Reduce, reuse, recycle... it’s something we hear a lot, and something our kids will hear more often as it becomes a more constant theme in their day-to-day lives. We all appreciate the need for certain things or activities but understanding the bigger picture can make our kids really WANT to think of alternatives. How can we, as parents help build a love of nature that will inspire our children to protect our oceans and forests and the wildlife that lives there?
Get outside! It sounds so obvious, but the more time our children spend outdoors, enjoying nature, the more they see what a gift we have been given. In Hong Kong, we have beaches on our doorstep, fantastic country parks, and over 75% of our city is green. Wherever you live, even in the most urban places you can find nature if you look for it. Collect leaves and twigs, spot insects and birds, plant veggies or pick fruits, and re-visit the same place to see the changing seasons. Time spent in nature is essential to a child's physical and emotional development. If you need evidence of the effects it can have on children, take a look at 'The last child in the Woods' by Richard Louv.
Travel allows children to see landscapes different from their own, for example, new plants and trees and wildlife. Something that may be considered unique where they live can be commonplace somewhere else, and they can see it up close and learn about its behaviours. It's often a time when you can visit aquariums, petting zoo's, farms or national parks, and let kids get close to animals and get excited about them! It might involve camping, experiencing what it is like to sleep outdoors; playing in the snow, or swimming in the sea and exploring the nature in rock pools.
I feel the benefits of travel are huge but there is a cost.. flying has been estimated to account for about 2% of man-made CO2 emissions and its growing rapidly. Train travel, less trips but for longer periods, and short haul flights can help mitigate some of the impact.
Nature books can give parents and kids ideas about things to look for and activities to do locally. Or they can transport children to somewhere else entirely; deep under the sea, to a desert, or a snowy mountain.
It's an easy way for them to learn about nature, exotic or close to home from the comfort of their own home! My kids are really into sea life at the moment, and it's easy to find both fiction and non-fiction, all with fantastic illustrations. Here are some of the nature books we love...
Whatever animal or plant life captures your child's imagination can become an art or craft project. My girls love visiting aquariums, spending time on the beach and in the sea. And their theme for this term at pre-school is Oceans. I keep a stash of recyclables tucked away at home for arts and crafts projects. This time we used some of these items to make this aquarium...
Recyclables we used...
A cardboard box
A plastic drink cup
Some poppy wrap
Finally a plastic water bottle & randomly, a broken car sun screen!
Recyclables we used...
Turning a drinks cup into a jellyfish; made coral from packing peanuts; used bottle caps to make fishes; and made a turtle from a plastic bottle. Painted poppy wrap and mesh from a car sun screen were used to add texture. My kids loved playing with all the recycling and it’s a great way to get creative and start thinking about how you might re-purpose whatever you have on hand. Allowing children to spend time experiencing nature, learning about the millions of species of plant and animal life, and encouraging any specific interests they have, can only be a good thing for both the kids themselves and the world we live in.
With a love of nature... our little co-warriors will hopefully have a desire to protect and even restore the natural world.. or at least not moan about saying no to that plastic straw!
Some ways that your kids can contribute...
1. Help with the recycling... knowing what can be recycled and what can’t. For example, polystyrene I’m looking at you. This will help them make better choices in the future.
2. Share... we are always telling our kids to share and the clothes and toys they have outgrown are a great place to start. We can reduce our consumption by buying quality clothing either new or second hand. Learning to take good care of things allowing us pass things down to family members, friends or selling it.
3. Say no to single-use recyclables... if yours love straws like mine, there are a ton of alternative options out there from bamboo to metal that you can carry with you, and many retailers have switched over to paper now too.
4. Ask for a special experience... for their next birthday party, rather than receiving gifts that may be unwanted they could experience something new with friends which could involve giving back.
6. Learn to turn off lights when leaving the room... and don't forget running taps whilst cleaning teeth.
7. Re-use things to make... art, crafts and DIY toys. Cardboard boxes are always a great place to start!
A special thank you to our contributor Ann-Marie for her eco-warrior tips.
Keep in touch, and let us what you think!