I have two children. My daughter is eight years old, and my son is four and a half. As they get older, I'm spending more and more time thinking about how to involve them in my efforts to live more sustainably. Of course, they've always had a front row seat as I work in my garden, take out my compost, sort my recycling, visit the farmers' market, and so on. But increasingly, they're able to understand what we're doing and why, as well as make choices for themselves.
Any parent can tell you that lecturing kids isn't exactly the most effective way to get your message across. Your kids' eyes glaze over, and they stop listening, as you extoll the virtues of using less toilet paper or turning off the tap while you brush your teeth. So, other than lecturing or the modelling I'm doing already, I've been spending some time lately considering how to raise little environmentalists. Here's what I've come up with so far.
|Releasing salmon into a local stream|
Raising Little Environmentalists
- Get outside with your kids. A desire to take better care of the planet often grows out of a love for the natural world. The more time that you spend outdoors exploring, whether you're hiking in the wilderness, wading in a stream, playing on the beach or even just chilling in your back yard, the greater the connection your kids will feel with nature.
- Attend special events where your kids can learn about the environment. Here where my family lives in the Vancouver area, there are lots of community events, festivals and fairs that offer you a chance to learn about the environment. Whether you're attending a harvest festival, participating in a shoreline clean-up, or releasing baby salmon for their journey out to sea, this is a fun, family-friendly way to learn more about the planet and how to care for it.
- Join up and sign up. If you can, consider joining a local club or taking a class with a green focus. A young naturalists' club is a great option, if it's available in your community. Summer day camps (or overnight camps) that give your kids a chance to spend time outside or get up close and personal with animals or organic gardening are also fabulous. These programs take the onus off of you to teach your kids everything, as well as offering a whole lot of fun.
- Ask your kids to help you make decisions. As my own children get older, I find they're better able to take part in our family's decision-making. I also find that when they're involved in making a decision, they're more likely to abide by it. Plus, sometimes they have really good ideas. So why not consider asking your kids for their ideas? You may be surprised by what they have to share.
- Reduce screen time. I admit it - this one is a hard one. Like a lot of parents, I sometimes lean on the electronic babysitter more than I should. However, I notice that the more time my kids spend in front of the TV, the more advertising they see, and the more they ask for stuff. Those commercials make toys and junk food look so darn appealing. By cutting back, or opting for advertising-free TV, I'm able to reduce the gimmes and stem the tide of consumerism for my family.