Encouraging children to care about the environment, for me, is crucial. From a young age, we notice how naturally curious children are and their eagerness to explore the environment around them. Ever remember when your little one tried to crawl up the stairs completely oblivious to the dangers or trying to take a sip of your wine?
Encouraging them to use that curiosity to care for the environment and natural world around them requires a little support from us and it’s something we can do as a family.
In a survey conducted in 2021, “Nearly 8 in 10 8-15 year-olds (78%) agreed that looking after the environment was important to them, and more than 8 in 10 (81%) said they wanted to do more to look after the environment“. As time goes on, I wouldn’t be surprised if this increases.
Children learn a lot from their parents and when they see us doing something, positive or negative, they tend to adopt that. In order for them to care about the environment, we need to show them how to do it – after all, they’re going to inherit the planet from us.
Here are some things that work for me
Spend time outside
This is always the best place to start. I remember why my little one was at nursery, she loved getting her hands dirty in the mud and it never bothered me when I picked her up covered in mud. She enjoyed it.
Looking for wriggly worms, spotting birds, watching a cheeky squirrel try to eat food from a bird feeder or even getting them to run around on the grass barefoot is a great way to connect with nature (plus, it’s free to do!) – We’ve got a free scavenger hunt download in the shop you can use.
Allowing them to love and care about the environment around them and having those memories will encourage them to protect it as they get older.
A great way to get kids involved is to take part in Community Garden Week which is usually around April time in the UK.
Alternatively, You could also bring in the outdoors indoors (I’m not talking about muddy shoes) by looking at the types of leaves they’ve collected, looking at the different colours, shapes and sizes. Encourage them to ask questions and if you don’t know the answer, look online.
Check out this fabulous blog for some other things you can do for a great day out in the park
Get them involved in recycling
My little one enjoyed getting involved in putting recycling in the correct bin that now she does it automatically.
Children naturally want to be helpful so if there’s something to do, they are keen to get involved. Teaching them which bin an item goes into is so important because as they see us recycle, they will adopt that as the norm and more likely to continue doing that as they get older.
Coincidentally, This was where I got the idea to create the Sort the Recycling Waste print at home game.
We laminated our one so my little one can play it over and over and it keeps her busy while I’m trying to do something (another plus).
Rather than waiting for it to arrive, it can be downloaded and printed at home. Great if you need to come up with something quickly to occupy them.
Another great tip is to get them to apply for their very own Green Blue Peter Badge. My daughter got one for eco efforts and she’s really proud of it.
It’s important for them to know where food comes from, how it’s grown and how much work is needed to grow it.
I always think back about the time when my ex-husband’s nephew was asked where eggs came from. His reply was Tesco. Everyone else found it funny but I found it a little sad. Surely he should have be corrected – he was six.
Pick something easy and doesn’t take up a lot of space (especially if you’re limited on garden space). Strawberries are great to start with. My little one and I grew strawberries and she loved it (here’s my blog about it). In addition, she regularly checked to see if it needed watering and remembered me telling her that the evening is the best time to water them. It felt like her own little project and she enjoyed the fruits of her labour.
We’ve grown potatoes, carrots, strawberries and spring onions (the onions didn’t go well). I would highly recommend growing something your little ones will eat. They (and you) will get such a sense of achievement by eating something you’ve grown yourself – trust me!
Insects pollinate the food we eat so they are crucial to our survival and biodiversity. A great way to help our pollinating friends are planting flowers.
Sunflowers are a favourite in this household. Plus, we make it a bit of a game. We have a competition to see who’s sunflower is the tallest. My daughter has won every time and I’m hoping to win this year. Start off them inside as seedlings. Once the frost is over, get them used to being outside and then plant them permanently outside.
Insects love colours so there are so many flowers you could plant – go nuts!
You could attempt to build a bug hotel from things you find in the garden. Or buy a bird house and encourage nature to come into your garden. Just watch your kids fascinated with them and learn to care for the environment.
Why not try a game that teaches children to sort animals into their habitats? It’s print at home so you can get started straight away!
There are a number of dates throughout the year celebrating the environment. A household favourite for us is Earth Day which is celebrated on the 22nd April every year.
Many schools get involved with environmental issues and can be continued at home. My little one loves doing puzzles and activities which led me to create some digital downloads. This has encouraged her to learn more about the environment and ask questions. I’ve created some free ones too.
National Children’s Gardening Week is a great one to get involved with as a family – its usually at the end of May.
It’s important to keep having conversations about the environment. If they find a bug when you’re out and about, encourage to think about what that bug was up to, where they’ve been, where it lives.
Think about toys and games they ask for. My daughter was invited to a birthday party and one of the pass the parcel games was a bee jigsaw – which she won. We learned so much about bees and she’s still got it.
Museums (and there are some free ones) tend to have great installations about the environment and are usually over the half-term period. Check them out.
Recently my daughter said something that really made me smile. We were on the way back from school and it started raining heavily. Us Brits usually like complaining about the rain (or the weather in general) and I complained about not bringing an umbrella. She said “The rain is fine, the trees and plants get to have a drink”. I still smile about it now.
These are some ideas that work for me but may not work for everyone. Here are my terms & conditions for further reading
If you want to adopt more sustainable living practices into your home, check out the 30-Day Eco Swap Challenge – it’s only £7