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Raising Kids to Be Good Stewards of the Environment

recycleWe all recognize the importance of conserving energy, recycling and taking good care of the planet we share. Some things are easy to do, while others are more challenging and impact the way we go through our day. One of the easiest and most fun things we can do is get kids involved in our efforts to care for our earth.

Model good behavior. Like everything else, modeling the behavior you want to see in your kids is the best way to get them on board. To do so, talk with your child about what you’re doing to help the environment and why as you go through your day. When you drop empty cans into the recycling bin, let him know that they’ll be used to make new products. When you turn off the water when brushing your teeth, remind him that clean water is a limited resource and it’s the responsibility of each person to conserve it whenever possible. You might be surprised at the many environmentally friendly things you do throughout your day that you don’t even realize you’re doing.

Grow your own garden. The best way to help your child understand the connection between the earth and food is to focus on garden to table meals. Involve your child in researching what will grow best in your climate, in deciding what fruits and vegetables your family would enjoy, and of course planting and caring for the garden. The process of preparing the ground, planting the seeds, watering the plants and watching everything grow is so exciting to kids. They’ll love the progression, and they’ll especially love eating the end product. The lessons you teach kids about sustainability will stay with them for a lifetime. Plus, research shows that when kids are involved in growing the food they eat, they make healthier food choices.

Volunteer for earth projects. Enjoying a community project with your child is a great way to teach environmental lessons and show the importance of giving back at the same time. Many communities sponsor annual clean up days encouraging residents to join together to clean up local parks, roadways and other shared spaces. Kids enjoy helping out adults and seeing the real difference they’re making. These clean up days also encourage kids to be aware of litter, so don’t be surprised if your child is on litter patrol all the time after volunteering. Clean up days aren’t the only opportunities to get involved. Your community may sponsor recycling programs, have ‘plant a tree’ days and come up with other ways that people in your community can come together and help the earth. Find something that both you and your child will enjoy doing and you’ll create a great memory, and you may even start a new tradition.

Walk, bike or take the bus. Your kids are probably used to driving wherever they go. It’s a habit for most of us to jump in the car whenever we need to get from point A to point B. However, carbon emissions are one of the leading causes of global warming, and small changes in our habits can result in big differences. Talk to your child about your family’s carbon footprint and how important it is to reduce it whenever you can. Walk to the local park rather than drive to one 10 miles away. Ride your bike to baseball practice rather than pack up the car. Take the bus into the city to enjoy a day at the zoo rather than fight traffic and pay for parking. These steps can have a big impact on the environment and on your child’s overall health and wellbeing. When it becomes a habit to use foot power to get to places whenever possible, your child will reap the benefits that come with regular exercise. These childhood habits are the ones most likely to stay with people as they grow into adulthood.

Go green with household products. With so many choices out there today, it’s easier than ever to choose natural products over those filled with added chemicals. Teach your child how to make smart choices when it comes to everything from laundry soap to toothpaste. Let him know why it’s important. Again, this has the added benefit of being good for your child on a very personal level. If your child suffers from asthma, environmental sensitivities or allergies, making these changes can have a big impact in how he feels day to day.

Read books about the issues that are important to you. Kids learn so much by reading together with you. Choose some stories that incorporate the environmental lessons that are especially important and share them with your child.

Teaching your child to be a good steward of the earth can be both fun and easy. Plus, it will help him develop healthy habits that can last a lifetime.

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