The planet is swamped with plastic waste, and more trash keeps adding onto the pile. It is high time we learned the value of living a clutter-free life that is also eco-sensitive.
With fewer things and more earth around us, we stand to gain an experience that is more involved with nature, and the generations to come will benefit from a more inhabitable planet.
Eco-friendly living starts in childhood. Childhood habits can shape our relationship with the planet and also create a more value-driven life.
As we prepare for this year’s big holidays, choose gifts that don’t just lie around, but those that teach your child to live sustainably.
Eco-friendly gift ideas for kids
If your little one really wants a toy, there are ways to make them happy while also making the planet happy. Recycled dolls are made of cotton and stuffed with recycled plastic bottles. They often come with little tags that narrate a backstory to the toy, along with a note on how to save the planet.
Kids will love the comfort of a cotton toy, along with the realness of one that comes with a backstory. Several recycled toy options exist in the market these days, including tiny golf sets, knitted cuddle toys, and miniature boat models. They are made safe for kids, and more importantly, these toys biodegrade.
Make your own garden boxes
Introduce your kid to the world, growing their own food with a gardening kit.
A gardening kit should contain seeds, soil appropriate for the seeds, and all the mulch and manure needed to prepare the planting ground. The kit could also include a tiny recyclable watering can and little grow bags for households without a big enough backyard.
Gardening kits can be made to accommodate siblings, making it a team activity. This way, kids can start on their own sustainable journey right from childhood.
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Bird kits contain different kinds of bird seeds with which you can teach your kid to interact with birds the next time you go to a park, or even in your backyard.
The bird kit can also have cards to help children identify the birds as they come to eat the seeds.
Interacting with nature involves interacting with the inhabitants. Help your kid develop a bond with the creatures of nature with a birding kit.
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Want to teach your child world geography creatively? Or how about a fun way to learn the shapes? Jigsaw puzzles are great for kids to learn the forms of things on their own.
Putting together the pieces of continents and then creating the entire world map can go a long way in making a world citizen. It might be pocket friendly too.
In fact, you can make the jigsaw puzzle on your own by cutting out the pieces on cardboard. This gift might be suitable for kids who are over six years old.
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Kids’ Books that have a green message
You can find several books in the market designed to introduce the concept of green living to kids.
What better way to encourage a reading habit among your kids, while helping them develop eco-awareness!
By Dr. Seuss
The first book on the list is a book that spread environmental preservation and awareness before it became mainstream.
The Lorax is a beautiful book that conveys the consequences of choosing unsustainable development over the environment, through a mix of poetry and storytelling.
The Lorax, written back in 1971 and made into a film in 2012, is a cautionary tale about damaging the environment for industrial gain. The story, which tells us of a creature called the “Once-ler” who cut down all the “Truffula trees” for the “biggering and biggering” of his manufacturing operation, goes on to lament the loss of their once beautiful eco-system:
"Once-ler! He cried with a cruffulous croak.
Once-ler! Your’re making such a smogulous smoke
My poor Swomee-Swans…why, they can’t sing a note
No one can sing who has smog in his throat."
by Margaret & H.A. Rey
There is something about that Man with the Yellow Hat that kids can’t get enough of!
In this book, we follow George around town as he learns what can and what can’t be recycled as the local museum hosts a recycling and plant a tree day. George also learns the right time to recycle things – recycling prior to being finished with an item lands this little monkey in trouble!
By Rana Diorio and Chris Blair
This book gives excellent practical insights for kids to make green choices in their daily lives.
The messages are made fun and engaging through the story of two kids who go around finding ways to make their daily lives greener. The book is also filled with colorful illustrations.
By Sharon Creech
Fishing in the Air tells the story of a boy and his father who go out to fish, with a can of fish and some sandwiches. The book deals more with imagination and bonding than eco-preservation per se.
Still, exciting activities in nature can be a great way to introduce your kid to the wonders of nature.
By Lynne Cherry
This book tells the heartwarming story of a village saving a kapok tree.
A man starts cutting the kapok tree but soon falls asleep out of exhaustion. While he is sleeping, all the village people, including a child, whisper into his ear why he should not cut the tree.
When the man wakes up, he is convinced he should save the tree and goes away.
by Joanna Cole and illustrated by Bruce Degen
Starting off in the classroom, the children are told that they have to do a science project about air pollution. Because they don’t know much about air pollution, they go on a field trip to learn some more information. On the way they learn why clean air is important and what they can do to keep it clean.
