By Dawna Matthews:
Over the years I have had to educate myself on eco-living. I pick up tips from many sources — other people I know, reading, travel, all over really. How do we transfer what we have learned about eco-living to our children without its being boring or too detailed and scientific?
I think the best all around way is to make it fun. Children and adults learn by play, and you can incorporate the eco-conscious living tips without sounding preachy. Here are a few fun ways I came up with.
Reading: Books are a fantastic way for children to learn about helping the earth as well as to see in depth something they truly care about. Right now Chloe is really into sea turtles and dolphins. We went to our local library and checked out books on them, and she started asking many questions about their home and how we can take care of it. Some books have great activities for children to embark upon, and you can participate together or they`can do it alone. This empowers children to feel they are the ones being green all by themselves while having fun. One of my favorite books is Easy to Be Green: Simple Activities You Can Do to Save the Earth.
Scavenger Hunt and Nature Hike: For a fun learning adventure and a way to connect with nature, host a nature hike with scavenger hunt. This educates children about local trees, flowers and water, etc., and allows everyone to get some sunshine and fresh air. Items such as leaves, rocks, feathers and pine cones are great to find. You can always put these into an earth friendly recycled bag or even take pictures. It’s always important to emphasize taking only items that have fallen naturally to the earth instead of picking from the trees or plants. A walk in nature helps bridge the connection to nature and why we want to do our part to protect it.
Nature Journaling: A nature journal is my all-time favorite way to connect with the environment. The journal is a place to write down and/or draw your feelings or experiences with the natural world. It helps provide a relationship between your child and the environment as well as greater awareness. All you need is a notebook. (You can help your children create their own nature journal.) Then, go somewhere to be in nature — it can be the mountains, a beach, a park, the zoo, your backyard — anywhere!
The journal can be whatever your child wants to create: a space to draw and/or write down what they saw or heard, their feelings before and after visiting the space, and so on. It’s also a great place to press leaves or flowers. My father did this with me when I was a young girl, and I have such fond memories of taking walks with him and collecting leaves and writing down images of our walk, as well as listening to my dad talk about the different trees and helping me press the leaves. It really was my first encounter with nature and how I fell in love with it.
Songs: People of all ages, especially kids, love to sing! Songs take something like the environment and make it easy to learn about. And songs help kids remember. If you can, sing some songs about environmental consciousness to or with your kids or make some up together. I find this is great to do around story time or when sitting in a circle. Some songs that focus on the environment, are fun to sing and are sung to rhymes kids and adults know like “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” are found here: http://www.dltk-kids.com/crafts/earth/rrr.htm
Chloe and I discovered some other songs from Birdsong and the Eco-Wonders which are about animals and their environment — sea turtles, whales, tide pools, kelp, and more. You can find them on http://www.birdsongandtheecowonders.com/ They focus on helping kids love the earth through song. Another one of Chloe’s and my favorites is Jack Johnson’s version of The 3 Rs song. Have fun singing with your children and bring out your inner child as well.
There are so many ways you can engage your child in learning about the environment which helps them to connect in so many ways. Once they start to learn about the earth, animals and plants through the above fun ways, they are intrinsically involved in how to take care of what they love. Children are mirrors of adults: they mimic us in every way. The best thing we can do to teach them about eco-living and saving the environment and all its natural wonders is to set a good example. When they see how you recycle, purchase eco-friendly products, ride your bike to work and plant flowers, they will do these things as well. We are the link in the eco-chain between the environment and our children. Together we can learn from one another and enjoy this beautiful place we call home.