As the news that we have lost over 50% of our biodiversity hits me, I know it’s the next generation that will be most affected by this and climate change. So how can we make sure our kids are equipped with the necessary tools to become guardians of the planet?
Where to start?
We have a tradition of watching a nature programme together on a Friday Night. There are so many awe inspiring programmes to choose from but we really love the David Attenborough ones best. The behind the scenes part at the end often has an environmental message and serves as a good basis for discussion afterwards. Another easy starting point is reading story books or watching films with your kids that feature different environmental issues. There are a wide range out there and I have put together some of these on my Pinterest boards here and here. Try to relate these issues to real life though so that they are not just fantasy and fairy tale for them.
Set an example
Young children model themselves on their parents and so being green yourself will influence them greatly. Encouraging them to get involved with reusing, reducing and recycling, and even composting, can be fun and they will engage more if they are part of the process. Using tools such as shower timers and smart meters can help instil good water & energy conservation habits such as switching off lights and stand-by gadgets.
My son is very aware of trying to use less plastic, but is still drawn to all the plastic toys in the shops. Consuming less with children is a difficult task as all kids want what their friends have, but the better option is to go for second hand. Young children are far more adaptable to this as the item is new to them anyway. Toy libraries are also a great option for this as are second-hand shops, school and car boot fairs or even swap with friends. In this way, making them aware of the earth’s finite resources and reducing waste from an early age will stick with them into adulthood.
Living without a car if you have kids is pretty impossible for most people unless you live in a big city. So although that’s not a practical option we could all use our cars less or even go electric. Walking to school is especially important not just for the environment but also for exercise and to cut pollution. I asked my son’s school to get involved with the Living Streets charity who challenged the pupils to walk to school and guess what? They did! https://www.livingstreets.org.uk/what-we-do/walk-to-school
Connect with nature
When my brother and I were little, my dad took us out at night to go badger and fox watching. It was so exciting to be out after dark and after a long tense wait, when we had to be very still, we got to see these amazing creatures in their own habitats, playing with their young. This has stayed with me and I believe is part of the reason for my passion for wildlife and the environment.
“Children who have an immersive experience in nature between the ages of 5 and 10 foster a deep love of the environment that they carry with them their entire lives”[i]
Visiting animal sanctuaries, farms, zoos and wildlife parks allows kids to see animals they otherwise wouldn’t up close. However, I always stress to my son that it’s far better for animals to be out in the wild than captive for our entertainment. Even interaction with a pet can help foster love, respect and empathy for animals.
Some kids can be reticent about being drawn away from their screens and games consoles, but fun outdoor adventures such as rock climbing, canoeing and camping can be a great way to entice them out. Even less adrenaline filled pastimes such as gardening, foraging for blackberries or strawberry picking at your local farm is a good excuse to get them outside. There are lots of amazing green spaces in the UK that you and your kids can access such as nature reserves, national parks or even your local park will have an abundance of flora and fauna to explore. Many areas such as these will have birdwatching, forest schools or nature clubs that will offer kids activities such as making bird feeders or pond dipping.
My son and I do something every year to raise money for the World Wildlife Fund for Nature. We adopt an endangered species and the pack of information, newsletters and the soft toy help to connect him to these animals and understand the hard work that is being done to protect them.
Volunteering for beach cleans, litter picks and tree planting can also show kids how we can all help, just as events such as Earth Day raise awareness that community and global efforts can make a difference.
How do you try instill a love and respect of nature in your children? We would love to hear from you x
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