Leading by example, explaining why it’s important, and most of all, having fun are the three keys to raising eco-aware kids, according to Amber and Andy Ankowski, authors of Think Like a Baby and bloggers at The Doctor and the Dad. (Amber has a PhD in developmental psychology with a focus on children, while Andy is an ad copywriter; together, the couple has three kids.)
“It’s really crucial that your kids see you consistently doing the right thing environmentally, whether it’s sorting out the recyclables, using Earth-friendly products, or minimizing your energy use,” says Andy.
You can start discussing these issues even before your kids can speak, as part of creating a lively verbal environment to help them develop language, Amber says. “When they’re a little older, you can begin to have deliberate conversations with your kids about what you’re doing and why.
“It’s important that you explain why, since the explanation is what will really engage the kids,” she adds. “As soon as they’re engaged, you can start getting them actually involved, according to what you feel they’ll be capable of — sorting things into recycling or composting scraps, for example.”
But nothing’s more important than making it fun. These are some of the couple’s suggestions:
- Cut can and bottle shapes into your bin lids to help make sorting easier and more enjoyable.
- Sing while you recycle!
- Dine by candlelight once a week and point out how it’s saving electricity.
- Create a contest to see who can take the fastest (and most water-saving) shower and still come out nice and clean.
As children grow older, conversations can become more specific, with additional information about the importance of environmentally friendly practices. “They’ll probably also be learning a lot of this stuff at school, so when they combine that with what you do at home, don’t be surprised if your kids begin to take the lead,” says Andy.
“When our oldest daughter started third grade, she asked us why we didn’t have a recycling bin right in the kitchen. Then she made one for us and decorated it.”
This originally appeared as “I’ve become more ecoconscious as I’ve grown older. How can I raise my kids to be environmentalists from a young age?” in the May 2019 print issue of Experience Life.