6 Green Tips You Can Do With Kids

kids learning how to cook

On this blog I have generally focused on changes you can make to yours and your family’s lifestyle to bring it more into line with sustainability and preventing runaway climate change but today I want to focus on some of the things that you can do with your children to help reduce your carbon footprint and general impact on the environment.

Now I’m not speaking from personal experience as I don’t yet have any children but I do have a niece who is 8 years old and a nephew who is just 4 months and I’d like to think that when I do finally have kids I will bring them up to respect the planet and everything that Mother Nature provides for us.

So sit down, get a cup of tea and read my suggestions of green living activities you can get your kids involved in.

Green people often start with green fingers

If you surveyed every one of the people who voted for the Green Party at the last election and asked them whether they were a keen gardener, I suspect the proportion who say yes would be far greater than if you asked the population in general. If you were to take it further and ask whether they grow their own food then the correlation would be even stronger.

What I’m trying to get at is that involving your children in the garden can give them an appreciation for nature that they might otherwise lack and, ultimately, they will be more likely to grow up respecting what nature provides.

You can start small with things like planting sunflowers in Spring or simply growing some cress in a used yoghurt pot like CBeebies show you how to do here. As they get older you could get them involved in keeping your own veg patch, giving them duties like watering and harvesting. If you don’t have your own garden then you can always find things like pick-your-own strawberry fields.

Food for thought

I have written many times about the link between food and the environment and imparting this onto your kids can help them make choices that are not only healthy but good for the planet too.

Now, cooking with your kids is hardly a new idea but teaching them how what you make impacts the world they live in brings a whole new dimension to proceedings. This may be more suitable to children of a certain age because concepts such as ‘organic’ and ‘food miles’ are not easy to explain until they are that bit older.

If you want some inspiration for meals you can have your kids help prepare, Supersavvyme has some great ideas on their website. One key theme should be that of fruit and vegetables because not only do they have their obvious health benefits, they generally have far lower carbon footprints than meat.

Recycling responsibility

Kids are normally taught about recycling at school from a very young age and if my niece is anything to go by, they’ll often be more aware of the recycling rules than the parents themselves.

With this in mind, and with sufficient supervision, you could engage and empower your kids by putting them in charge of the recycling in your household; it might even form part of their chore list for pocket money.

Say you have used a glass jar of sauce during cooking (I know I know, you could make the sauce yourself but I’m being realistic here), ask your child whether it can be recycled and which bin it needs to go in. Don’t wash it out initially and see if they say anything; if they don’t, ask them if they are forgetting something and then wash it out for them.

You’ll have to keep an eye on your bins to ensure they are putting the right materials in the right place because just a small amount of misplaced glass, plastic, paper or metal can cause problems at the recycling plant.

Farms are your friend

I was fortunate enough as a child to live in a fairly rural setting and visiting farms and other green spaces was a common pastime for the family but I was shocked when watching the ITV local news the other day as they reported on a group of inner city kids from London who were visiting a project designed to teach them about wildlife. Many of the kids were coming face to face with sheep, horses and other animals for the first time; one girl even mistook a sheep for a cow – not her fault but shocking nonetheless.

It seems to me that a link with nature has to be forged at a young age and while those living in rural surroundings don’t find this difficult to do, the millions of children who grow up in concrete cities may lack an appreciation and respect for the natural world in their adult lives.

So wherever possible, wherever you live, whatever your circumstances, try to take your kids to farms or zoos or marine centres where they can come face to face with creatures big and small. Animals often induce a sense of wonder among children – I see it every time we take my niece to a farm, wildlife park or Sea Life Centre (which her parents do on a very regular basis). She is particularly interested in Tigers and I know of few other things that keep her quieter than when she is looking at a real life tiger even if it is in captivity.

To take things one step further, you could sign your children up to a wildlife club such as those organised by the Woodland Trust, RSPB or the Wildlife Trusts where they’ll get sent fun activity packs in the post.

Walk the walk

Travel is a fairly large component of many people’s carbon footprint and our general over-reliance on cars is one of the big reasons.

So keep that key out of the ignition and use your legs to get places; walk to school, walk to the shops, walk to visit family, walk just about everywhere that is within a short distance (I figure anything of 15 minutes or less is walkable).

I walked a lot when I was younger and if it was too far to walk, I’d cycle instead. I believe that kids who grow up relying on cars to get around will be more likely to become big drivers when they are older and in a society that now accepts 2 or even 3 cars per household as ok, the fewer new drivers we create the better.

Oh and then there are the health benefits…but I didn’t want to patronise you by mentioning them too!

Litter picking and other green activities

I remember, as a young boy, going down to the alley at the end of our road and picking up enough litter to fill a couple of carrier bags and while this was a spontaneous act probably driven as much out of a sense of adventure as a desire to be green, getting involved with more organised littler picks and a whole host of other events is another good way to introduce your child to responsibility and community spirit.

My favourite place to find events like these is on the Project Dirt website here.

If you want your kids to grow up with a sustainable attitude towards life then you have to start them down the right path from a young age. The tips above give you a good grounding but in truth they barely scratch the surface of what you could do. Many more adult oriented features of green living can be adapted for kids but most importantly, you should try to include them in as many eco activities as possible to drive home the message that they, as with every human being alive, has a duty of care to the planet.

Steve (156 Posts)

I am chief writer and editor on Green Steve. Blogging since 2011, I like to delve into a wide number of topics to help people reduce their carbon footprint. You should follow me on Twitter here. And add me to your Google+ circles here.

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