How to Nurture a Child's Instinctive Love For the Environment
Humans are born with an instinctive love for the planet and its creatures. Disrespect for our resources is a learned behavior. Most children are fascinated by insects until someone tells them they should all be killed immediately. Likewise, children love plants and trees and will not harm them unless they see an older child or grownup doing so.
Conserving and Being Grateful For Our Natural Resources
The world needs more environmentalists right now or it may soon be too late for our planet to recover. It's never too early to instill gratitude for our planet's natural resources in children. It is also important to explain that our resources should never be abused or wasted.
It seems that many people now are afraid of the sun. Sunscreen sales are doing very well and most children are taught that before they leave the house in warm weather they should coat themselves with it.
Of course, no one is advocating letting small children experience sunburn, but maybe the attitude could be changed just a bit from fear to gratitude for all the sun does for us. For example, the sun works with our skin to produce vitamin D. Instead of being coated from head to foot before stepping outside, let your child produce some vitamin D for 15 to 20 minutes and then add the sunscreen. Talk about how great that is and how vitamin D helps the body.
Likewise, explain how the sun's rays are energy that we can collect and use to power things. As a family, explore solar panel cost together and plan how many you'll need and where they should go. Then get excited by how much clean energy is powering your home.
Flora and Fauna
Many Americans feel that the land and the creatures on it are at their disposal. Flora and fauna are not seen as important components of the planet's ecosystem. This is how mining, pesticides and factory farming came to be.
As a family, go for nature walks. Stop and examine interesting plants, insects or other creatures without harming them. Take pictures whenever possible and learn about the names and characteristics of everything you saw.
Consider replacing all of the paper products in your home with bamboo or another fast growing plant. Discuss how irresponsible it is to cut down trees that may have taken centuries to grow just so someone can have paper towels. You could even plant bamboo outside or have a small bamboo plant in the house to remind them of this concept.
Children know animals have feelings; only later is this forgotten by most people. When grocery shopping, explain why you only purchase cage-free eggs or milk from a local farm you've visited. Discuss the benefits of organic food, not just for your bodies but for the planet. If your family eats meat, be truthful about where it comes from and make sure the animals are treated humanely through the entire farming process.
In this country, especially, clean water is really taken for granted. Early childhood is a great time to talk about the water cycle. It's fascinating for children to think about the water in their glass and how many times it may have gone through the cycle. It's also a great time to instill the idea that we don't get any new water. All the water that ever has been on the planet is constantly recycled.
For older children, especially, it's time to talk about plastic in the ocean and what we can do to get it out. As a family, pledge to stop using plastic drinking straws and single use plastic bags. Either purchase reusable straws or do without. As for replacing plastic bags, make and decorate some cloth ones together and remind each other to bring them when going shopping.
This is a crucial time for our planet and we need a new generation of caring and informed individuals.