To keep the planet healthy, we need everyone to pitch in, including the little ones of the household! It’s never too early to start teaching toddlers or preschoolers about environmental responsibility. The best way to teach children at this age about eco-responsibility is to practice and make it a part of their daily life. In honor of Earth Day and U-GRO’s Gardening Week, here are five ways to start teaching children about the environment.
1. Get Outside
The best way to teach children about the world we live in, is to get outside and explore! Take a walk around your neighborhood or park. Listen to the singing of the birds and the humming of the insects. Talk about the greenness of the grass and trees and the colors of the flowers. Allow your children to be curious and ask questions. The more experiences they can have learning about nature and the earth, the more likely they’ll want to take care of it.
2. Conserve Water
Another simple habit to practice at home is to not leave water running. For young children, it’s easiest to practice these as they’re learning self-help tasks. For example, keep the water off when brushing teeth. Don’t take too long when washing hands; two renditions of the “ABCs” or “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” should do the trick. Make sure you model these conservation tips too.
3. Recycle at Home
Encourage environmental responsibility with recycling! Put pictures of different types of items on recycling bins so children have an idea of what the materials look like. It’s okay if items end up in the wrong bins. The most important thing is that they ask about when to recycle and make an attempt to do so. The more your family recycles at home, the more likely that it will become habitual. They can also try to spot the recycling symbol on different items to know if they are recyclable.
4. Compost in the Kitchen
You might be surprised how much of your weekly waste output is the peels, cores, and seeds of fruits and vegetables. Your children can easily be in charge of putting these items into a covered container in your kitchen. Before starting this, though, you will want to have a plan for where to offload your container every few days. Options include a compost bin in your own yard, a worm bin (science project!), or someplace in your community with a compost system: a school or community garden, urban farm, etc.
5. Start a Family Garden
Watching something grow is a great way to teach children about where food comes from and how to take care of plants. (Hint: a garden is also good for introducing new foods to picky eaters.) They’ll enjoy taking ownership of the garden if they are involved from the beginning. Choose plants together, and let your children have their own spot in the garden to tend to and nurture.
If your family isn’t quite ready for a family garden in the backyard, container gardening is an alternative. Containers are the perfect spots to plant herbs. Children will love smelling the different herbs, and this can be a great way to introduce new flavors!
The earlier you start with young children, the better! They’ll enjoy having a part in taking care of the earth. To introduce earth science in an age-appropriate way, add I Am Earth: An Earth Day Book for Kids by James McDonald to your family story time. The book also teaches children about the importance of taking care of the environment.
For more tips and activities to help children learn about the world around them, check out the U-GRO Learning Centres blog!