As an environmentally friendly parent it is, of course, important to be a good example of environmentally friendly activities yourself. Here are three tips that can help you to engage your kids in environmentally friendly behaviour with you!
Tip 1: Vinegar Scrub
Get everyone excited about cleaning up the house by explaining that vinegar and baking soda makes a great household cleaner that is biodegradable, eco-friendly, explosive, and really does clean with no weird residues! You can even squeeze a lemon or other citrus fruit into the mixture for a nicer scent. This can increase the responsibilities of children who shouldn’t touch regular household cleaners to take on more of a helping role in household tasks. Make sure nobody touches their eyes before they wash their hands though, vinegar is an acid and contact with the eyes will hurt a lot.
What they get out of it: When vinegar and baking soda are mixed together, you get a non-toxic chemical reaction that causes awesome bubbling and the classic “lava” look. This is a really fun thing to see and to play with. Kids may also learn the word biodegradable – and a definition of biodegradable for those of us with four year olds in the house can simply be; something that breaks down quickly if you leave it outside for a long time. Yes, the kids might still not be enthusiastic about household cleaning, but they’ll definitely want to make sure you have enough cleaning solution on hand.
What you get out of this: The windows, sinks, toilets, and floors are cleaned up. Vinegar is inexpensive; the house gets clean and you save money! Depending on the age of your kids you might get time to do other things while they work, even if you have to keep half an eye on them at the same time.
Tip 2: Reduce and Reuse
There are plenty of eco-friendly activities out there for kids, but not many of them actually leave the kids with anything they can use in the end; let alone give them an increased understanding of the world around them. All too frequently those projects get thrown out a few weeks or months later. Why not create a space for them to grow and have the construction of their spot and the growing itself be the project?
If you have a lot of space to garden in, it might be nice to give the kids a specific patch of their own, so that they can learn to garden too! If you have limited space for a garden you can try to build a concrete planter which will give you and the kids gardening space for years to come! If your children are very small then you can also make a stone or brick bordered garden that is better suited to little helping hands.
You can lie the bricks or rocks down in whatever shape you choose, the classic square, circle, or heart, or any shape of your choice and use mixable concrete or cement from a hardware store to line the tops and bottoms of the bricks or rocks as well as to fill the gaps between them. Then fill the inside with dirt and seeds! This is fairly inexpensive to do and gives you a nice little space to plant anything in. You can also have vines and creepers growing up the sides of the container you made, doubling the amount of space for your plants.
You can also build a compost bin for your leftover scraps from dinner. There are several good tutorials here. If your children are too young to participate very actively in labour-intensive projects, you can make this into a Mom or Dad project that the kids help you with. As long as they are at a safe distance from the hammer, they can help by handing you nails, or helping to draw the plans. There are lots of ways to let your kids help you with a plan like this, and one of the best things you can do is involve your child in one of your own projects. It makes them feel really proud to be involved in something important to you.
What everyone gets out of this: The idea is to reduce the time spent doing nothing and to give everyone reusable products from an activity. It also gives everyone an opportunity to spend time together. Gardening with the kids is fun, especially if you can make it an extended project that will keep them busy with planning and working. Gardening gives you the chance to explain to your children how important it is to make sure that plants are well taken care of, and that what grows in the ground helps us by producing the oxygen we breathe and the fruits, vegetables, and nuts that we eat.
Tip 3: Getting to School
A really simple activity that will bring the entire family closer together is to have them walk or bike with you, instead of driving everyone to school. If you are not within walking distance of their school; you could try taking the bus or another form of public transportation. This will help reduce vehicle emissions into the environment.
If you make even one day a week a walk, bike, or bus to school day you can make your kids aware of types of vehicle emissions and why it is good for them and the environment to walk to school. You can make the trek into a game, if you live fairly far away. You can make it a trivia walk, or a nature collection walk (give them a little bag for collecting things and have them tell you why they chose each thing when they get home from school again).
Or you could create a scavenger hunt and ask how many animals they can spot today and give your kids score cards to keep track of what they see. There are lots of ways to make this fun, and you can always pull them in a wagon if they are still small. If you live in a snowy area you can pretend to be snowshoeing across the Arctic or drag them behind you on a toboggan.
What everyone gets out of this: You’ll hear more about their day and what they like, and all of you will get some exercise along the way. This also gives you a huge chance to show them that even in your area there are lots of things to see that they might not always notice. It gives you a chance to tell them about helping the environment by using yourself as an example, and spending time outside is never a bad thing.
Using these tips will allow you to enhance the environmental awareness of the whole family. They also give you good opportunities to spend quality time together in everyday situations. This means that while learning you all come closer together.