Growing Up Green

It's Never Too Late or Early

While some people started living a "green lifestyle" long before it was popular, there are many others that are just now catching up with the trend. Living a green lifestyle simply means that one is conscious of the impact one makes on the planet. For most people, it means taking steps to try to minimize their carbon footprint, or the amount of environmental damage that they cause.

The good news is that, no matter what age someone is, it's never too early or too late to jump on the green bandwagon. Not only are babies and toddlers no exception, but toddlerhood is a perfect time to start teaching a greener way of life.

Greening the Toddlers

Some parents may think that toddlers aren't quite sophisticated enough to learn about the environment. After all, they're just learning to really grasp some of the most basic skills in life. But this belief couldn't be further from the truth. When kids start understanding about other things in the world the live in, they can start learning about protecting the environment, as well.

"It's just part of parenting, to teach our kids important lessons at every age," says Crissy Trask, author of It's Easy Being Green: A Handbook for Earth-Friendly Living. "We don't wait until our kids are five or six to start teaching them about good practices, like keeping their hands to themselves, sharing, brushing their teeth, eating their vegetables, etc. Toddlers are no less capable of learning behaviours that conserve resources than they are of learning any new behaviours that are simple to grasp."

Toddlers are naturally curious, and their brains are magnets for absorbing information. Introducing toddlers to simple things they can do that are better for the planet is perfect timing. While they may not grasp the entire concept of why doing things a certain way is beneficial, they will be learning good habits that can last them a lifetime. What they learn will become a way of life, so that when they are able to grasp such issues as global warming, pollution, landfills, and waste, they will already be living a lifestyle that contributes to lessening the damage they generate. They will be doing their share, long before they fully understand the consequences of someone not doing their part.

Parents should try to recognize opportunities to teach toddlers 'eco-lessons' in the moment, the same way they would seize the opportunities to teach them about safety, sharing, and manners.

Simple Things Toddlers Can Do

Parents are usually amazed at what younger children are able to grasp when it comes to caring for the environment. Teaching them about the world around them can be as simple as engaging them in organic gardening. That's one way that master gardener Vikki Koss of Texas, involves her two-year-old daughter in learning about the environment.

"First, try to grow something that your toddler is interested in," Koss says. "My two-year-old loves flowers. Her favourite thing to do when we are out working in our yard is to go to each different kind of flower and pick them and bring a bunch to me."

Another option for getting kids familiar with the environment is to have them plant, and help care for, some of their favourite fruits and vegetables. Not only will they gain an understanding of how things grow, but they will also learn how respecting the land we live on helps to produce the things we enjoy.

While out in your organic garden, there are endless opportunities to talk to them about our environment and the importance of taking care of our earth.

4 Earth-Friendly Activities

There are many simple things that parents can do on a regular basis to encourage toddlers to adopt environmentally friendly living habits, including the following:

  • Saving water: As toddlers, they are just beginning to develop dental habits. Shutting off the water while brushing teeth saves a great deal of water over the course of a year. At this age, toddlers can also understand the concept of shutting off the water when they finish washing their hands, and not wasting water needlessly in other instances.
  • Recycling: Toddlers can help sort out what goes into the paper, plastic, and other bins. They will also begin learning what types of materials get recycled rather than trashed. Children can also learn to recycle their toys and clothing when they are done with them by donating them or selling them in a garage sale.
  • Reusing: There are several things that toddlers can learn when it comes to reusing materials. Some possible options include using cloth napkins instead of paper ones, learning to use a cloth dish towel or sponge to clean up messes instead of paper towels, using reusable utensils and dishes instead of disposables, and always using non-woven bags when shopping instead of plastic or paper ones. Even before putting things like paper into the recycle bin, toddlers can learn that unused sides can be used for painting or drawing projects, and magazines and newspapers can be handy for collages and other art projects.
  • Reduce: Families can help their toddlers with environmentally friendly efforts by avoiding purchases of single-item products, such as juice boxes. It's much easier on the environment to purchase larger containers and pour drinks or snacks into reusable snack or drink cups.
  • Helping toddlers learn to care for the environment plants seeds for conscientious living and responsible action that can keep them, their family and every living thing on the planet safe and healthy. If parents model green living for their little ones, the children will naturally learn to do things that cause a smaller carbon footprint on the planet. 

So, start today!