Good environmental habits are exactly that: habits. As a parent, you’re constantly trying to instill good habits (and break bad ones) with your kids, and environmental habits are no different than learning to tie sneakers or filling up the puppy’s water bowl.
Your kids are more likely to pick up on the good habits if they enjoy them, or clearly see the benefit. I can vividly remember hundreds of occasions where my mother told me to “close the refrigerator door”, “turn off the lights”, or “put your soda can in the recycle bin”. While she was mostly successful in steering me in the right direction, I certainly wasn’t excited about treating the environment well as a kid.
Here are some ideas that may make it a little more fun to teach your kids how to help save the earth.
Decorate Your own Clothes Shopping Bags
Grab some plain-color cloth bags, then head to your local art store to grab some cloth paint and materials for stencils. After your kiddo helps to decorate your cloth shopping bags, she’ll be much more likely to remember them and use them.
Turn Recycling into a Game
Set up separate recycling containers for each member of your family, and “keep score” on a weekly basis. Not only will your kids want to win, but they’ll learn the valuable habit of recycling as they race to take your empty cans and bottles to their recycle bin.
Just make sure you reward the lucky winner with something that will keep them motivated to stick with their new habit.
Plant a Tree
Or even better, plant vegetables! Teaching your kids the importance of plants and trees is important, but nothing can replace the experience of learning about nature while helping to nurture it. Plus, the first bite out of a tomato or cucumber that your child grew will leave an everlasting impression.
In addition to understanding plants and nature, your kids will also learn the valuable lesson of taking care of something other than themselves.
Install a Smart Meter and Keep Track of Your Energy Usage
Smart meters are becoming more and more common, and also more and more affordable. Install a meter so that you can track the energy usage of your house, and teach your kids how to use and record the meter.
You can run experiments (how much power do we use from 5-10pm versus overnight?) and actually show your kids the impact of turning off a light switch or unplugging the PS3. Plus, it’ll help them with math, too!
As with anything you teach your kids, finding a way to turn environmental habits into enjoyable experiences will make a more positive and lasting impression. And who knows, you may even be able to convince them to do yard work and landscaping!