The other day I was gazing down at my two year old, imagining who he’d grow up to be. Would he be the life of the party like his dad? An architect? A dancer? A teacher like his mom? Regardless of the job he takes, I wondered if he would take care of the earth. As parents, we have a huge responsibility to mold our children into great people and for this Earth Mama, the weight of molding both of my children into Eco friendly global citizens, got me thinking. How can I ensure that he cares about the Earth as much as I do? How do I teach him the importance of his choices and how they affect the environment and the people in it? How do I make certain that he has compassion and love for all humans and the earth?
It’s all about exposure. The more you know, the more you care. So, why not start with what you do everyday with your child? READ. As an educator, I know the many benefits of reading to your child daily and having lots of books available. So, why not start there? The other day I was reading a book about cows to my two year old. The book talked about how cows lived on farms and milk came from cows. It’s a relatively simple concept but starting with our relationship to animals and plants is a good place to build empathy. Obviously, my son is not ready to learn about the horrors of what cows can go through in order to be used for milk. Sharing with our children through books and stories that we as humans coexist with animals builds empathy and understanding and sparks conversations using concrete examples.
Here are a few book suggestions (stay tuned for another post all about books):
Encourage a Love for Nature
Living in Malaysia, getting outside can sometimes be challenging for me. Being outdoors when it’s hot and sticky is not fun. The hair frizzes, I immediately start to sweat and it just isn’t pretty but it’s worth it. Spend as much time as you can outside. It doesn’t have to be an extravagant trip.It doesn’t even have to be past your backyard. Point out the leaves, the bugs, how the roots push up the sidewalks. Kids are naturally curious and they don’t need much encouragement to ask questions, wonder and be in awe of things we as adults have forgotten are truly amazing about our Earth.
Take trip where experiencing nature IS the vacation. Trips to the beach, camping, hiking or biking. Not only are those kinds of trips for better for the environment in general but they form lasting memories and encourage the natural wonders that children are born with.
Remember the other day when you yelled out the swear word and then 5 seconds later your 2 year old repeated it? Kids are ALWAYS listening. So, talk. Talk about what you are doing and why you are doing it. Depending on their age, they might not completely understand yet but they will eventually. As you prepare for the grocery store and gather your reusable bags, explain why you won’t be taking plastic ones. While grocery shopping explain why you pick out certain products instead of other products. When you refuse a straw or bring your own cutlery explain to your child how it’s better for the environment and the animals. Watch as they too start to explain to others why your family does what they do.
Participate, participate, participate. Be a part of the solution. This can mean a lot of things. Participate in what suits you and your child. Join organizations like Trash Heros and let your child see like minded people and feel good about doing good. Participate in things like clothing swaps and let your child be part of the process. Maybe organize a toy swap. Support your child’s school’s green initiatives or start your own. I recently heard of a teacher that does not use tissues in her classroom but small reusable wipes. She has a laundry basket in her class and every once in a while she takes them home or a parent does to wash them and bring them back. Genius!
In the end, our children will do what we do. So, be a good example. Be the person that you want your child to be. So, when you are feeling too lazy to pack your bag with your reusables or feel flustered because you can’t find a recycling bin and the trash bin is oh so tempting or you just don’t have the energy to walk up those stairs one more time to pack the reusable water bottle, let your children be your motivation. They are worth it, you are worth it and our Earth is worth it!
What are things you do to ensure your child will follow in your earthly footsteps?