For those of us with a child in our lives, there are countless lessons, facts, skills, and values to impart over a lifetime. One thing I relish teaching my three- and eight-year old is to love and care for planet Earth. Here are a few things Andy and I have started doing along the way. (If you do other things, we’d love to hear them!)
- Spend time outside. We all know how beneficial it to spend time outside, but what’s true for adults is true for kids: it’s easier to appreciate the Earth when you feel connected to it. We hike on weekends, go to playgrounds and parks after school, and spend time in the yard when the weather is mild. The kids mirror our wonder at our beautiful Earth.
- Read together. We own books about the earth, nature, sustainability, and climate change and supplement from the library. Read books that focus on the beauty of nature, plants, and animals as well as those that discuss the problems and solutions.
- Take your kids to environmental and climate-related events. We bring our kids to climate-action meetings (where kids are always welcome), vegan food festivals, Earth Day events, and park clean-ups. It’s good for them to see you participating and leading the way and that they’re part of a community who cares.
- Talk to your kids about climate change. In a way that’s appropriate for his age, my son and I occasionally talk about greenhouse gases, global warming, and climate change. He doesn’t know enough to be fearful, but he knows enough to understand why taking action is urgent and important.
- Most importantly, explain your Why. Perhaps it’s for your health, for the animals, or to do your part on climate, but bring your kids into the conversation about why you’re making changes.
- Take care of plants and animals. This is one thing my kids truly enjoy. I include them in chores like filling bird feeders, spritzing house plants, and doing yard work.
- Involve them in Earth-focused tasks like composting or taking out recycling. I often have Dash come with me to dump and mix our food scraps at the compost pile. He pretends to dislike it, but I know he loves getting in there with the pitchfork. Nova likes to help Andy sorting the recycling. Sometimes we just chat, but often there’s a small opening to impart some practical knowledge.
- Explain the difference between what heals and harms the planet. For example, our son is really into cars, so we’ve explained why electric vehicles are less harmful to the planet than gas-powered ones. My daughter can explain why we avoid single-use plastic wherever possible and bring reusable items with us.
- When you make a choice for the Earth, tell them. This will help the young people in your lives to see the ways you’re consciously helping the Earth. Did you switch to bar shampoo to eliminate waste? Did you walk instead of drive? Have you started composting? Have a conversation about it.
- Don’t shy away from more challenging conversations. This is personal to each parent or caregiver, but most kids can handle a healthy dose of truth when presented thoughtfully. As with anything, the sooner they start absorbing this information, the more they will integrate it into their lives.
We are far from perfect Planetarian parents, but these are things that have brought purpose, meaning, and value to our family’s life.