Mother and Baby

10 easy things you can do to teach your toddler about the environment

Section: Toys & Education

If our children are to inherit a healthier world, we need to educate them on green issues as young as possible. Fortunately, a lot of kids are fascinated by the natural world and its species, and quick to latch on to rules and principles. Here are ten ways you can help your child to help the planet.

How to be more environmentally friendly with kids:

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1) Talk about recycling

Whenever you throw something away actually say – out loud - which bin you are using, for example: ‘Paper in the recycling!’ or ‘Leftovers in the compost!’
After a while your toddler should catch on to the rules themselves, and once they’re two or three you can explain the concept of recycling.
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2) Gardening

A lot of kids love getting muddy outdoors, and helping in the garden is a fantastic way to engage with the environment at a grass roots level (literally).
Strawberries, tomatoes and daffodils are all easy to grow and gratifying to pick. If you don’t have a garden, a window box or indoor herbs will do just as well.
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3) Teach 'make do and mend'

Next time your child breaks a toy (let’s face it, it won’t be long) see it as an opportunity. Instead of throwing it away or buying a new one, make a big show of fixing it ‘at the toy hospital’.
If we’re to change our disposable culture our children need to see the bin as a last resort.
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4) Model green behaviour yourself

Use a water bottle, carry a KeepCup, refuse plastic bags, pick up litter, keep your showers short (hardly a challenge with toddlers underfoot) – and talk about why you’re doing these things.
The more your children see you doing your bit, the more likely they are to adopt green habits themselves.  
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5) Walk or cycle

Make a point of walking or cycling whenever possible. The easiest way to explain this is to point out cars’ exhaust pipes, and how these fumes are making the planet too hot.
The effects of global warming generally catch children’s imaginations, especially if you talk about penguins and polar bears homes melting.
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6) Use scrap paper and card for crafts

Always you use both sides of a piece of paper. Kids don’t care if the back of their masterpiece is an energy bill! Kitchen rolls make good rockets or telescopes, and lone socks make excellent glove puppets if stick on button eyes.
Remember to explain that paper comes from precious trees, and it’s important to re-use anything you can.  
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7) Educate them about green issues

Visit a wildlife centre, zoo or city farm instead. They’re all exciting ways to teach kids about the natural world and endangered species (an definitely more appealing for adults than soft play).
There are also loads of great picture books with green messages - 10 Things I Can Do To Help My World by Melanie Walsh is a toddler favourite. 
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8) Buy seasonal

Make shopping a game for pre-schoolers by asking them to find the fruit and vegetables that are in season. You don’t need to know them all (rhubarb in the spring, cherries in summer, apples in the autumn is a good start), so long as you introduce the idea of eating seasonally.
If you are able to afford organic, free range and fairtrade products try to introduce these concepts to your child too.
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9) Teach the link between oceans and plastic

It doesn’t take much to get children fascinated by the oceans (try Octonauts), and once they care about whales and fish they’ll take the idea of plastic ending up in the sea – and harming marine life - very seriously. 
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10) Switch off electricals

Make a virtue of toddlers’ obsession with light switches and have them switch off lights whenever you leave a room. Annoying in the short term, a good habit in the long term.

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