Think a child or a family can't make a difference?
Not so. Little things -- like using a colorful cloth bag for
groceries or tossing potato peels and eggshells into the compost
heap -- can help the environment. And if your child develops
good habits now, they'll endure as he or she grows.
Here are 10 ways you can encourage your kids
to go green on Earth Day and every day:
1. Reduce electricity, Explain to your children that lights, computers, televisions
and furnaces use energy, and that energy is in short supply.
Jessica Altman of Buffalo, NY, encourages her 3-year-old to always
flip off the light when she leaves a room and shut off the TV
when she's no longer watching. Now the toddler even reminds others:
"Turn off the light!" Appliances like DVD players
use energy even when off, so cutting the power totally is the
only way to conserve. Go shopping together to buy power bars
and plug your electronics into them (watch little ones closely
so there are no shocks).
2. Take small steps. There are dozens of small things your kids
can do every day to save energy and keep the world cleaner and
greener. Your kids can:
*Shut off the water when they brush their
*Walk, ride a bike or take the bus instead
of traveling by car
*Take faster showers or baths in just a small
amount of water
*Help hang clothes on the line instead of
putting them in the dryer
*Choose products that are not over packaged
3. Hello, Nature! What's the best way to introduce children
to nature? And how do we keep them hooked on the outdoors? As
parents, we tend to fixate on getting from A to B on the trail
or in the park and not on the texture of moss, the sounds of
the wind and yes, interactions with worms. Here are a few suggestions:
4. Keep it simple and open-ended. Let the children lead the way, you might even
learn from them. As one mom I know laughed, "They're a lot
closer to the ground. They'll show you fungus, moss or insects
that you've never seen."
Encourage their natural imagination. Set out
on any nature walk with preschoolers and the world becomes an
exciting and magical place. Dried-up riverbeds become dinosaur
grounds. Ordinary mud becomes quicksand, tree roots turn
into crocodiles, and the common garden slug elicits curiosity.
"Will it bite? Is it a boy or a girl? Can we touch its skin?"
Ask questions where there are no right or wrong answers, like
"How many shades of green can you see?"
5. Use all five senses. Kids are hands-on learners, so appeal to sights, sound,
scent, touch and taste. Feel the texture of leaves or moss, smell
the mud and listen with eyes closed to the sounds of wind. Lie
on your back to observe clouds and make pictures from them, or
taste the rain. For younger kids, tape together two empty toilet
paper rolls and tie a string for first "binoculars."
They help to focus on just one bird in the bush or one fuzzy
caterpillar. Older kids might like a scavenger hunt with items
such as, "Catch a smell. What is it?"
Don't forget nighttime. Walk with flashlights
or lie down to look up at stars. "At night, you hear
more and your senses are heightened,"says Sophika Kostyniuk,
National Outings Manager for Sierra Club. A good resource for
stargazing: The Kids Book of the Night Sky by Anne Love and Jan
Drake (KidsCan Press).
6. Grab some inexpensive tools and
equipment. Every natural "scientist"
needs good equipment. Essential items: a magnifying glass (it
should magnify10 times and be strong enough to withstand some
falls), a journal to record finds in words or pictures (get the
kids to decorate it with feathers and other found objects), a
small lightweight butterfly net for examining frogs, bugs or
butterflies and field guides for young readers, like the Peterson
or Audubon books.
Your kitchen cupboards are a treasure trove
for items like large spoons, sieves or colanders for pond studies;
baby food jars, wax paper and rubber bands as collecting jars
(punch air holes in the paper, observe and release); cardboard
egg cartons to classify rocks; ice cube trays as temporary insect
7. Take a field trip. Take advantage of family programs at zoos,
aquariums and botanical gardens. Let kids ask a zillion questions.
"Kids can make a difference," says Bill Street, Director
of Zoo Education at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, who points to a
group of kids who raised money on their own for African conservation.
"Give them the knowledge and the tools and they are capable
of accomplishing great things."
8. Create a library. Start a collection of kid-friendly field guides on
nature and nature activities, tapes and books like Smithsonian
Bug Hunter (Dorling Kindersley) that uses water and a paper clip
to explain why a pondskater doesn't sink. Encourage sites like
[ http://www.enature.com/ ]eNature.com or [ http://www.backyardjungle.com/
]BackyardJungle.com. It's OK to use technology to further love
of nature says Eliza Russell, Director of Educational Programs
at [ http://www.nwf.org/ ]Natural Wildlife Federation. Spend
ten minutes in the backyard and then head to the computer for
more. "Kids may see a new bird, and go online to learn what
this bird eats or where it shelters," she says.
The most favored book of all, however, will
be one your kids make themselves. Russell suggests leaving a
journal open by a window where kids can record what is taking
place throughout the year or how things change daily. One or
two sentences each day will do. Or let them create their own
illustrated nature diary with words, images and found objects
like nut tops or seeds. No matter how little, you can teach
kids to be pro-active about initiating eco-friendly practices
in their homes and communities.
9. Write a letter. Fifteen years ago, 9-year-old Melissa Poe of Nashville
saw a TV show about pollution. Horrified by the problem, she
wrote a letter to the president that suggested he "get on
TV and put up big signs" to make people aware of the problem.
She also founded [ http://www.kidsface.org/ ]Kids FACE, an environmental
organization for young people. Your children can write letters
to government leaders and corporations about pollution and other
environmental issues, and you can give them a hand in looking
up addresses and help them decide what they,Äôre going
to write. Talk about how you live in a democracy and every voice
counts, no matter how small.
10. Do a donation tour. A great way to get across the message of "reuse"
and "recycle" is to take kids on a trip to your local
thrift store, recycling center, or church. If your children have
old clothing, toys, shoes, or other items in reusable condition,
make a family trip down to the donation center so they can see
how their trash is someone else's treasure. Teach kids how items
can be reused for different purposes--for example old towels,
blankets, and comforters can often be donated to local animal
shelters for bedding. These real-life examples will teach kids
that many items they would normally throw away can actually have
a second life. Don't forget that we have recycling bins outside
of Westwood for all of your cardboard and paper. Give your kids
the job of flattening your cereal boxes and other cardboard containers.
Then have them come with you to drop it off. Each year, we earn
almost $1,000.00 from that community recycling effort.
The information in this article is adapted
from www.Kaboose.com. Visit there for fun activity ideas
for Earth Day and other special occasions.