Small Steps, Big Impact: In this article, we discuss why it’s important to teach kids about sustainability, and look at some strategies and activities that can make the process fun and educational.
By Chatty Garrate, with some work originally contributed by Ana Marković
It’s never too early to teach kids valuable lessons to help them make better life decisions. These days, among the most crucial knowledge parents can impart to their children is to care for and respect the environment.
Understanding sustainability at an early age empowers kids to make informed and eco-conscious choices that can positively impact the planet. It also instills a deep appreciation for nature and a sense of responsibility toward its preservation.
However, sustainability can be a complex topic to navigate for learning minds. Fortunately, this article is here to help you and provide practical ways to engage children in understanding and practicing sustainable habits.
From discussing environmental preservation to embracing eco-conscious practices in daily life, discover how to be sustainable while nurturing young minds. It will also discuss activities that children can engage in to understand sustainability in a fun and interactive way.
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Strategies for Teaching Sustainability
Implementing strategies to teach kids about sustainability is crucial for nurturing their understanding and commitment to environmental stewardship. Employing effective and engaging approaches provides children with a deep understanding of sustainable practices and empowers them to become advocates for a greener planet.
Start conversations about the environment
The best way to start teaching kids about sustainability is to discuss it. You can take advantage of their curious minds by explaining the importance of caring for the environment and how to do so. Young kids are also bound to ask many questions since they are eager to learn about things around them, and entertaining these inquiries opens opportunities for educating them about sustainability.
You can start this conversation while doing house chores or running errands. For instance, while taking out the trash, you can discuss recycling and why people do it. If you’re out on a grocery run, talk to your young ones about how locally-produced products are more environmentally friendly than buying imported items.
Expose children to nature
Spending time in nature is a great way to help kids understand the beauty and importance of the environment. It also allows them to immerse and reconnect with the planet and be exposed to meaningful experiences — resulting in children having more compassion and empathy for nature. Immersing themselves in a natural environment also enables young kids to witness the delicate balance of ecosystems and how human actions affect them.
An easy way to expose children to nature is by going on walks. This activity provides opportunities to explore diverse ecosystems such as forests, wetlands, or mountains. It also allows kids to learn how different forms of life are interconnected and depend on each other for survival, enabling them to understand how sustainable practices can help protect and strengthen this connection.
Going on beach trips also provides opportunities for learning about sustainability. From discussing the importance of marine life and the effects of pollution to teaching them about sustainable outing tips, this activity helps kids understand the significance of caring for all forms of life and environments.
Follow a minimalist lifestyle
Adopting a minimalist lifestyle entails only focusing on the things you need and living with fewer possessions. That means you are likely to preserve resources and lower your carbon footprint as you minimize your consumption of items. Following this lifestyle allows you to teach children about the importance of mindful consumption, reducing waste, and valuing experiences over material possessions.
Minimalism encourages children to be intentional about their belongings and make conscious choices. They learn to prioritize quality over quantity, opting for durable and eco-friendly products that last longer than their fragile and disposable counterparts.
As this lifestyle encourages them to be more mindful of their consumption habits, children also become more conscious of their spending behaviors. Focusing on essential needs and reducing unnecessary purchases cultivates financial discipline and makes them effective in handling finances when they grow up.
Incorporate sustainability into daily life
When they incorporate sustainability into their daily lives, children can immerse themselves in sustainable practices and deepen their understanding of their environmental impact. One area where this can be demonstrated is by adopting sustainable bedroom décor ideas.
By consciously choosing eco-friendly materials, such as organic bedding and curtains made from sustainable fabrics, children can witness how their choices contribute to a healthier planet.
Kids can also engage in various sustainable behaviors in their daily routines. For instance, taking shorter showers or turning off the tap while brushing their teeth allows them to learn to conserve water. Meanwhile, reusing water bottles, lunch containers, and bags enables them to reduce their waste.
These simple yet impactful actions allow children to see firsthand how small changes in their daily lives can contribute to a more sustainable future. Through this hands-on experience, kids are more likely to internalize the values of sustainability and carry them into their future endeavors.
Lead by example
Children learn not only by listening to what adults tell them but also by what they see. When parents and caregivers consistently demonstrate sustainable behaviors, children witness these actions and internalize them as norms and values.
Their first-hand encounter with recycling, energy conservation, waste reduction, and mindful consumption helps them connect the dots between individual actions and broader environmental outcomes.
Moreover, consistently demonstrating sustainability within the family makes it easier to incorporate eco-conscious in their daily routines. Sustainable practices become second nature, and children are more likely to internalize them as lifelong habits. They grow up naturally inclined toward sustainable choices and are more likely to carry those behaviors into adulthood.
Activities To Teach Children About Sustainability
Aside from the strategies mentioned above, engaging kids in various activities is another great way to teach them about sustainability. Incorporating interactive and educational experiences can provide hands-on learning opportunities that spark a lifelong commitment to caring for the environment.
Eco-conscious activities such as gardening or watching nature documentaries help kids learn about the importance of sustainability. These interests and pastimes can also foster a sense of responsibility, curiosity, and appreciation for the planet.
One of the few sustainability activities that give kids an authentic hands-on experience is gardening. It encompasses various sustainable principles that enable them to develop a deep appreciation for the natural world, learn about the interdependence of living organisms, and witness the importance of eco-friendly practices.
Through gardening, children learn how to actively care for and nurture plants and understand the significance of healthy soil, water conservation, and the role of pollinators in maintaining biodiversity. They also learn about sustainable agriculture practices that encourage them to make informed choices about food consumption.
