Family riding bikes together

Incorporating environmentally friendly principles into the lives of your children means more than teaching them how to recycle bottles and cans.

Ready to raise an environmentalist?  Here are three simple ways to instill earth-friendly practices from a young age.

1. Walk the walk

If you have ever had the delight of hearing your tiny offspring repeat perfectly enunciated curse words they picked up that time you stubbed your toe three months ago, you already know that for kids, lessons learned implicitly stick far longer than anything you explicitly sit down and teach.

Children learn best by watching, listening, and absorbing information. Talking about being eco-friendly and taking care of the planet won’t be much use if you regularly drive junior to play-dates three blocks away, and buy bottled water by the caseload.

The most powerful thing you can do to impart the importance of eco-friendly living is by consistently doing it yourself. Children are naturally curious, and when they ask about your actions it gives you the perfect opportunity to explain why you turn the lights off when you leave a room or the reason behind avoiding plastic toys. (Finally, a benefit to all of those “Why?”s!)

Mother and son at beach
Image courtesy of lada/photo

2. Get them involved

Eco-friendly living offers endless opportunities to get children involved in the process. Making your natural cleaning products with safe ingredients like vinegar, Castile soap, and baking soda means that creating your concoctions can be a risk-free activity for younger kids to help with.

Pick up trash on walks to the park, ask for their help coming up with energy-saving ideas, and instead of rolling your eyes at holiday wish-lists a mile long, use it as an opportunity to talk about the impact of consuming.

3. Let nature do the teaching for you

“The earth” is a pretty abstract concept for kids, as is climate change and pollution. Show them exactly what’s at stake by regularly taking them to forests, lakes, oceans, and mountains. Let them be awed, play, and discover the natural world around them.

River and walking path in nature
Image courtesy of Gregg Jaden.  

Rather than lecturing, allow them to see for themselves why it is so important to keep our waterways clean, our air fresh, and our forests full. Immersing them in such a hands-on experience makes it easy for them to connect the dots between the abstract ideas around being environmentally friendly, and the very real consequences of our actions.

Finally, have fun! Kids and adults aren’t so different — we both hate being shoehorned into an experience because of a vague sense of duty. Involving your kids in fun, easy, and engaging steps toward making positive change will make this Big Issue a walk in the park.

Feature image courtesy of Mark Stosberg

By Madeleine Somerville

Madeleine Somerville is the author of All You Need Is Less: An Eco-Friendly Guide to Guilt-Free Green Living and Stress-Free Simplicity. She is a writer, wannabe hippie and lover of soft cheeses. She lives in Edmonton, Canada, with her daughter. You can also find Madeleine at her blog, Sweet Madeleine.