stewards of the planet.
Make it “Reel”
Documentaries may be too much for small children, but animated features about the environment and healthy living will help kids grasp and appreciate the idea of caring for the world and living more responsibly. Common Sense Media has cultivated several lists of kid-friendly environmental and social cause documentaries.
Let the Games Begin
Play games that promote sustainable living like identifying ways to recycle old magazines, what to do with plastic bottles, contest with eating broccoli, or who can last longer without checking Facebook and have fun at the playground instead.
Plant a garden with your child. Cultivating childhood or teen gardeners will reap benefits that go beyond healthy eating habits. They’ll learn patience, how to work in accord with nature, and an up close look at cause and effect.
You can also visit your local farmer’s market for organic and fresh produce. Everyone can walk, pick their own produce, and smell the herbs and local, in-season flowers.
Avoid single use products like plastic wares, straws, and other disposable items that only contribute to a large trash load and are harmful to the environment. Zero Waste Home is an excellent resource for reducing your impact – especially when it comes to plastic. Start a challenge within your family to see who can create the least amount of waste for a month.
It Starts at Home
Show your kids how to maintain sustainability in your living space. Make it a habit to open the windows more and turn the lights on when they’re not in use. Make your own cleaning supplies from safe ingredients. Is solar an option in your area? Either way, get your child involved in the consideration process. Carpool when possible and explain the cost and environmental benefits of only driving one car.
Creating a compost pile may seem unattractive at first — until you add worms. Children are fascinated with these slimy creatures. While you do this, don’t forget to tell them that composts reduce food waste and provide organic fertilizer for your plants.
No Rain, No Gain
Some kids dislike the rain because it disrupts playtime. But that won’t be the case as soon as you tell them to start a rainwater collection project. Ask them to fill buckets with rainwater that will be later on used to wash the car or water the garden. In a fun way, kids will learn about conserving water.
Fall in Love with Nature
Take your kids to a leisurely walk at the park or go on a hike and rekindle them with nature. Make them appreciate the beauty of the environment so they will learn to respect and protect it. Take pictures for them to remember.
Bring the kids to your local animal sanctuary to appreciate wildlife. You can also try No Trace Camping and introduce them to living simply and appreciate the wonders of nature.
Sustainable living may sound like an overwhelming concept to introduce to kids, but it won’t be so if you start early and start small. Not only will this help ensure a better world for generations, it can also be so fun that the youngest of tomorrow’s sustainable leaders may not even realize they are learning and helping to make a change.