The book was sponsored by the EPA and includes a checklist with tips on how to keep the air clean such as, “ask your bus driver to turn off the engine when the bus is parked.”
by Barrett K. Hays
The main character, Jimmy, lives on Mars and has to be very careful not to leave the “covered planet zone”. The book follows Jimmy when he breaks a rule by bringing a blue beetle (who he names Clarissa) from Earth back to Mars with him. Clarissa then comes to the rescue and saves the day, proving that bugs are out friends!
Dr. Hays, a physician of over 30 years, stated that “we have real environmental issues…Global warming, the use of plastic, the need to talk about clean air and the connection to the rise in asthma”.
by Mary Ann Hoberman
A House Is A House For Me is a beautifully written rhyming book. The story looks at different houses and who lives in each one: “A hill is a house for an ant, an ant. A hive is a house for a bee. A hole is a house for a mole or a mouse. And a house is a house for me!”
The poem finishes with a very clear message to all its readers, “Each creature that’s known has a house of its own. And the Earth is a house for us all.”
Written and illustrated by Maya Christina Gonzalez
This bilingual book tells the story of a little girl named Maya and her relationship with a river.
In the story, whenever Maya visits the river, it jumps up to greet her. It cools her in the summer, and keeps her company in winter. Maya tells us that the river takes care of her, and she takes care of it. Gonzalez writes about the environment in a way that’s easily understood by children, explaining that the world and its resources keep us safe and that we, in turn, should keep it safe.
by Debi Gliori
In this tale we see a planet populated by self-centered, careless and selfish dragons who don’t care about pollution or sustainability. The dragons, who chop down wood and eat all the food, now realize that they’re in trouble because of their lifestyle.
The dragons start to rethink their behaviour.
The book is written in verse form, and is eco-conscious itself – having been printed with vegetable ink on FSC certified paper and recycled material.
by Julia Jarman and Garry Parsons
The main protagonist in this tale is a hyena who ‘s fed up with cleaning up after all of the other animals. Encouraged by the culture, the hyena takes a rest from all their cleaning.
At first, nobody notices. But of course, eventually they do resulting in them coming together and realizing that saving the planet is a chore for everybody.
by Elisabeth Beresford
After having to leave their burrow because big heavy lorries threatened to make the roof cave in, the Wombles return safely back. But they’re not safe yet, as the Wombles have noticed now that the humans have realized there’s an energy crisis, they’re not throwing away as much for the Wombles to gather!
by Nick Arnold and Tony DeSaulles
If you like Horrible Histories, you’ll like the Horrible Science series too! Wasted World tackles environmental issues such as climate change, global warming, toxic waste and greenhouse gases. With plenty of fantastic facts, quizzes and cool cartoons, this book is for the slightly older child, but definitely worth a look
Another one for older children is Ravenwood by Andrew Peters.
The main protagoinist, Ark, is a 14 year old plumber boy who lives in Arborium, a beautiful forest island that has been carved out of the giant branches of a huge canopy of trees. One day, Ark overhears a plan to cull the tree for wood, that’s now more previous than gold itself.
Ark, the unsuspecting hero, then finds himself racing to the deepest and darkest roots of Ravenwood in order to save his home. The tale is a cautionary one, that warns against not being green.
by Peter Brown
Liam is such a cute character for kids to relate to! His wonder and curiosity at finding a garden that he can call his own will likely encourage you to create little gardening projects with your kids.
The gist of the story is that, while out exploring one day, Liam discovers a struggling garden and decides to take care of it. As time passes, the garden spreads throughout the dark, gray city, transforming it into a lush, green world.
The power of a little one making big changes is a great lessons for small kids!
This is one for the parents! Mom & Dad should check out “I Love Dirt” by Jennifer Ward, a book that has 52 activities to help your little ones discover the wonders of nature.
Don’t worry, there's nothing too gross in these activities (they are all Mom-friendly).
This is a really fun book to have on hand as spring heads your way. With more time outside and a summer vacation that needs to be filled with fun adventures, this is the perfect book to help you start mapping out fun for your eco-explorer!
This book works for city dwellers and country dwellers alike so we can all appreciate the nature we inhabit.