As the school children think up novel ways to spend their summer time — from week long sport and art camps to vacations, there are many ideas for riding out these long warm days ahead of us. Amid all the plans for families to spend some quality time with each other, it would be great to use this opportunity to teach our kids a thing or two about sustainability.
Agreed, it is a complicated subject to crack — but there are some simple ways to get children to connect to the subject emotionally in a way it makes an impact enough to cause a change in their behavior. Humans need a healthy and safe Earth to survive and working to protect and sustain the Earth – aka sustainability – is not just for adults. By teaching this to kids, along with hands-on lessons for putting it in practice, you prep your children to continue being environmentally conscious for life!
The best introduction for the subject is by relating it to the Earth — Kids relate to the fact that the earth is our home and we need to take care of it. Sustainability means taking care of the Earth’s resources, such as air, water and energy to help keep them clean and natural. By instilling this love for the Earth they start to understand what they are working to preserve. Take your children to naturally beautiful places — the hills, rural landscapes, and undeveloped areas. Allow them to witness nature living so they catch the spirit of preserving this beauty through sustainability. Once they’re motivated and enthusiastic about their love for the planet they will contribute to help preserve it.
If you want to teach children about sustainable living, then you have to practice it yourself. Recycling, using less water and power, even the choices you make at a grocery store all send powerful messages to your children. Explaining all of this along with your actions sends them a solid message. Even the youngest children in a family can make a difference — for example, by teaching children about recycling and garbage, they can make a difference in the amount of refuse that does not reach landfills.
Children and animals have a special bond. Encourage them to watch animal shows and teach them that the animal kingdom depends on us and our choices. These early, basic lessons will help ingrain in kids a big-picture responsibility as they enjoy watching animals in their habitat. It’s a great way to start children out on the road to leading a sustainable life.
One task that kids of all ages enjoy is a family garden. Plant a small patch this summer to teach them about composting, growing your own organic vegetables and herbs. Seeing food on the plate that came from seeds they planted is a big thrill for anyone, as well as a great lesson in sustainability.
There are studies to show that children who grow up understanding and practicing sustainability within their family and locally in a community can have a powerful impact on everyone’s future. Proactive kids that take sustainability seriously can teach their peers about reducing consumption, recycling and reusing items to preserve the Earth’s resources and to stop harming the Earth. Children can also set a positive example for the other adults at home when they practice sustainability!
The writer is an architect, urban designer, dancer and chief designer at Shilpa Architects