Helping Kids Care for the Earth Ideas for Earth Day and Beyond - Family - Parenting

Helping Kids Care for the Earth: Ideas for Earth Day and Beyond   by Jamie Jefferson

in Family / Parenting    (submitted 2009-04-15)

Earth Day is April 22, and while it's important to get involved on this day, there are things we can do as families that will make a huge impact throughout the year.

It starts with helping our kids to celebrate the world in which we live, and it continues with helping them to love it so much that they want to do everything they can to help protect it. Here are six ideas to help your kids celebrate and care for our earth:

1. Get out and enjoy it. Researchers are now saying that simply getting kids outside in nature may be the most effective way to raise their awareness of environmental issues. Suddenly, these problems that they hear about on the news and in the classroom have a real impact on their daily lives. They see firsthand how a forest or a beach or a tidepool or a meadow is teeming with life, with ecological relationships that are interdependent, delicate and complex.

To encourage your kids to get out there and enjoy the natural world, you may have to purposefully inject some extra excitement in the idea, but just at first. Take your dog (or a friend's dog) for a walk in the woods. A dog's love for nature, and subsequent enjoyment of it, is infectious. Create a list of things to find and make your adventure into the outdoors into a scavenger hunt.

If possible, and if your kids are old enough to be by themselves out there, find a safe place for them to play in a natural environment. Allow them to go there to get away, to sit and think or to talk with their friends. Make a point to get the kids out in nature every day. Better yet, go with them.

2. Watch "An Inconvenient Truth" as a family for inspiration. Invite some of your children's friends over to watch it with their parents and talk about some initiatives that you can each commit to or some larger projects that you can work on as a neighborhood or community.

3. Help your kids learn about endangered animals. Together, look into organizations that help endangered animals and see how you can get involved.

4. Reduce and re-use, then recycle. Lots of kids get excited about recycling. Fewer are into reducing or re-using. Model to your children a healthy pattern of consumption. Talk frequently about the many benefits (which go way beyond environmental) of living a simple life and of being wary of a lifestyle of mass consumerism. As kids spend more time outside and less time at the mall or watching television advertisements, this shift may feel increasingly more natural to them.

5. Teach your kids about potentially harmful chemicals and how they can be everywhere in our world: in the foods we eat, in the supplies we use to clean the house, in our paint, in our cosmetics, in our lawn care products. Turn the search for these things into a game and allow your kids to be detectives, learning about and seeking out these harmful chemicals and then finding natural alternatives.

6. The next time you take the kids to the grocery store, see how you can minimize the amount of packaging that you purchase. We have been known to purposefully not purchase an item because of the manufacturer's use of wasteful packaging. It won't take long for the kids to realize that the best item in the store for minimal packaging: raw fruits and vegetables.

In our family, the more we can make these life changes into a game, the more apt the kids are to follow suit. Help your kids to understand how one person really can make a difference (especially when that person is part of a committed family or group) and review often the personal impact that you all have made.