Last week we celebrated Earth Day! It is great to pick one day a year to concentrate on this, but with kids we need to reinforce these concepts all year. No matter what you did to celebrate last week, use these tips to keep the conversation going!
We know there are lots of things that need fixed about how we treat our Earth, but when we are speaking with kids, keep conversations positive. Children don’t usually have a lot of control over the things that help or hurt our environment so the goal is to teach awareness and understanding, not fear.
Start with science! For young children, science is about observation and exploration. Help them ask questions about their world and then find the answers. Where does the rain come from? Why is the sky blue? How does an egg turn into a frog? Where do bears live? What do deer eat?
Talk about being a caretaker! We take care of our friends, our toys and our family. What can we do to take care of our Earth? Is there litter we can pick up? What kinds of things can we reuse at home instead of throwing away? What about using a thrift store instead of buying new? Can we ride the bus, carpool or ride a bike instead of taking the car?
Get your hands dirty! Gardening is a great way to be doing something while talking to children about our earth. You can explore how important it is to keep our ground clean, how plants need sun and water to grow and how plants help us clean the air. Make your own chia pet using the bottom half of a 2 liter bottle or milk jug as your planter and attaching buttons for the eyes and a colored milk cap for the nose.
Eat your words! Make talking about the earth fun with ants on a log (celery, peanut butter and raisins), cups of “dirt” (crushed Oreos and chocolate pudding) with gummy worms or very hungry caterpillars (apple slices for the body and a cheese wheel for the head) are great conversation starters!
Get outside! I know I have said this before, but it should be said again. Do whatever it takes to get your kids outside more. Children’s brain development is very dependent on being in nature. Children need time outside. In order to develop creativity skills, they need to play on ground that is uneven, walk on logs that are not spaced equal distances apart and learn their limits by testing themselves on hills and in bushes and trees. In order to develop problem solving skills, children need to be given unstructured play time where they develop their own rules, motives and outcomes.
Take this opportunity to inspire the life of a young child with curiosity, knowledge, messy-ness, deliciousness and energy. Helping the next generation to grow up valuing our environment is the best way to ensure that they will want to care for their planet.