Teaching our kids to care about our planet is becoming more and more of a necessity, since they are the ones who will have to deal with the real consequences of climate change. Parents have the privilege of fostering a true love for the earth in the generation to come, as well as the responsibility to empower young minds to be a part of the solution, rather than the problem.

Kids are more likely to pick up habits young, which can be reinforced as they grow. Therefore, the earlier we start teaching our kids about how to live an environmentally-friendly lifestyle, the easier it will be.

Here are seven things you can start doing today to raise eco-conscious kids:

Set an example.

Just with almost every aspect of parenting, most of what we teach our kids is done by our own actions and words. Kids are always watching… even when we think they’re not. That means if we want our kids to care about the environment, we have to care first. We have to make sure we’re recycling, making wise purchasing decisions, using non-toxic household products, getting involved in the community, and calling our politicians to express our concern for climate change. Then, as our children grow, they will likely pick up those same ideologies and habits which they will carry into adulthood.

Explain the “why.”

Don’t stop at just telling your kids to recycle. Educate them on why it’s important! Tell your children about the rise in global temperature, the disappearing of the coral reefs, and other effects of climate change. Kids often understand more than we give them credit for!

Talk about waste.

Most kids waste a lot. They scribble on a piece of paper with a crayon, only to crumple it up and throw it in the trash. Teach them about where paper actually comes from and the cost of chopping down a tree. Suggest they use both sides of the paper for homework, and do what they can electronically, only printing when necessary. Involve them as you make a plan for how to combat food waste in your own home, and start a compost bin together (it will be a fun project!)

Enlist the help of technology.

Video games can make pretty much anything fun, right!? Use something the kids are most likely already doing and get some environmental education involved. Here are a few apps that help kids learn how to care for plants and animals as they play:

  • The Four Seasons – iPhone/iPad | Android
    The Four Seasons is an Earth Day Interactive Children’s Story Book which has games, sing-a-longs, “Read to me” books, vocabulary lessons, and more – all teaching kids about what Mother Nature has to offer.
  • Water Cycles – iPhone/iPad | Not available on Android
    Water Cycles is a puzzle game where players must get the water from the mountains to the sea, without wasting it or letting it get polluted along the way.
  • Gro Memo – iPhone/iPad | Android
    In this game, kids have to help clean up the environment for their ocean life and animal friends.
  • Green Rank: Save Our Oceans – iPhone/iPad | Android
    Save Our Oceans is a game that creatively helps kids differentiate between what can be recycled and what is trash, how to conserve water, how to play with fish and birds, and more.

… And then put the screens away.

Instilling in your kids a love for the planet often can be as easy as just getting them out to enjoy the planet! Encourage them to go outside and play whenever possible. Go on a hike with them or camp out in the backyard. Have a picnic or take a day trip to the beach. This will help your children establish a love for nature which they will inevitably want to protect.

Limiting TV time and having conversations with your kids about advertising can also be a good idea. Ads and commercials are constantly telling young viewers they ‘need’ this or that toy or product, when in reality it would be wasteful or even toxic. Don’t be afraid to talk to your kids about our consumeristic culture and the real purpose of advertising.

Make it fun!

Here are a few ideas for little things you can do with your kids that will foster a love for the earth, and will be fun for them too:

  • Have an “Earth Day” once day a month. Spend the day volunteering to pick up litter, visiting a local farmers’ market, or plant a tree!
  • Start a little vegetable garden. Most kids will love this. They get to care for something and watch it grow, and then enjoy the fruits of their labor at the end of the season! Plus, it teaches them responsibility.
  • Get dirty. Put the hand sanitizer away and just let your kid play in the dirt, the old fashioned way. And when they offer you the mud pie they made especially for you, just pretend to eat it.
  • Visit a nature center. There are so many museums, conservatories, zoos, and aquariums that have all kinds of fun, kid-friendly activities and interactive displays. Visit one in your city!

It’s the little things.

Teaching kids to turn off the water while they brush their teeth or to throw their empty juice boxes in the recycling may not solve our climate crisis. But showing little ones that their choices matter from a young age can motivate them to make a difference in their communities for the rest of their lives.

What tips do you have to help others’ raise eco-conscious kids?