Sustainability for Kids: Inspiring Future Generations

A discussion on the necessity of sustainability for kids. It’s critically important to the future of life on our planet, so let’s explore the various aspects.

By Amanda Winstead

More people have begun to think about the environment and wonder what they can do to ensure a clean and healthy planet. One way that parents can make a true difference is to teach their kids about sustainability so they can pass down those important lessons from generation to generation.

With each new generation, the interest in living sustainably and protecting the environment increases. Millennials and Generation Z have shown the most interest thus far, especially once they became “old enough” to understand the issues we are facing, such as climate change and deforestation. However, to continue this momentum and make even more of an impact, it’s important to start teaching kids the importance of sustainability from an early age.

Kids are never too young to learn about the earth and how to take care of it—they often absorb and understand more than we think. Today’s young children will become tomorrow’s leaders, so we need to start instilling eco-friendly values in them at an early age to help them better prepare to create a more sustainable future.

The Benefits of Teaching Kids Sustainability

Teaching kids about sustainability doesn’t just benefit the environment, but it can enrich their minds and help them learn better, healthier habits which can directly benefit them as they get older. Showing kids how to care for the earth helps them learn compassion, thoughtfulness, and consideration, which can be applied to many things and people in their lives.

two girls watering a garden bed, exemplary of Sustainability for Kids
Sustainability for kids must involve horticultural education. Photo by RODNAE Productions from Pexels

How to Inspire Kids to Live Sustainably

Children truly are like little sponges; they will mimic and absorb what others are doing around them, especially their parents or guardians, who they spend the most time with, and are most comfortable within their own home.

This is why it’s important to not only rely on educators to teach our kids about environmentalism but for parents and guardians to make a daily habit out of teaching their children the importance of sustainability.

Sustainable practices can also help kids gain a sense of independence and teach them how to be more self-autonomous. For example, taking care of a garden, sorting recyclables, and other eco-friendly activities shows them how to take care of things themselves from an early age, which can help them learn the importance of responsibility and self-management.

Talk to Them About Their Future

Another good way to help kids understand their environmental impact is to teach them how what they do now can change the future. This can include talking to them about what they want to be when they grow up. Kids love to mimic adults, as they aspire to be them one day. This means they love to imagine what kind of career they will have when they get older. While it’s not great to force kids to be something they’re not, you can encourage them by teaching them about careers in sustainability and how that can positively impact the future of our planet.

Creative Ways To Teach Your Kids About Sustainability

Many parents may think that their kids are too young to learn about being environmentally conscious, but anything is possible as long as you make it creative and fun. To help you out, we have created this list of exciting ways to teach your kids about sustainability.

Below are some of the ways we can inspire kids and help them learn about the environment and sustainability from an early age:

Get Them Outside

Teaching kids about the earth and why it’s so precious is the first step in helping them learn to appreciate it and feel inspired to care for it. And, of course, one of the best ways to do this is to get them outside as much as possible. Take them to local parks and wildlife reservations or on hikes and camping trips where they can feel more immersed in the experience. Just remember to make it fun and keep them safe—nothing can ruin a child’s interest in the great outdoors more than a bad or traumatizing experience.

Gardening is another great way to teach kids about the earth. Not only does it help them learn about how to take care of things, but it also teaches them how to live sustainably off the land that nature has provided them. Plus, it’s an engaging hands-on activity that will enrich their mind and allow them to have fun and get a little dirty.

Sustainability for Kids: A young boy watering vegetable garden

Use Eco-Friendly Activities

For those rainy days or when you don’t have the time to get outside and explore, there are plenty of ways you can teach kids about sustainability indoors. Eco-friendly activities like “green” arts & crafts or imaginative play and sustainable games are great for keeping kids entertained while also teaching them about the environment.

When doing arts & crafts, use sustainably sourced materials and teach your kids about them and how to recycle materials of their own. Making art with food, for example, or creating a scrap paper/material bin can show them not to simply throw things away but to find other uses for them.

