The climate issues we face today can seem too numerous to comprehend and not the easiest subject to raise with children. Recent years have finally seen global action begin to be taken, international goals and agreements signed into legislation, and tremendous advancements in the manufacture and pricing of renewable energy sources. The future can seem like a scary place, but by working together, there's cause to be excited, with the upcoming generations being more eco-conscious than any group before it.
Teaching kids about the importance of Mother Earth and what we can do to help the environment needn't be a chore - or worse, a lesson in scaremongering. Quite the opposite is true. Helping children connect to nature and learn about what they can do to help the planet can be incredibly rewarding and support positive attitudes that will stay with them for life. From community action to doing your part with recycling and fundraising, there are many ways to help create budding eco-warriors. Below we've collected some activities, big and small, that can help children of all ages learn about the environment and most importantly, how to aid it.
Recycling is one of the easiest, and often first, environmentally focused things we teach children. Sadly modern life is filled with waste, packaging especially; thankfully, a lot of what we use in the household can now be recycled, and it's easy to show kids how we can responsibly store and re-use these materials. Doing so can help youngsters take more personal care with what they use in their future lives. Additionally, by signing up for a community clean-up, you’re not only showing children the damage littering and plastics are doing, but will also install a love of their local area and wildlife.
Films are an easy way to grab kids' attention, and luckily there's a host of brilliant family movies underscored with an environmental message. Pixar's 2008 release ‘WALL·E’ has the recycling robot protagonist exploring an earth ruined by human neglect. The work of beloved Japanese animation studio Studio Ghibli, and particularly director Hayao Miyazaki, often explores the relationship between man and nature, 1984's sublime 'Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind' especially. 'FernGully' is a 90s favorite, filled with fairies, a bat voiced by Robin Williams and Tim Curry hamming it up as the pollution-powered demon Hexxus. What more could you ask for?
Now, learning about the most significant issue currently facing humanity might not seem like a topic that'd make a fun game, but we have the proof! There's been a noticeable increase in video games that feature an environmental message, be they subtle or those made specifically for the classroom environment. Australia's Chaos Theory Games collected a list of twenty that show the breadth in which the market is spreading the message. From apps for phones to full-scale lands to explore on home console releases, developers are creating engaging and meaningful work that can reach kids arguably better than any other medium.
The names Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, and the Rainforest Alliance may be some of the most recognisable environmental foundations in the world, but important change doesn't have to start with these big companies. Most small towns and states have their own charities that plan fundraisers for everyone to get involved in on a much smaller and often more significant scale. Children and adults alike can learn about the immediate environmental danger that affects their communities, and their way of life. Portraying the issues in a more relatable and enjoyable light can help children understand the severity and importance of looking after the planet.
Real change starts small and grows through the minds and attitudes of individuals; that's why it's important to start at home. Children tend to pick up the habits of their parents, so making small changes to your home life will encourage them to do the same. Recycle and split your garbage instead of throwing it in a single trash can, make use of leftover cans and jars by cleaning them up and using them for storage, and make intelligent changes to reduce energy, heat, and water waste. There are so many ways to reduce your carbon footprint at home; try some of them out!
Children love toys, but in terms of sustainability, they're not great for the environment. The plastics, fibers, and blends of the two often have difficulty being recycled, and for most families, outgrown toys are destined for the junkyard. The solution to this is simple; buy eco-friendly toys. Forward-thinking companies are dedicating a tonne of resources to the creation of these environmentally conscious toys, made with materials that are easily recycled and just as fun to play with. Ultimately children won't notice the difference, but they will see the future benefits of their toys not contributing to the larger problems at hand.
We can spend all day making changes to the way we live our life, but sequentially, it's the environment that's being affected. Eco-systems are struggling with the growing rise in temperatures and the ever-changing climates, to the point where creatures like the humble bee are dying out. Teaching and informing children that the impact of their home life affects the outside world is crucial to the planet's health. Educate your children on species of insects, plants, and birds that live on your very street, and they'll start to gain an appreciation for their surroundings.
There's nothing like a little word game to help retain information. Many environmental terms are so scientific that they'll easily pass over younger heads, so why not spice things up with a fun word puzzle to help them stick? One suggestion is opening a world map and having certain words that need to be placed in certain places. For example, 'Rainforests' can go with Brazil, or you can label the various oceans and have them name and pinpoint them. It's a three-tier strategy that'll improve spelling, geography, and environmental knowledge.
Our attitudes need to change, and as far as the environment is concerned, we're on a clock. However, the changes we make now, and the lessons we pass on to our children will create a better future, and that all starts with the here and now. Leading by example is the key to everything, with children learning what they know from what they see. Going to fundraisers, eco-purchasing, movies with a message, recycling; these are all things you can start to adopt today, and your children will see that and be inspired by it. Try a few out with your kids, and be the change in the world that you want to see.