Children are savvy. They know that riding their bike is better for the environment than driving a car. They can easily identify a recycle bin. And they know litter often winds up in the ocean.
How do we turn this knowledge into meaningful actions that will make lasting changes? We help guide them to make eco-friendly choices in their daily lives.
If we educate children about the effects of our actions and give them practical tasks they can begin to create a healthier environment. Here are some unique and hopefully fun activities that will inspire your children to take green to a new meaning.
1. Visit a landfill. Learn about where trash goes and see it (and smell it) in person. As a child my family did not have garbage collection and had to take our trash to the "dumps." I can still recall the sour, sulfur smell of rotting food and the swarms of flying gnats. If you can't visit a landfill, collect your garbage for a week and lay it out for children to see how much is thrown away.
2. Appoint a green monitor in the house. Children love to be leaders. Give them a title and job duty. One child can be the post-it person and place reminders to unplug any electrical device that's not in use (toasters, chargers, hair dryers, etc.). Assign a child to collect recyclables and place them in their appropriate bins. Another child might have the duty of collecting the re-usable grocery bags and putting them in the car and remembering to take them into stores.
3. Go on a scavenger hunt. Tour your house (or take a neighborhood walk) and talk about what is biodegradable and what is not. Explain why non-biodegradable is harmful to the environment. Point out that a plastic water bottle takes 450 years to decompose. That shoe with the rubber sole lying on the side of the road will be there another 50-80 years. You can even perform your own experiment. Place an apple core or paper towel in your yard next to a plastic bottle or similar non-biodegradable item. Record what happens weekly by describing the changes and drawing pictures. This is great follow-up activity after the landfill.
4. Create a poster of your child as a green super hero. Have them draw themselves doing green deeds. Kids can place capes or tiaras on their self-portrait. Or cut out photos from magazines and paste on a poster board. Photos can include recycling, planting a garden, or reusing an item. Brainstorm simple ideas to implement on a daily basis, such as bring a trash-free lunch. Give it a title: "Green Girl Giovanna" or "Giovanna Goes Green." Display the poster as a daily reminder.
5. Incorporate "green" topics during bedtime stories. My husband and I always tell our daughter a story before bed. I often incorporate some environmental message in the story. It could be about the animals that lose their home from trees being cut down or earth shedding tears of rain because it is having a hard time breathing from the air pollution. She of course loves it if she is the one doing good deeds to help save the animals or the earth.
While educating our children it's important to take action. Children want to feel important and helpful. They connect with nature and intrinsically understand the value of preserving our earth. Providing tools and activities is a powerful way to empower our children to make a difference. Through these consistent actions we will see the greatest change in our environment created by a new generation of Eco-friendly kids.
Dawn Wynne is a best-selling children's author, award-winning teacher, and certified health coach. Combing her love for the environment, passion for nutrition, and teaching talents she works with children and families to help them make healthy lifestyle choices. For information on her books visit her at www.dawnwynne.com.