What does it take to raise a future Greta Thunberg?
With her now-famous ‘School Strike for Climate,’ the Swedish teen environmental activist single-handedly achieved what climate scientists had been trying so hard to do for more than two decades: bring the world’s focus to the climate crisis.
While you may argue that Greta is no ordinary teen, you can certainly do something to get your child or children to follow in Greta’s footsteps and become ecologically conscious citizens.
Here are 7 helpful tips to raise kids who care about the environment.
1. Use the power of media
There is an abundance of books, TV shows, documentaries, and movies that tackle various environmental issues from a child’s viewpoint.
On your next Movie Night, why not have your kids watch a green-themed kids’ movie like Happy Feet, FernGully, or Wall-E? Don’t forget to discuss their feelings and insights about the movie afterwards.
2. Get them involved
Trying to achieve a zero-waste household with kids is not impossible. Get them on board by coming up with eco-friendly activities they can easily participate in or do. Here are some ideas:
- Organise a household-wide cleanup: Get your kids to raid their closet or toy box for clothes and items they no longer wear or use to give to charity.
- Go meat-free: If your household isn’t exclusively vegan or vegetarian yet, assign one day of the week as a meat-free day and let kids take part in grocery shopping or kitchen prep.
- Help your child come up with a checklist of earth-friendly things to do and post it in a part of the house where everyone can see it and be reminded.
3. Use the element of play
One way to get kids to be more open to the idea of saving the environment is to introduce it via their favourite activity: play.
There are mobile games that tackle environmental themes like Grow Home, an adventure game whose main objective is to get your robot to revive your planet by planting seeds and tending to space plants and animals.
Care for Our World is an award-winning interactive app (based on Karen Robbins’ book of the same name) that encourages kids to care for and respect animal habitats.
If you want to go old school, there are eco-themed board games too like Bug Bingo, which teaches kids about the different species of insects, and Claim and Save, which raises awareness of endangered animals.
4. Lead by example
As you probably already know, ‘Do as I say, not as I do’ isn’t a very effective strategy with kids.
So if you’re trying to teach sustainability to your children, make sure you’re a living, breathing example of it.
And while you’re at it, make sure that your kids see that you’re enjoying doing earth-friendly stuff like segregating your trash, gathering leaves and brown waste for compost, or enjoying a meat-free meal.
5. Show them the beauty of nature
If there’s one thing children these days don’t have enough of (but will immensely benefit from), it’s time outdoors—specifically, the opportunity to commune with nature.
Take your kids out for nature walks, whether it’s just at the park or in a nearby botanical garden. It’s not only good for their overall well-being but also provides the perfect setting for your family to bond and talk about the environment.
For instance, a trip to the beach can be a great time to talk about the importance of ecological balance and the dangers of microplastics.
Whenever you can, get children to experience the natural world. That way they’ll gain an appreciation for it early on.
6. Look out for teachable moments
If your child asks about the California wildfires or what coral bleaching is, don’t be quick to dismiss their boundless curiosity. Instead, treat these as opportunities to pass on important lessons about being environmentally aware.
Just the simple activity of going out for pizza can be a perfect chance to remind your children of the environmental impact of our takeaway culture. (Just don’t be too preachy.)
It’s important to make yourself accessible to your kids’ questions about sustainability and the environment. Even if you don’t know the answer, give these conversations your full attention. You’ll never know the impact these will have on your child down the road.
7. Celebrate small victories
Positive reinforcement is a great way to encourage kids to adopt and keep sustainable habits.
Did your child upcycle an empty cereal box into a toy truck? High-five! Did they remember to bring a reusable straw to school? That deserves a treat!
Kids need to know that whatever small thing they do for the planet matters. And a great source of encouragement are parents who recognise their efforts.
You don’t necessarily have to give material incentives; just make sure to give plenty of praise and positive feedback.
A popular and thought-provoking quotation on the environment (most often attributed to environmental activist Wendell Berry) goes, “We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.”
As parents and caregivers, one of our greatest legacies is raising children who love the environment. After all, they are our biggest hope in winning the fight against climate change.
Did we miss a tip? Let us know in the comments section!