I’m an Air Force brat. I spent most of my formative years in The Netherlands and Germany and we had this channel called AFN (Armed Forces Network) where they featured these cool PSA commercials. One in particular has stuck with me to this day. It shows a child turning on the water and starting to brush his teeth and pans out showing a fish in a pond near the house. The water in the pond is slowly going down the longer the water faucet is on. The fish grabs a phone and calls the child, asking him to turn off the water, right before the fish runs out of water. Simple right? The lesson is easy; turn off the water while brushing your teeth and you’ll save water and help the fish. I’m 32 years old and that PSA is burned into my brain.
This is really how easy it can be to teach children about conservation, sustainability, and even recycling. It couldn’t be more important now, with everyone being stuck at home and worrying about necessities such as toilet paper, disinfectant wipes, and paper towels. I had so much planned for April because Earth Day is this month, but had to get crafty and focus inward on how we can start at home. Bring your kiddos in on a plan to help the planet. Clean up trash outside, try to reduce waste within your household, and make decisions that will help the earth, not hurt.
One thing I feel like I have to remind my boys about a lot is turning off the lights. They’re 3 and 6 so it’s not a top priority when they leave a room. Coming up with fun rhymes or sayings like, “it’s alright, turn off the light” are super simple and easy for young children to remember. It can be difficult to explain to a young child why we need to even worry about it, so making the Earth into a being rather than an object can be helpful. For example, we need to turn off the lights so we don’t use up all of the Earth’s energy and make her tired.
Teaching sustainability can be really fun if you go at it the right way. Our 6 year old had been using so much toilet paper that he was clogging the toilet. I mean, this is a problem at any time, but even more so now with the toilet paper shortage! We had to put a stop to that. Putting lines of tape under the toilet paper roll to let them know where to stop for a #1 and #2 puts them in control. They’re given the boundary and it’s easy to follow. (Plus, they’re counting and measuring!) Even further than that, your child can help find ways to ditch disposable products and find ones you can reuse. Some examples of this we have in my house are cloth diapers, cloth wipes, reusable sandwich bags, stainless steel straws, “unpaper” towels, and reusable shopping bags. Not every option will work for every family, but you’d be surprised what children can come up with if you ask them.
Teaching recycling is probably my favorite. It’s so much more than that because it makes it into a sorting game, there’s patterning, matching, and a massive creative side. The fun activity in our house lately is making Minecraft objects. Our 6 year old draws and colors on graph paper, we glue it to cardboard from the inevitable Amazon box we have, and he has a cool new toy to play with. It puts that cardboard back to use instead of right back in the trash. So many things in your house can be used that way. An empty disinfectant wipes bottle and some ball pit balls create and awesome fine motor activity for infants and toddlers. A paper towel roll taped to the wall creates a cool tunnel for a matchbox car or even straws. Cut a slit in the lid of just about any plastic container to drop playing cards in. Kids even love taking full size grocery items and using them in the play kitchens. You name it, macaroni and cheese boxes, empty spice bottles, plastic condiment bottles.
The point is, there is so much we can do by modeling and teaching our children to love and care for the Earth. Earth Day is April 22nd, so I challenge you to find something new to do as a family, no matter how small or crazy, to give back to the Earth even beyond Earth Day.
Infant Nursery Supervisor
Parent Connection Coordinator