Parent and Live for Less contributor Nicole Lutze offers some tips on educating kids on sustainability, from developing good waste habits to taking part in local community activities.
In our increasingly urbanised country, teaching children about the natural world requires a certain level of conscious participation from parents and caregivers.
While “sustainability” is a big and complicated topic, the lessons our children receive on the subject don’t need to be overly complex.
Let’s take a look at some genuinely fun and interactive ways to teach our children about the environment.
Be an example
From literally day one, children will learn from the behaviours you exhibit to them: monkey see, monkey do. Set the right example by demonstrating your care of the environment through everyday actions. Pick up some rubbish on the beach or street, refuse a plastic bag, recycle your waste and encourage thoughtful consumerism.
Get amongst nature
Family life schedules can become jam-packed weeks in advance, so why not organise a monthly family nature-day? Try bush-walking, hiking to the top of a mountain, searching rock pools, or camping under the stars. Encourage children to identify local wildlife along the way, and take photos of insects or animals they can’t recognise to look up later.
A home vegetable garden and compost system is also a great way for kids to get their hands dirty and develop an understanding of the holistic relationships in the natural environment.
Use books and films to guide
There are plenty of interesting, beautiful books and films with a focus on the natural world. Authors like Jeannie Baker and Nicola Davies have a wonderful selection of colourful children’s book that focus on environmental sustainability.
Movies such as Happy Feet, Over The Hedge, FernGully and WALL-E also have an eco-friendly plot and are easily understood by younger children. Adolescents might enjoy a family screening of a documentary instead.
Volunteer as a family
There are lots of great volunteering initiatives you can get involved in as a family. Look for tree-planting programs, bush regeneration activities, coastal care initiatives and annual events such as Clean Up Australia Day.
Keep it age appropriate
As children get older and are exposed to more external sources of information, concern over our environmental impact on the planet and climate change can cause varying levels of stress or anxiety.
Clinical psychologist, Danielle Corbett from Brisbane’s Psychology Consultants says while it’s important to do your best to answer children’s questions honestly, ensure you’re giving age appropriate information.
“Small children will benefit more from time to bond in nature and reassurance rather than facts,” she says. “For older children and adolescents, it can be helpful to ask them what they think and check their knowledge level before responding.”
Inevitably your children will ask you questions that you don’t know the answer to. Danielle suggests providing reassurance that many people across the world that are dedicating their careers to solving our planet’s problems. Offer your children an alternative by asking them to think of great things that are happening within their home, school or community.
“We tend to hear lots about what’s going wrong, so focus on the good news stories and provide opportunities for younger children to do something to help, or encourage older children to seek out proactive steps you can make as a family to mitigate any distress they have,” she says.
Seek inspiration and get involved
Start planning some environmentally focused activities for your family by:
- Checking out the Brisbane City Council website for council-supported green events & activities here.
- Taking part in the free or low-cost educational children’s activities at Brisbane City Council’s environment centres, such as nature walks, canoeing, and wildlife encounters.
- Kick off your volunteering journey by joining a Habitat Brisbane group or the Brisbane Catchments Network to help restore nature habitats in parks, bushland and wetlands.
- Check out the Nature Play QLD website for other activity ideas, family destination suggestions, local events and interesting articles.
- Register an Everyday Cleanup at the Clean Up Australia Day website.