Nowadays, many young children spend most of their time indoors, watching TV or on an iPad. These activities can prevent them from developing positive attitudes or feelings towards our natural environment. Young children are impressionable and it’s important for them to build positive values and behaviors from a young age. These attitudes can last a lifetime and inspire their adult lifestyles. Teaching them about the environment and sustainability can have a major impact on a child’s life and, in turn, help the community around them. With these fun and educational activities, you can help keep your kids engaged and enthusiastic about the environment:
Before starting the games, create awareness and share your knowledge with your kids. Teach them about the environmental issues the planet is confronting, the benefits of a cleaner community, and the solutions that address these issues. What environmental challenge in your community is most prevalent and deserves more attention? Are you seeing litter everywhere? Should you be planting more trees? Is there pollution from the city? Is there plastic waste on the beaches nearby? Address the issues that have the most direct impact on your community. This will help your kids contribute towards these solutions and create a direct impact.
Tell your kids why you’re passionate about these issues, as well as your feelings and motivations for wanting to make a difference. Young children look up to their parents as inspiration, and communicating your thoughts to them will encourage them to explore their feelings and perceptions. Your own sense of wonder will ignite your children’s curiosity and love for nature.
“A sense of joy should permeate the experience, whether in the form of gaiety or calm attentiveness. Children are naturally drawn to learning if you can keep the spirit of the occasion happy and enthusiastic. Remember that your own enthusiasm is contagious and that it is perhaps your greatest asset as a teacher.”
Source: Sharing Nature With Children by Joseph Cornell (1979)
Start small by having a movie night. Watch documentaries or films that address environmental and social issues with your kids. Make some popcorn and grab their favorite drinks to encourage them to share a fun family night.
Here are a few suggestions:
- Wall-E (2008, Ages 5+): This film takes place 700 years in the future, where the Earth is a trash-covered ghost town. Humans have fled to a spaceship in outer space and a robot – Wall-E – is on a mission to convince humans to go back to Earth. This film warns viewers about the negative environmental impact on our planet.
- March of the Penguins (2005, Ages 6+): This film introduces kids to the idea of environmentalism. It follows the yearlong reproductive cycle of the emperor penguins and their heroic journey.
- Chasing Coral (2017, Ages 9+): This film shows the ongoing devastating of the Earth’s coral reef, coral bleaching, and climate change.
- I am Greta (2020, Ages 10+): This documentary follows teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg on a plea for us to act as if “our house is on fire”. It illustrates the devastating impact of human activity and global warming.
- An Inconvenient Truth (2013, Ages 13+): this film introduces the arguments around global warming and environmental pollution. It offers an in-depth explanation of the threats that climate change poses to the Earth and potential solutions.
Clean the Planet
This hands-on experience might be the easiest activity to do, and there are plenty of ways to make it fun for kids. Teach your kids the importance of cleaning up after our planet. Take a “green walk” with your kids and help clean around a nearby neighborhood, beach, park, or trail! Explain to them how trash is bad for the environment, and how it can negatively affect the local wildlife. Your kids will become more mindful about their surroundings and learn that littering is a bad habit and that small actions can cause long-lasting impacts. Here are some tips for making the most of the experience:
- Wear gloves, tongs, a mask, and bring a bag! Plus, you can bring a pick-up stick or separate bag for recyclables, but these are not necessary.
- Bring different bags to separate recyclables from trash.
- Play some of their favorite music!
- Give a reward for the most garbage collected!
- Remind your kids that trash often ends in unwanted places, like the ocean, and that it can harm the local animals.
- Have your kids write a list of what they found.
- End this activity with a reflection on why it is important to pick up litter and take care of the spaces we live in.
Connect with Nature
Teach your kids about the importance of planet Earth, trees, plants, and our environment with these fun ideas. They will develop a sense of respect and caring towards our planet. Young children learn about the environment by interacting with it and based on life experiences. The more they spend in nature, the more they will become driven to green thinking and sustainability. Provide them with frequent and positive experiences outdoors and immerse them in nature. The best way to start at home is with gardening! Follow these tips to help get started with home gardening:
- Go to the nursery with your kids, pick a few seedlings, and plant them together in an outdoor garden. Gardening encourages children to eat healthier from a very young age.
- Have your kids name their favorite plants. Using recycled materials, make signs with your kids showing fun facts about each plant.
- Provide them with tools for experimenting and investigating like a magnifying glass, a rake, a bucket, etc.
- Consider getting together with your neighbors to plant a community garden. Each home would plant different herbs, fruits, or vegetables to share. This will teach your kids about community, sharing, and providing for yourself.
- Consider also making a DIY bird feeder with peanut butter, bird seeds, an apple, yarn, a needle, and a cookie-cutter! It’s an easy activity your kids will love, and it’ll motivate them to spend more time outside to see the birds fly around your garden! Read more here.
For more fun activities check out these lesson plans for kids gardening.
From an early age, show your children how much volunteering matters and the positive impacts that come with it. There are so many opportunities to help give back to your community, and volunteering promotes leadership and social responsibility. Ask your little ones what cause speaks to their heart. Whatever they choose will help build strong values that can last a lifetime.
If you’re trying to motivate your kids to be more environmentally friendly, look for outdoor volunteer projects that can help them appreciate our natural world like cleaning up a park, planting trees, helping wildlife rescues, and supporting local farmers. Here at Renaissance Power & Gas, we support many amazing green organizations that make our planet a better place. Here are a few organizations we support that you can too:
- The Bronx River Alliance helps keep the Bronx River clean and healthy.
- Groundwork Hudson Valley Science Barge is an urban farm and greenhouse floating atop the Hudson River that hosts field trips to teach school-age children about sustainability and reducing carbon emissions
- Grow NYC supports a network of New York area farmers’ markets to ensure fair access to fresh, high-quality, and healthy food for all New Yorkers, and they educate children about gardening and recycling.
Reuse Materials for Art Projects
Find creative ways to make art out of reusable materials with your children. This will stimulate their creativity and problem-solving.
- Collect trash around your home and clean it before using. Gather materials like newspaper, cardboard, styrofoam, glass jars, tins, plastic bags, food containers, cereal boxes, plastic silverware, egg cartons, toilet paper rolls, bottle caps, etc.
- Have an art station! Gather all the trash that you and your kids collected and include some art supplies like paint, markers, crayons, tape, and glue.
- Finish with an art show at home! Invite your friends and family to be part of this art show for a fun experience.
Bonus Tip: Teach your kids how to create homemade paper! By doing this, you can learn more about the history of how paper is made while giving trash a new life. Only a few materials are needed: recycled paper, water, a bowl, a blender, a wire hanger, duct tape, stockings, and an iron. You can dye your paper or make confetti or glitter paper too. This is the perfect activity for Earth Day! For a detailed tutorial read this guide on how to make your paper at home
For more fun, eco-friendly activities and craft projects reusing supplies at home read this article by GetGreenNow.
Young people have been making waves in environmental activism, and they can help us create a better world with their passion and creativity. It’s important to raise our children to care about the environment and take care of Mother Earth from a young age. If we all do our part to help preserve the planet we will have healthier communities and inspire others to do the same. Environmental education for kids encourages their curiosity and helps them grow into adults that will lead by example and have an eco-conscious life.
Sign up for our newsletter for more fun content and exclusive access to our Sustainability Guide!