The brightest minds and strongest hands will be those that we raise today to build tomorrow’s future. What we teach them now is critically important to reshaping society’s priorities. You don’t have to indoctrinate your kids. How can you inspire them to care more about the environment? How can we raise environmental advocates, before the world pulls their focus?
Here are a few ways to show your children the path, and then let them walk it all on their own.
Lead by Example
It’s simple psychology that children often emulate the values and habits of their parents. Give them something good to root into their subconscious.
Even before they’re able to grasp more complex concepts, build healthy, green habits into how your household runs by default. When they grow up with it, they’ll wonder why anyone would do it any other way. With any luck, they’ll grow up with the delightful tendency to question everything.
Show Them the Real Thing
For adults and children alike, nothing inspires environmental consciousness like leaving the hustle and bustle of suburbia to see what you’re protecting. Take your kids to natural experiences that show them ecosystems at work.
National parks and wildlife refuges often offer hands-on learning experiences where kids can get up close and personal with wildlife. Camp under starry skies, hold birds of prey at a raptor rescue — whatever inspires and whatever captivates, just do it as often as you can.
Don’t Just Do — Explain
Kids are naturally curious. As they get older and start asking endless questions about why and how things happen, try not to get flustered and overwhelmed. Your child’s quest for information and natural curiosity may not last forever, so indulge them every chance you get.
Explain why you do things the way you do, the impacts it has on people and planet, and then when they’re ready, show them how they can help out.
Start Wild Foraging
Seeing what the earth produces that we use directly is a great way to show kids how it’s all connected. Work with your local extension office to learn more about plants in your area that are safe to eat, and start collecting!
Make Grocery Shopping a Game
Spotting problem ingredients and packaging at the grocery store doesn’t have to be tedious. Instead of fighting to keep your kids busy while you read labels, make it a seek and find game for the whole family.
Ask kids that are of reading age to scan boxes for problem ingredients, and offer a prize for whoever finds the winning contender. Show toddlers the many colors of the organic produce section, and count together as you drop everything into your reusable bags.
It may take longer, but it’ll get your kids involved in one of the most critical forms of activism — that which happens at the consumer level.
Even adults shy away from living more sustainably because they’re embarrassed about what they don’t know. Make it clear to your children that there isn’t one way to care about the planet, and learn together. Encourage them to ask more questions and think more proactively about what they can do on their own to protect the planet.
Get Them Involved in the Conversation
Ditch the kids’ table and get kids involved in the subjects that matter. Instead of having conversations over the tops of their heads, encourage them to participate and ask them for their opinions. This won’t just help to educate your kids — it’ll build their skills for productive, mature conversations.
Fill Their Bookshelf With Inspiration
There are some fantastic books out there for kids that can educate and inspire little environmentalists to get passionate and involved in their natural world.
Fill your child’s bookshelf with age-appropriate environmental kids’ books that keep the conversation going after dinner.
Caring for the planet is a mission best taken on together, so get your kids involved, and get in the dirt together. Schedule a family volunteer day at your local community garden, work with your local land trust, or support community initiatives to reduce waste. Whatever you can do in your area, bring the kids along.
How are you getting your kids interested in the environment? Tell us in the comments below!