If you’re wondering whether your child is too young to learn about sustainability, you may be surprised and reassured to know that for many families, it is already part of life: a recent survey found that 72% of parents have been reprimanded by their children for unsustainable practices. In some cases, children as young as five years of age were highlighting water wastage or bad recycling habits at home. Clearly there is no reason not to start early and introduce your children to sustainable, environmentally friendly practices and products to create a love of the planet that feels wholly natural. Perhaps they’ve seen you using cloth nappies or green cleaning products since they were tiny; or watched you decide to walk or cycle instead of taking the car. All of these small seeds can grow into a lifelong commitment to greener goals.
Why is sustainability so important?
Research has shown time and again that spending time in nature is vital for building children’s confidence, reducing stress and anxiety, and promoting creativity and imagination. Yet many of the green spaces, forests and rivers that provide so much are under siege from threats such as deforestation and plastic pollution. The World Counts estimates that by 2030, when today’s four year olds are becoming teenagers, there may only be 10% of the world’s rain forests left. This will affect the air they breathe, the food they eat and the wildlife they can see, to name just a few consequences.
An issue for both boys and girls
While historically, women were seen to care more about environmental issues than men, the gender gap on this issue is closing fast; the latest data shows that 80% of those aged 19-29 (both men and women) consider it important to be environmentally friendly. This is great news for the young boys and girls looking up to adults since they are all heirs to the planet and can thrive in its spaces. After all, every child, regardless of gender, enjoys spotting animals or insects in nature, splashing in muddy puddles, or playing hide and seek behind mighty oaks. It’s why gender neutral toys are so important; building dens, soaring on swings and mastering bike riding are all types of outdoor fun that absolutely anyone can and should enjoy. They also all contribute to a lifelong love of nature and desire to protect it.
How to get started
To introduce sustainable practices around the home, you could start with an area most kids will be enthusiastic about – food! Perhaps you could grow some tomatoes, carrots or potatoes together, start a compost heap, or involve them in choosing delicious seasonal, local produce to cut down on food air miles. Where possible, leave enough time to walk, scoot or cycle to nursery or school. You could also set a timer when they’re using their bamboo toothbrush to help them reduce water wastage and feel in charge of their own usage. Small steps like these will soon become second nature.
Instilling greener habits in our children is one of the greatest gifts we can give them, and for many it will come naturally. Caring for the environment is an issue that affects both boys and girls, children and adults, so try to model the kind of behaviour you want to see. The result should be happy, thriving kids and a restored, protected planet.