How To Talk To Kids About Respecting Their Environment
At Wilston Kids Care respecting and caring for our environment is at the forefront of what we do. We acknowledge the importance of teaching the children in our care to become socially responsible and show care for their environment. As a generation of children who face growing challenges in terms of their climate and their environment, this goal is perhaps more important than ever. But how do we speak to children about this? And how do we foster an understanding and appreciation of nature when children are exposed to it less and less in our increasingly urbanised lifestyles?
The key is remembering that a child's understanding of their own context is often limited compared to that of an adult, and their way of processing information also differs. Where an adult has an understanding of how they operate in the world on a global scale, a child's understanding may be limited to their immediate surroundings and interactions, particularly when they are young. They are also likely to experience the world around them through relationships and sensory experiences, rather than textual or linguistic processing. These factors pose both a challenge and an opportunity for those of us wanting to nourish their interest in their environment. So what can you do?
1. Acknowledge and Encourage Curiosity
Children are not able to immediately grasp a large and abstract concept such as "the environment" without first understanding it, and to understand it, they must experience it. This can be achieved through simple acts like exploring natural materials in craft, walking through a park or interacting with an animal. Pose simple questions which encourage them to examine their sensory experience and engage with their intrinsic curiosity about the world around them.
"Is the surface of the leaf soft or rough?"
"What shapes can you see in the clouds?"
"Where do you think the birds go at night?"
2. Help Children To Directly Care For Their Environment
Setting up a herb or vegetable garden and allocating watering responsibilities is a simple and effective way to foster responsibility in children, as is caring for a pet. These direct and prolonged connections with nature form memorable relationships and foster valuable skills that can be extended upon later in life. Caring for a plant or animal and experiencing their life cycles in a tangible way will give children further understanding of caring for other plants and animals.
3. Be A Role Model
Children look to the adults around them for direction, directly or indirectly. So it is up to us to examine how we interact with our environment.
Are we involved in caring for the environment or are we distanced from it?
Do we consume products ethically and with restraint?
Do we dispose of our waste in a responsible way?
Do we role model recycling, composting and water saving?
Do we allow kids to interact with nature or shy away from it?
Do we talk about these things with our kids?
If we are able to support children's time in nature at a young age, they are more likely to be advocates for their environment as they grow older, as well as build a range of skills which contribute to their physical and mental health in the long-term. Ultimately a love of nature gives children an understanding of their social and environmental responsibilities, and allows them to grow into adults who respect the magnificence of the world around them.
"Time in nature is not leisure time; it's an investment in our children's health (and also, by the way, in our own)."
-Richard Louv, author of Last Child In The Woods.