Lifestyle

Go green!

Most children need little encouragement to try to save the planet. It’s their inheritance, after all! Check out our simple activities that are fun for all ages – even children as young as two.

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Bins and buckets

Decorating the recycling bin – or a sign for the recycling bin ­ is a fun way to get into the spirit of things. Most kids love an art project, so turn your boring recycling containers into colourful works of art. It will build on a sense of ownership over the recycling too. You could also place a recycling container in their bedrooms or next to where they do drawing and crafts, so they can easily recycle used papers.

Other green responsibilities for small children could include carrying a small bucket of vegetable scraps to the compost bin or letting them sort through the food packaging to recycle.

Younger kids love sorting things by category, so you could use this as a starting point for encouraging them to help sort things into the right piles ­ cardboard, plastic and so on.

A key aspect of green living that children can get involved in from a young age is conserving energy. Do a star chart for turning lights off when they’re not needed.

Sustainable buying

Living a green life isn’t just about how you throw things away, of course – it’s also about limiting consumption in the first place. A good way to teach kids the importance of this is to buy fewer, well-made, durable toys rather than overwhelming them with ‘stuff’. Do toy swaps rather than buying new ones and use charity shops and car boot sales.

It’s less expensive for you, as well as being more environmentally-friendly.

Get creative by finding items around the house to reuse, for example turning paper you no longer need into scrap paper for art projects or a notebook.

Saving energy

A key aspect of green living that children can get involved in from a young age is conserving energy. Do a star chart for turning lights off when they’re not needed. Or, if they are a little older, ask them to come up with their own energy-saving ideas for the chart. This is a particularly useful activity at this point, in view of the fuel crisis!

When children decide for themselves that it’s better to turn off battery-run toys or the TV when they’re not in use, they’re more likely to do it. If children grow up knowing how much things cost to run, it can be an extra incentive.

Another way of helping to conserve resources that’s easy for kids to adopt is turning the water off while they’re cleaning their teeth or timing how long they are in the shower.

Respect for our world

Care and consideration for the natural world is an important lesson. To encourage respect for trees, plants and flowers, try to walk and cycle, and excite them about the great outdoors with activities like a bug hunt (remembering to put minibeasts back safely when you’ve finished) and den-making.

Introduce them to wildlife too. Visit farms to prevent farm animals from being something they only see in books or on TV. Most zoos are involved in conservation projects to help save endangered species and many encourage children to get actively involved too.

Don’t forget your own garden, where you could get kids to plant seeds and watch the plants grow. You could also create a vegetable patch for children to grow organic food. Start with a few fresh, tender foods that are your children’s favourites. Even small spaces have room for a pot or a window box.

Get kids involved in making compost – your very own on-site, biological recycling system. There’s lots of advice online and because local councils are increasingly promoting home composting to reduce waste at source, they are usually willing to help too.

When they see you getting the bus, walking or cycling instead of automatically jumping in the car, it becomes their natural choice too.

Wild gardening

Even city gardens provide a great opportunity for wildlife gardening – that is, helping to protect native species - an area that particularly excites children. If you’re thinking your garden doesn’t look wild enough, don’t worry! The real difference between ‘wildlife’ and “normal’ gardens lies not in the gardens themselves, but in the outlook of the people who look after them.

If you have a bird table, you’ve already started on wildlife gardening. Garden birds need extra food because there is so little left of the natural habitat which once provided them with all the seeds, berries and insects that they required.

You can even design your garden to produce food on site. Seeding plants are what some birds need – these can include garden favourites such as scabious, evening primrose, forget-me-not, antirrhinum. Others need berries, such as hawthorn, cotoneaster, berberis, pyracantha. Children will love watching birds and other creatures feast.

Green schools

Once your children reach school age, your school will almost certainly back up your enthusiasm in green living. Some primary schools have an ‘eco-squad’, with one or two representatives from each class from reception upwards in charge of turning out lights and ensuring recycling. Others run specific schemes such as rag back drops, where you can encourage your child to recycle their old clothes. Further innovative ideas include a class book swap, planning a class garden and fundraising for an environmental charity.

The most effective way to teach your children to live a green lifestyle is to be a green role model yourself. When your offspring see you picking up rubbish from the park even though you weren’t the one who dropped it, they see value in keeping public places clean. When they see you getting the bus, walking or cycling instead of automatically jumping in the car, it becomes their natural choice too.

You don’t have to become a green paragon overnight, and you shouldn’t expect your children to either. Start with the things that are easiest to change and remember that every little bit helps.

10 ways to go green with no stress

  • Keep a box of paper scraps to reuse when doing crafts.
  • Shop for secondhand clothes so kids get used to the idea of recycling clothes.
  • Get children to carry reusable bags when you shop at the grocery store.
  • Take kids to farmers’ markets and farm shops, so that they understand that food doesn’t just come from supermarket shelves.
  • Put a recycling bin in their room.
  • Set up a rain barrel with them for watering flowers and vegetables.
  • Get your kids to donate toys they no longer need to other children.
  • Invest in a kid-friendly shower timer to remind you and your kids that water is a finite resource.
  • Buy or make purpose-built boxes for birds, as well as bats, toads, frogs and ladybirds.
  • Grow potatoes in rubbish bins. Once they’re ready to harvest, kids can dig through the dirt to find them, then cook them.

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