10 Ways To Raise Kids Who Care About Sustainability
Raising kids who care about sustainability should be a top priority for parents and guardians. When we raise children who care about the natural world, care about other people, and want to do what is best for both, we can rest easy knowing that the future is in good hands.
So, how do we instill in young people a real and lasting love of nature and our planet? How can we set them on paths that will take them to a fairer, better, more ethical future? Here are 10 ways to make sure you raise kids who care about sustainability and have developed good habits that will last a lifetime:
Set Them a Good Example
First off, it is very important that you set kids a good example. Kids learn a lot simply by watching the adults around them and seeing how they conduct themselves and what they do in their everyday lives. It is all well and good telling them about the issues we face, and how we can tackle them. And, yes, it is important for them to be informed.
But showing, not telling, is the very best way to get through. Make sure that you practice what you preach. Be wary of sustainability blind spots. Make sure you are doing all you can right now, to reduce your negative impact in all areas of your life.
Provide Them With the Tools They Need
It is also important to make sure that you provide children with the tools they need to live in a more sustainable way. The tools they need include, of course, knowledge and skills that equip them for greater self-reliance and green living. But they might also include eco-friendly product swaps that make it easier for them to make the right choices. For example, making sure they have a reusable bag, and reusable bottle to take with them wherever they go...
Get Them Growing
If there is one thing that can bring families together in sustainability like no other, it is growing your own food at home. Whether you have a big garden, or just a sunny windowsill, growing edible crops together with your kids at home can be a great idea. It can connect them with nature's cycles, help them understand where food comes from, and give them a sense of the power they have as individuals to make a difference.
Many of the world's greatest problems can be solved in a garden. And when you garden, you will not just be growing plants – you can grow as people too. Remember, when you grow your own food at home, this also makes it easier for you to feed your children, and encourage them to eat, healthily. You can also teach them about cooking from scratch, and preserving food, and how to compost scraps to prevent food waste and return nutrients to nature.
Go On Bug Hunts
Appreciating that human beings are not the be-all-and-end-all is also very important. Raising responsible citizens of the future means showing children the interconnectedness of all life. It means fostering in them an understanding that though people are amazing, and have the power to do great things, we are not more important than other forms of life. Sustainable citizens of the future must rid themselves of a rigidly anthropocentric view and see that all life is precious.
Even exploring the smaller lifeforms to be found in your garden or a local park on a bug hunt can open their eyes to what life is out there. And over time, help them to understand the role that each tiny creature plays in wider ecological systems.
Build Dens in Nature
Building dens in your garden, or out in a beautiful natural environment is a lot of fun. But more than this, it can help you raise kids who do not feel disconnected from the natural world, but who feel part of it. Feeling that connection to nature is crucial – we tend to want to protect things that we feel close to.
Building dens can also help kids to see that we humans shape the environments we live in – and how that can be a good or a bad thing. And may also help them draw the links with other creatures building dens or nests in nature. It might help them see more clearly that we are not the only creatures that shape the world around us – everything shapes its environment, or 'gardens'. Understanding this can also help kids gain a deeper understanding of the natural world.
Learn in the Natural World
Den building is, of course, just one fun activity that can be enjoyed outdoors in the natural world. There are plenty of ways to have fun outside together. But nature is not just a place to have fun. It can also be a great teacher.
Almost an entire curriculum can be taught outdoors or with natural items you have gathered. Nature learning is very important. Kids must be eco-literate in order to become the best custodians of our planet in the years to come. Make sure you enjoy activities and lessons together that help them develop not just a love of nature but a deep understanding of it, and of their role in the wider world.
Hike, Bike and Enjoy Other Adventures Outdoors
Another way, of course, to get closer to nature, have fun, and learn is to enjoy active recreation in the great outdoors. Hiking, biking, kayaking, canoeing, wild swimming... and many more eco-friendly activities besides... can help kids leave screens behind and get outside.
Learning how to get around slow travel style can also help kids understand that they don't necessarily need to hop into a car or other form of motorized transport to get where they are going. And it can help to give them healthy exercise habits that can last a lifetime.
Give Them Freedom For Nature Time
So far we have mentioned a range of things you can do with your children in the natural world. But it is also important not to over-schedule or helicopter parent. Kids need some free time too – simply to sit and reflect in a beautiful nature spot, or enjoy some free, self-directed time to explore and interact with nature on their own terms.
Let kids climb trees, play in the dirt, guddle in rock pools, splash in puddles... let them discover things for themselves as well as being directed or entertained all the time. Make sure they have space to dream, to aspire, to create – and yes, even to be bored from time to time. All these things are important to let them become the people they were meant to be.
Litter Pick and Beach Clean
Kids need to learn consequences. And nothing will bring home a problem like the global problem of plastic waste like seeing plastic debris for themselves. One way to make sure they understand the problem of waste and the roles we can play in tackling the problem is heading out on a litter pick or beach clean. Beach cleans alone, of course, could never solve the problem. But having some agency and making some effort can help kids not to feel overwhelmed. It can also help them see that action, not just talk on sustainable issues, is essential.
Upcycle, Mend and Make
Finally, make sure your kids don't get onto the consumption and waste treadmill. Make sure you take on plenty of DIY projects, and learn the skills together to upcycle, reuse, mend and make. Make use of natural resources and things that might otherwise have been thrown away, and kids can develop skills and habits that will continue to benefit them as they progress into sustainable adult life.
Getting kids to use their imaginations and get creative can give them the creative skills and practical talents they need. They may even become the innovators and inventors of the future that will develop new technologies or products for a sustainable future world.