I sometimes share heartbreaking photos of environmental devastation with my kids. I believe that keeping them in the loop with what’s going on with our planet is my responsibility as a parent. That way, educating them and exposing them to the harsh realities of human existence will help them understand issues instead of denying them the truth and treating them as little babies; locking them inside a protective bubble filled with rainbows and hearts.
However, I also know just sitting them down and explaining to them the goings-on while presenting to them distressing photos isn’t always the best way to make them fully understand. There are factors to consider: the age of the child, the personality of the child and the child’s level of comprehension and understanding. Depending on the child, going about it in this way may be counterproductive.
If you’re a parent like I am and trying to work out the best way to approach the topic of climate change and environment, I’ve discovered these five fun ways to educate youngsters:
1. Start at home; set a green example
Environmental education begins at home. Teaching your kids about the history of our planet, what makes it healthy and what human activities are making it sick in simple language they can comprehend.
Once they have fully grasped that information, the ‘green living’ house rules you have laid down will make much more sense to them especially after you have explained why each of these rules are important and how exactly these practices can help save our planet. Your house rules can include things such as:
- conserving energy by turning lights off when leaving the room,
- unplugging electronic gadgets when not in use,
- conserving water by taking quick showers,
- trying their best to finish their meal to avoid food waste,
- recycling boxes and paper, plastic bottles, drink cans
- composting food scraps,
- packing their zero waste kits in their school backpacks,
- watering their herb garden before going to school or after school.
Practicing green living in your own home is the easiest way for them to learn sustainable living since parents leading by example is the best way for children to pick up good, eco-friendly lifestyle habits.
Better still, depending on the age of your kids, if you can pair positive environmental behaviour with weekly or monthly rewards (like a trip to a local strawberry farm, or a weekend camping trip), it may incentivise your kids even more!
2. Plant a community garden
Cities are a hotspot for feeling the effects of global climate change, and contribute plenty to the crisis too, with cities creating over 70% of global carbon dioxide emissions. One simple way to counteract this is by planting community garden. Your kid(s) will enjoy the hands-on approach to tackling environmental issues and if you join together with other families in your neighbourhood and group of your friends, it will make it a socially positive experience for your kids too. This activity will help them realize the importance of plants, food nutrition, and how humans and the planet are interdependent.
Now if there are no community gardens you can join, why not seek out whether your city would be willing to donate a small patch of land for this project? By asking them to provide accessibility and opportunity to a community garden, more families may be encouraged to participate which only strengthens the community.
3. Suggest inspirational social media accounts (for teens)
Social media is a great platform to create awareness if your kids are old enough to use it and already have their own profiles. By sharing with them age appropriate articles, fun videos and other useful resources, they will be inspired to do the same with their friends.
You can also suggest pages and accounts for them to follow that will serve as inspiration, such as teen climate activist @gretathunberg, @fridaysforfuture and @climateoptimist.
4. Watch a documentary together
One great way to bond with your kids while also educating them on the topic of climate change, is to have a family movie night. Serve up some healthy snacks (think carrot and celery sticks and homemade hummus dips), grab a cozy blanket, postpone that family comedy film and animated kids movies and schedule in the documentary series Our Planet with our favourite nature story-teller Sir David Attenborough instead.
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This film doesn’t just show us how magical our world is but how climate change impacts every living thing on this planet. After watching this film, your kids will begin to understand how climate change affects us all, feel a sense of urgency to act and feel a responsibility to protect the planet and all its living creatures.
This award-winning documentary series is currently available on Netflix.
5. Download an app
Many kids have access to smartphones and some even have tablets glued to their hands. Instead of letting them waste their time with video games and silly videos, download some apps that will teach them about climate change. The Painting with Time: Climate Change app, for example, will help them see how a particular place has dramatically changed over time because of climate change. It depicts glaciers that have drastically melted and how rising temperatures have brought about floods and droughts.
Through this app, they can virtually experience what is happening and will develop a sense of empathy. And when there is empathy, the need to create change will arise. What’s more, globally renowned climate scientists Dr. Katharine Hayhoe and Dr. Todd Sanford served as a scientific consultants on the app project too!
Global warming is one of the most important issues facing humanity today. Our roles as parents is helping our children navigate the world and be productive and constructive members of society – a society that is increasingly global. By educating and informing them, you can kickstart their environmental consciousness and help them positively contribute to a healthier planet.
Have some effective ways of educating your kids about the climate crisis that you’d like to share? Can you recommend documentaries and books? Feel free to leave a comment below.
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Feature image of girl pointing to flowers by Vanessa Serpas.