Tips for Introducing Kids to Sustainability

April 6, 2021  |  Published by

"Waste not, want not," isn't just something we tell our kids to get them to their dinner. We want them to learn the importance of sustainability. Protecting the environment and revitalizing the Earth is essential for their future. Teaching kids to protect the Earth's resources also helps them to learn responsibility.

From recycling to gardening, here are some tips for introducing kids to sustainability.

Trash Team

Place separate bins (cans, bottles, plastics, and paper) out for recycling. Then help your children create signs and pictures with construction paper, crayons or markers, glue and glitter, and anything else you can find in your art box. You can even paint each recycling bin a different color to make sorting easier!

If you want to go the extra mile, you can give the kids some gloves and a bag, and then take them on a trash walk throughout the neighborhood. When children clean up after others, you can talk about neatness and the importance of caring for their living and play spaces.

How Does Your Garden Grow?

Gardening with kids is a perfect way to teach them about nature's resources, and the hands-on experience may prompt them to eat more vegetables. Digging and planting seeds allows children to get their hands dirty and develop a sensory connection to the land. Kids usually want immediate results, so fast-sprouting vegetables like baby carrots, radishes, lettuce, and cherry tomatoes will keep their interest.

In addition to fruits and vegetables, plant some native flowers and cacti suitable for Arizona's hot and dry climate. You can also use this moment to teach your little ones about the importance of native plants to their ecosystem.

Many items we put in the garbage are compostable. Use the compost you create to nourish the garden. Show your kids how to mash up things like apple cores, orange peels, and rotting veggies to create fertilizer for the garden.

Take photographs of each growth stage of the garden and encourage your children to draw pictures and keep a journal.

Homemade Art

Check the recycling bin for items you can turn into arts and crafts! Glass and plastic bottles are great for making vases to fill with flowers or colored sand layers. Shoe boxes make nice treasure chests. You can even turn boxes and cans into musical instruments. So many things we throw away can be repurposed into something decorative or useful!

Story Time

Stories about nature make excellent bedtime reads. Here are some titles to consider:

  • "The Earth Book" by Todd Parr
  • "What is Climate Change?" by Gail Herman
  • "The New 50 Things Kids Can Do to Save the Earth" by the EarthWorks Group
  • "Bee & Me" by Alison Jay
  • "10 Things I Can Do to Help My World" by Melanie Walsh
  • "Grandpa's Garden" by Stella Fry and Sheila Moxley

Saving Rainwater

Water is our most precious resource, but we tend to take it for granted. Harvesting rainwater in barrels, pots or cups is a good way to save it for lawns and gardens. You can do this by placing a couple of rain traps near gutter downspouts to capture rainwater. Children can irrigate their gardens with the excess rainwater.

Nature and the 5 Senses

Encouraging kids to be eco-friendly starts with engaging the five senses. Play outside in the fresh air. Look at colorful blooms and different shades of green. Smell the fragrances of native flowers and fresh cut grass. Listen to the birds. Feel the breeze. Fill up on tomatoes from your garden.

Loving the Earth begins with enjoying its simple bounties. Teaching your children about sustainability is as easy as stepping outdoors, digging in the dirt, and listening to the water dripping into the rain trap.

Earth Projects

The list of cool things to do with kids to promote sustainability is endless, so here are a few more ideas:

Todd Michaels is a conservationist with a degree in Biology. He writes about eco-friendly landscaping and recycling efforts for organizations around the country.

Madeleine Lovett

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