There’s a reason why we don’t try to explain climate change and all of its affects in entirety to kids and instead tell them about endangered species, encourage them to recycle, and educate them about their health. The worldview of a school-aged child isn’t that of an adult’s (and maybe that’s a good thing!), and it can be hard for kids to understand the enormous, long-term impact of their actions. And yet all of our actions impact those around us, near and far, in ways we can’t even imagine and it’s important to start teaching kids to consider their community at an early age. So how can we send them back to school with a green living mentality? Read on to learn where to start.
When kids might not even know their own weight, how can they be expected to understand the effects of the 18,000+ lbs of lunch waste they produce each year? Instead of trying to wrap their minds around an idea of that scale, start small. Send them to school with a non-toxic, stainless-steel lunchbox with reusable lunch bag and stainless steel water bottles, explaining that these items can be used over and over, for years, while paper and plastic lunch ware can’t be cleaned and must be thrown out every day. Give them the assignment of looking around the lunchroom and seeing how many brown paper sacks, sandwich bags, juice pouches, and snack wrappers get thrown into the trash each day. After a week, they’ll begin to understand just how much waste one student or lunchroom can really produce.
Because your student may not notice the litter in the park or the hundreds of plastic bags stuck in trees around town, he may not even think twice before tossing his bubblegum wrapper on the dugout floor at a baseball game, or his empty soda can into the trash instead of the recycling bin. By volunteering to pick up trash on a local street or at a park, you’re showing your kids how to respect beauty, the environment, and our communal spaces.
Does your kid wolf down dinner and dessert without once looking up, or while staring at the television, only to later complain of a stomach-ache or get a case of the grouchies? By teaching kids some simple mindfulness techniques, they can learn for themselves how healthy foods affect their bodies and how they feel after chowing down on junk. As a family, sit down for dinner together and take a deep breath before beginning the meal. Encourage kids to put down their utensils between bites, and after the meal is done ask children to notice their bodily sensations and feelings. Then ask again 30 minutes later. Children (and parents) might be surprised to notice that they didn’t really need that second helping of mashed potatoes and that a bag of cheetos before bed results in a junk food hangover. Using simple techniques like these help your children learn about health from the inside out, and the method will serve them well in other areas of life as well.
What green tips, concepts, and facts have your kids embraced? What questions do they ask about living healthy? Who do they think makes up their community?