Using reusable materials for crafting
Crafting with reusable materials helps children appreciate the value of materials and the importance of reducing waste. They get to witness first-hand how creativity can give new life to old materials, encouraging them to think critically about consumption and develop a mindset of resource conservation.
For instance, you can use recycled paper to decorate your walls instead of buying wallpaper. It may be an unexpected way to save trees, but it’s a simple one that works and can save you on decorative materials’ costs.
This example also shows an innovative way to transform everyday objects into new creations — which helps kids realize that they can repurpose and create beautiful things with what they already have.
Watching shows and reading stories about sustainability
If you need an easier and less intensive way to teach kids about sustainability, consider putting on a nature documentary for them to watch or reading stories with eco-conscious morals.
These mediums provide an engaging platform to introduce sustainability concepts to children. Through relatable characters, captivating narratives, and visual representations, shows and stories capture children’s attention and make sustainability more accessible and enjoyable.
Moreover, sustainability-focused shows and stories expose children to various environmental issues, conservation efforts, and eco-friendly practices told in a way that is easy to understand.
They will also develop a deeper comprehension of the importance of sustainability and the impact of human actions on nature as they connect with characters working to protect the environment or overcome sustainability challenges.
Take them shopping at local markets
Another interactive experience kids can engage in is shopping at a local market. Through this activity, they can observe the connection between their food choices and the local community, supporting local farmers and reducing the carbon footprint associated with long-distance transportation.
Shopping locally also allows you to teach them sustainable grocery shopping techniques that they can practice while growing up. Additionally, exploring local markets will enable children to engage in conversations with vendors, learn about seasonal produce, and develop a deeper understanding of sustainable agriculture.
Aside from going on nature trips, you can also expose children to nature and teach them about sustainability by allowing them to play outside. Outdoor play enables them to explore and interact with the natural world, which then fosters a sense of curiosity and connection to the environment.
Playing outside, especially in green areas like parks, also allows them to observe the beauty and diversity of ecosystems. It provides them with an opportunity to see how different organisms interact with each other and how these living beings depend on one another.
Moreover, outdoor play allows them to immerse and develop a deeper connection with nature and a strong foundation for sustainable values and behaviors. It ultimately helps children gain a deeper understanding of the need to protect and preserve the Earth’s resources.
More Simple Ways to Teach Kids about Sustainability
Reusable beats disposable
Everything starts at home, so if you want your children to adopt the practices of an eco-friendly life, you need to do it first.
Opt for reusable products instead of plastic ones, such as cloth napkins, dishes, mugs, and shopping bags, and explain to your children how much damage plastic causes to the planet. Whenever you can, choose refillable soap containers and water bottles. When it comes to household items, it’s always good to choose products that don’t have a lot of packaging.
Explain to your kids what happens to garbage when the collector takes it away, and make adopting zero waste practices a collective family effort.
Less is more
Excessive consumption of resources poses a threat to our planet every day, so it’s necessary to educate children on what they can do to minimize it.
Encourage your kids to turn off the lights whenever they leave the room. Talk about the advantages of fluorescent light bulbs or LED lighting and how they save more energy and last longer than regular bulbs. Also, remind your kids to unplug all electrical devices when they’re not using them to avoid wasting energy.
Another important step to make is reducing the amount of water you use as it helps in sustaining fresh water supplies, which are already in critical condition. Encourage your children to take shorter showers and turn off the water while they’re brushing their teeth.
Recycle your way into a sustainable lifestyle
Sorting waste can be done together in order to motivate kids, so why not turn recycling into a fun family experience? Make separate bins for every type of waste you have in your home — paper, plastic, glass, and tin cans, and have your kids sort the garbage accordingly.
Additionally, you can take them with you when you go to the recycling center or let them bring something by themselves, such as a stack of old newspapers and magazines. Additionally, teach them about the negative effect of littering and how to always use cans for trash. It’s a good idea to get involved in local initiatives that encourage “green” living, like recycling drives. Finally, encourage your kids to find out more about recycling online.
Conventional clothing often uses a lot of chemicals and toxic dyes in their production, which get absorbed by our skin and may cause skin irritation.
Opting for organic clothing is particularly beneficial for children, as their skin is more sensitive and prone to irritation. Clothes made of bamboo or organic cottonis hypoallergenic and better at keeping unpleasant odors away, as it allows the skin to breathe. Also, when shopping for children’s clothes, it’s a good idea to visit thrift shops from time to time, as children grow out of their clothes very quickly, and buying more expensive items all the time doesn’t pay off.
Another thing you can do is organize a swap party and invite your friends with children. It’s a fun way to give away clothes your kids don’t wear anymore and receive something they need in return.
Instead of just throwing away things that you don’t need anymore, put them to a new use by allowing your kids to express their creativity. Help them transform old plastic containers and cardboards into new items, such as jewelry boxes. Get creative and make Christmas ornaments out of reusable materials, such as scrap paper and popsicle sticks. You can also use old clothes to make costumes for school plays or Halloween parties.
We can’t renew our planet’s resources overnight, but if each of us gives their own contribution, we can help improve the current situation. What is more, teaching kids about sustainable living doesn’t only benefit the current state of things, but it also means that we are helping create a healthier future for our children.
Teaching kids about sustainability is crucial to building a greener and more environmentally conscious future. Equipping them with knowledge about sustainability helps parents and caregivers empower children to make informed choices that can positively impact the environment.
Every effort counts, from simple discussions on sustainability to engaging kids in eco-friendly activities, so small steps taken today can lead to significant changes tomorrow.
About the Author
Chatty Garrate is a freelance writer from Manila. She finds joy in inspiring and educating others through writing. That’s why, aside from her job as a language evaluator for local and international students, she spends her leisure time writing about various topics such as lifestyle, technology, and business.