Teach Them Lessons About Energy Efficiency at Home

Sustainability can start at home. Whether you’re home-schooling the kids or have them for some extra time over the summer, this is a great opportunity to expand their knowledge of what it means to have an energy-efficient home. Explain to them why saving energy is important before diving into some fun activities. Encourage your child’s natural creativity to find solutions for saving energy all around your home.

Around dinner time, ask your kids if they’d like to make a solar oven. Essentially, this project involves placing aluminum foil in a pizza box and then putting food inside, like some cheese on nacho chips. Then, you keep it outside and let it cook. This is a great way to teach your kids about the power the sun can have when conserving energy.

You can also help kids eliminate waste by starting a compost bin in your background using kitchen scraps. Involve the kids in the creation of the bin and then, once it is ready, show them how that compost can be used to make quality fertilizer for the flowers and plants in your yard.

Kids should also know the importance of turning lights off whenever they are not in the room and conserving water during showers. As parents, you will need to lead by example in this regard so they will follow suit.

Teach Them By Example

Not everything you do has to be about specifically getting your kids involved to teach them about sustainability.

Sometimes, the efforts you make in your daily life when you don’t think your kids are looking—but they are—can inspire them. Making eco-friendly changes in your home, for example, is an excellent way to show your kids that you are also making an effort to live sustainably. You can upgrade to products that use less energy, set up a recycling system, swap your light bulbs for LEDs, install solar panels, and more.

Educate Them About Self-Sustainability

As your kids grow, it’s important to teach them how they can care for themselves without always needing to rely on someone else. The most basic lesson that you can teach in this regard is the benefits of growing your own garden. Bring the kids outside and have them help you to make a garden from scratch by preparing the dirt, picking the foods that they want to grow, and then helping you to water, pick weeds, and provide general maintenance along the way.

Growing a garden is a great way to help kids understand that they can be self-reliant, and knowing that their efforts helped a tomato or an onion grow from a single seed is incredibly satisfying and great for their mental health. Even better than that is the chance to eat the food they grew for dinner. While you and your kids are sitting around the table, turn off the TV and enjoy a family-wide conversation. Ask what they learned and talk about the foods you all want to grow next!

There are many other fun ways that you can teach your kids about being sustainable and self-reliant. You could teach them how to sew so they can fix damaged shirts and pants instead of requiring factories to create pollution to manufacture new outfits. You can also teach them how to make food last longer by storing it properly and by bringing them grocery shopping with you.

Teach Them Through Fun

While parents can teach their kids plenty about sustainability while going about their daily responsibilities, it’s also possible to educate children while they are out having fun. For instance, you can teach them about the value of playing outside and doing activities that don’t use and waste electricity, like going on the swings or playing jump rope. You can also make it a point to buy them sustainable toys, like those made out of 100% wood or toys that are made locally and don’t need to be transported across the country.

You can also teach about sustainability as you have fun around your own town. For example, the family can enjoy a day out at the local beach and make sand castles, then spend an hour walking along the beach to pick up and properly dispose of any trash that you find. You and the kids can also spend a day walking around town as you clean up trash and see if you stumble onto any new sights. There’s a good chance you’ll find something fun in town that you’ve never discovered before.

When the kids are tired out, you can all sit down and read a children’s book about being environmentally conscious. Sometimes, the colorful drawings and descriptive wording can be just what your children need to really understand what caring about the planet is all about and how doing their part can make a big difference.

In the end, you don’t have to spend every hour of every day educating your kids to be sustainable, but by having fun with them and giving them helpful lessons when possible, you will help them grow into responsible, environmentally-conscious adults.

Final Thoughts on Sustainability for Kids

Children are naturally inclined to want to learn about things—they are inherently curious.

As adults, we can take advantage of that positively and healthily by teaching them about the world around them and how everything we do has an impact on the earth and others. They will one day be the ones making the decisions after all, so it’s important to instill healthy habits and consideration for the environment at an early age to enable them to have a greater impact in the future.

About the Author

Amanda Winstead is a writer focusing on many topics including technology and digital marketing. Along with writing she enjoys traveling, reading, working out, and going to concerts. If you want to follow her writing journey, or even just say hi you can find her on Twitter.