How to get kids to care about the environment
Last Wednesday was Earth Day, a time for reflection on how our daily choices affect our home, planet Earth. When things get busy it’s easy for this day to come and go without much thought, I know I have missed many a Earth days in the past. This year, I had the pleasure of celebrating Earth Day with the inquisitive preschoolers at Buddings.
I reflected on what we might do that would be meaningful to kids of this age group filling them with a sense of respect for their planet.
It seems like a big concept…a world of finite resources that we humans need to take care of to ensure future generations can enjoy clean air, clean water, and a clean environment. So how do we get our children to care about the environment? Here are a few suggestions:
At Buddings, we’ve found that having characters that guide us on our explorations makes everything more fun and interesting.
For our nature program, our friend Stinky the Frog shares his knowledge with the kids, and a lot of funny stories too!
Kids seem to be a lot more engaged and connected when Stinky shares lessons about protecting the environment… he shares with them how garbage in the pond affects the frogs and the kids are immediately concerned.
But you don’t need a puppet to tell a story….if you see a bird come up with a story about it with your child. Make up a name for the animal, think about the family they might have and then go from there. Talking in generalities about protecting the environment for all the animals is much less meaningful to a young child than protecting the pond that their friend Ella the duck lives in.
Watch Things Grow
Planting seeds with young children is an amazing experience for them….the connection between a seed growing into a plant, the science of what a plant needs to grow and be healthy, the nurturing of the plant…all these are beautiful lessons and hands-on experiences that young children will be amazed by.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
Again this seems like a big concept for preschoolers. Surprisingly, kids pick up on the fact that garbage does not belong in nature at quite a young age. Recently, on our trip to Pacific Spirit Park, we noticed a bunch of coffee cups thrown on the grass behind the bus stop. The kids were appalled:
“That’s so dirty! Why did they throw that there?” It’s not a big leap from here to discussing how garbage can be harmful to animals.
As far as reusing items…preschoolers are experts at this. Our bin of egg cartons, kleenex boxes, and water bottles is often the most exciting part of our art area, and it leads to some very creative 3D art projects. Tin cans become drums, old chopsticks become magic wands….it doesn’t take much for a young child to find a new creative use for an item. As adults we can model this too by storing small toys or food items in lidded containers or by using newspaper to line your compost bucket.
Recycling is another activity that kids love to help with. Preschoolers are more than capable to sort items and help throw them in the proper bins and bags. Adding a little lesson to this already fun task is not a stretch, rather it makes the task meaningful.
“When we reuse and recycle things, we make less garbage. This means that animals and plants will have clean places to grow!” Most kids love animals, so connecting how animals are affected by garbage is an easy way to get them to care.
And Finally… Get outside!
The smell of flowers, the sounds of a rock splooshing into the pond, the feeling of sand in between your fingers and toes, the sight of a spider spinning a web, the sweet taste of berries picked fresh off the blackberry bush; nature provides amazing experiences for all our senses. In Vancouver we are blessed to have parks all around us! Notice trees and how they change through the seasons, pick up leaves, watch slugs and squirrels…there is so much for a curious young mind to explore outside
Taking kids out in natural environments is the best way for them to develop those feelings of love and respect for nature that will last a lifetime.