Lifestyle

Empower kids to save the planet!

We know our planet is in danger and as our children grow they begin to feel fearful for the future too. They hear expressions like climate emergency and biodiversity loss and imagine a calamity drawing closer that they are powerless to prevent. How can we as parents approach this issue in a balanced way? Catherine Ward, author of The Emerald Forest*, has some advice.

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As parents, we find ourselves responsible for treading a fine line between being honest about what is happening whilst ensuring that children (and we) can sleep at night.

The scale of the earth’s problems can seem overwhelming and a sense of helplessness can lead to us doing nothing. But activists, scientists and conservationists remind us that it is vital that we all take action to help save our planet. And that every small, positive step adds up to make a big, cumulative difference.

I believe we need to give children hope for their future: practical hope, where they are empowered to make a difference themselves. There are many ways we can do this. Here are some ideas:

Be informed as a parent

An important first step is to be informed ourselves – to understand the problems and solutions beyond the headlines. That can happen through reading books, news articles, magazines, reputable websites or watching television programmes. Developing an understanding enables parents to talk confidently and positively with children.

Help children become informed

Television programmes and charity websites often have child friendly content. And there are many wonderful books which can help us to talk with our children about the crisis our planet is facing. Visit Clare Helen Welsh’s fiction ‘Books that Help’ website (www.booksthathelp.co.uk) and click the section on environment. Or try these nonfiction books to explore with your children too:

  • Red Alert by Catherine Barr and Anne Wilson. An interactive book, where your child chooses habitats or endangered creatures to explore in more detail, with practical ways we can help them survive.
  • How to Help a Hedgehog and Protect a Polar Bear by Jess French and Angela Keoghan. A book filled with information about habitats and wildlife around the world and things we can do to help protect them.
  • Old Enough to Save the Planet by Loll Kirby and Adelina Lirius. An inspiring book telling the stories of 12 real-life children and their work to help protect the natural world.
  • Slow Down by Rachel Williams and Freya Hartas. This offers 50 stories about everyday nature which encourage children to pause and take a closer look.
  • For more environmental and nature book recommendations, see Catherine Ward’s Instagram page: catherineward0

Spend time as a family in nature

The natural world can sometimes feel difficult to relate to, especially if you live in an urban environment. Spending time in nature allows children to experience it first-hand, which in turn will lead to a desire to care for it. Whether it’s lifting flowerpots in the garden to discover what lives underneath, walking in the woods or a city park to spot wildlife or peering into rockpools at the beach, making a connection with the natural world will encourage your child to want to save it.

Make space for nature

While many endangered species can feel far away, there are lots of ways that we can attract and protect nature close to home. From making holes in fences so hedgehogs can forage freely for food, to hanging bird feeders, to building a bug hotel, to planting insect friendly plants. ­ If you provide a home or food source, wildlife will come.

Look at lifestyles

Once we start talking to our children about habitat loss and endangered species, we can look at how our own lifestyles impact the planet. From the food we buy to what we do with our waste, there are so many practical steps we can take with our children to help the environment. No positive action is too small to make a difference!

Find stories of hope:

There are many projects around the world to save and protect planet earth. Sharing some of these with children helps them to feel part of a positive, bigger picture.

The Emerald Forest is one such project. It is a story of hope about the plight of orangutans in the rainforests of Sumatra, based on a joint project by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the Frankfurt Zoological Society (FZS) and The Orangutan Project. They manage 100,000 acres of forest bordering the Thirty Hills (Bukit Tigapuluh) National Park and have a 60-year challenge to save one of the last great areas of Sumatran rainforest. It is now one of the few wild places in the world where orangutans, tigers and elephants coexist.

Having fun through crafts:

Another way to explain to children about endangered creatures and habitat loss is through making crafts. We have two ways to make a cheeky orangutan – see below.

CARDBOARD TUBE ORANGUTAN

You will need:

  • Orange, cream and white paper
  • A cardboard tube
  • A black pen or crayon
  • Glue
  • Scissors
  • A ruler

Step 1:

  • Cut your orange paper so it’s approximately 2cm longer than your tube and wide enough to wrap all the way around.
  • Glue along one edge of the paper, fixing it to the tube.
  • Winding tightly, wrap the paper around the tube and glue to hold it in place.
  • Tuck the ends of the paper into the tube.
  • If you don’t have any orange paper, you could paint your tube instead.

Step 2:

  • Cut the shapes pictured out of the remaining orange, cream and white paper.

Step 3:

  • Create the orangutan’s face by sticking the eyes, mouth and ‘beard’ together.
  • Using a small additional piece of orange paper, create a tuft of hair and glue it above the eyes.
  • Use a black pen or crayon to draw on eyes, nostrils and a mouth.
  • Stick the whole face onto the cardboard tube.

Step 4:

  • Cut the edges of the arms to create ‘fur’.
  • Stick the hands onto the ends.
  • Glue the arms onto the sides of the tube to complete your orangutan.

HANDPRINT PAPER ORANGUTAN

You will need:

  • Orange, white, cream and green paper
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • A pencil
  • A black pen or crayon

Step 1:

  • Taking the orange paper, draw around your hand, keeping your fingers slightly apart.

Step 2:

  • Cut out the hand shape.
  • You will also need to cut out an oval shape head from the orange paper, including a small ‘beard’ and hair.
  • Cut out an oval from the cream paper.
  • Cut out a white heart shape with the bottom cut off.
  • Taking the hand shape, cut off the index finger as indicated in the picture.

Step 3:

  • Glue the face onto the head.
  • Using the black pen or crayon, draw on eyes, nostrils and a mouth.

Step 4:

  • Using the green paper, cut out a vine for the orangutan to swing from.

Step 5:

  • Glue the orangutan’s head to the body.
  • Glue the body onto the vine.

Step 6:

  • Using your scissors, ‘feather’ the edges of the orangutan’s body to create ‘fur’.
  • Your handprint orangutan is finished!

*Catherine Ward’s latest book, The Emerald Forest, is published by Otter Barry Books in hardback, price £12.99. Suitable for children of 4+, it is set in tropical Sumatra, an island that has lost almost half its rainforest cover in recent years. It relates the story of an orangutan family and the destruction of their age-old home, but also shows how wildlife campaigners are bringing hope for the future. The text is accompanied by Karin Littlewood’s atmospheric illustrations.

Visit www.otterbarrybooks.com

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