When your children are young adults, the same things you enjoyed as kids – like the Great Barrier Reef, the Daintree Rainforest or our precious koalas – may no longer exist. Sadly, the finite raw materials and resources that make up our beautiful Earth could very easily run out, unless we pivot towards a greener, more sustainable future. So, where’s the best place to start? With your kids. They even may not be your own kids, you can still positively encourage and implement these fun practises with your grandchildren, nieces, nephews and friends.
In a nutshell, sustainability is the ability to continue a defined behaviour indefinitely. When it comes to environmental sustainability, resources like oil, natural gas and coal cannot be continued indefinitely, therefore they are not sustainable materials.
Here’s a fun way to teach your kids about sustainability. Get your children a piggy money box (bonus points if you’ve picked it up at an op shop or make one together from recycled materials) and ask them to imagine their moneybox is always full. No matter how much of their pocket money they take out of the moneybox, it keeps refilling. Now, explain to them that as much as we would like it to do so, the world doesn’t work like that. If we keep spending, our money will run out. Tell them that this also applies to our environment.
When it comes to raising kids who are inspired to live a sustainable life, you have to make it fun. Here are seven of our favourite ways to raise eco-conscious kids and create long-lasting healthy behaviours.
Take your kids to the market and get them choosing vegetables and fruits with you. Chat to farmers, encourage your kids to ask questions and sample everything possible. Make sure you comment on the vibrant colour or crunchy texture of the produce. Getting your kids conscious of the origins of the food on their plates, as well as getting to know the people who work so hard to produce it, will encourage them to make smart and sustainable choices in the future. If you don’t have any farmers markets close by, visit your independent grocer and connect with local business owners.
Cooking gives kids the opportunity to learn about good eating habits and what goes into the food they eat. When you’re in the kitchen together, you have the opportunity to teach your kids about nutrition, where their food comes from and the benefits of cooking as opposed to processed foods.
Be sure to explain zero waste in terms of food waste and plastic packaging. Check out our Cooking with Kids blog for tips and recipes.
Kids love to get their hands dirty and it’s important for parents to let them. Pick up some seedlings from your local plant nursery and get your little ones into the garden. Teach them how to create healthy soil and how water and sun help plants to grow. Watch your children’s face light up when they pull their first carrot from the ground or gently pick off some ripe tomatoes. Gardening connects kids to hard work, patience and the planet.
Don’t have a garden? Set up a balcony garden or try sprouting and growing microgreens! Find out how to sprout alfalfa seeds here. You can also use whole fenugreek seed, pumpkin seeds, chia, organic mung beans and more. Be sure to do your research before starting and consuming sprouts.
Composting food waste not only diverts your food scraps away from landfill, where it would otherwise be releasing methane gas into the atmosphere, but it also creates healthy soil for your vegetable patch. Plus, kids love worms! Worms connect kids to the Earth and provide parents with hours of distraction.
If you have a secure backyard, let your kids explore it on their own. Kids need to learn they are capable of doing things themselves which helps to develop intuition and confidence. Playtime in the natural world incites resourcefulness, which helps with your teaching of sustainability to kids.
When children develop a strong relationship with nature, they’ll understand the importance of the planet’s longevity. Sometimes we get caught up in the busyness of life and forget about our beautiful surroundings, visit national parks and beaches to explore natures beauty.
Get the whole family on board for Plastic Free July! Brainstorm a couple of ways the family can reduce plastic waste. Let your kids decide on one small change they are going to make for the month or maybe it’s the complete challenge. There’s no change too little or big, even the smallest of changes have a more significant impact than we realise. Swapping to durable reusable bottles instead of juice boxes, stainless-steel straws, ditch cling wrap on lunches and when storing food for beeswax wraps and stainless-steel lunchbox.
Prompt kids to be conscious of wanting plastic toys and collectables. Say “no” to single-use plastics like straws, plastic bags, bottles, cups and packaging.
Hopefully, your kids know who Greta Thunberg is. If not, it’s time to educate them on why Greta, the wide-eyed, pigtailed Swedish teenager, is working hard to create the urgency and action we need in our fight for the climate. Encourage your kids to read about Greta, watch her educational social media videos and bring the “Greta Effect” into their daily lives.
As parents, we have a responsibility to raise conscious, thoughtful, kind, happy and healthy children. Doing this, however, can sometimes be a parenting burden too big to bare – especially on one of “those” days. You know the type; you’ve barely had time to eat, you’ve got baby food in your hair and you spilt your second coffee on your shirt. You just made it through the day. You can’t wait to switch off with a wine on the couch but as soon as you get home, you mechanically move through the dinner, bath and bedtime routine.
On days like this, keep it simple. Ask your kids this one question: what did you do today to help the planet? Their answer will always make you smile and remind you of what you’re fighting for: their future.
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