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From exploring your own backyard to potting your own herbs, here are some fun ways to educate your kids about the planet
By Jenny Ringland
Inspiring and educating kids on why and how to be kind to the planet doesn’t have to be complicated. Shared experiences and everyday references, although simple can be powerful enough to help them gain an in-depth understanding of the world around them and to help inspire change. Like most things to do with kids, getting them involved is the best way for them to learn. Whether it’s getting their hands dirty in the veggie garden, knowing to turn off the tap once they’ve finished brushing their teeth or encouraging them to chat to our local farmers market stall holder, we’ve collated our favourite tips on how to inspire the next generation to care for the world around them.
A simple walk around the block, or to your neighborhood park is one of the best ways to educate little ones about the environment. Talk about the plants (and if you’re lucky) the animals you see along the way. Pick up any rubbish you might come across and explain why it’s important to make sure it gets into the right bin. If they’re older, you can ask them if they think the items can be recycled. I also encourage my girls to touch plants, to feel the texture of the trunk of a tree or to notice how spongey the lawn is of our neighbor’s garden.
Growing a plant, whether it’s an indoor succulent, a box of herbs on a window sill or an entire veggie patch is a great way to engage kids. Get them involved from the start by choosing seedlings then, show them how to plant and water them. And in the case of herbs and veggies, pick them then head to the kitchen to cook something together. Without realising it, they’ve actually experienced the entire farm-to-table lifecycle in their own backyard.
If you don’t have the space to grow your own herbs and veggies, a visit to the local farmers markets is just as good. Get the kids to sample the produce and strike up conversations with the stall holders. Ask questions like where the items have come from, find out their favourite recipes and most importantly, find out what’s in season. Gradually little ones will make the connection between the food they are eating and where it originated from.
Something I loved about the girl’s pre-school was the clever ways they re-used items for craft that would otherwise end up in landfill. They collected milk bottles to make an igloo, crafted necklaces from the lids of squeezy yoghurt pouches and used old jars for storing ‘treasures’ collected from outside. It was a lovely way to start talking to them about recycling and re-using our everyday items.
It’s easy to tell our kids they can’t have a straw with their smoothie, but if we don’t explain why it’s probably not going to sink in. Something that works with my girls is telling them straws can end up in the ocean and make fish and other marine life sick. Now if they spot a plastic straw in a cafe they immediately understand the connection. Associations like these mean they’re more likely to understand and, they might even share their new knowledge with their friends!
A simple and beautiful way to send a message to kids is to read them a book with an underlying message. And when it comes to the complexities of global warming, reading a picture book can make the tricky explanations much easier. Some of our favourite eco books for kids include The Lorax by Dr Seuss and, 10 Things I Can Do To Help My World by Melanie Walsh.
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