Raising Green Kids

Winter hiking is a great family activity.

As you may have learned the hard way, kids watch everything we do and want to be just like us….. at least until they are teenagers. Keep that in mind as you make environmentally-friendly choices. Here is a short list of some things you can do to help raise environmentally-aware kids.

  • walk or ride your bike instead of using the car for errands
  • choose a fuel efficient or hybrid vehicle
  • pack reusable lunch bags/boxes, containers, and water/juice bottles
  • don’t let the water run when you brush your teeth
  • use cloth grocery bags
  • use cloth towels and dishtowels instead of paper towels when possible
  • buy in bulk and bring your own containers – (less packaging)
  • if you have a baby, use cloth diapers

Winter hiking is a great family activity.

Head to the Dump!

That’s right, the local landfill site. Or, as it used to be called, the dump. Nothing will drive home the point of reduce, re-use, recycle to your older kids as much as a day trip to a nice smelly dump. Keep the trip between just half an hour to one hour, and try to choose a hot, humid, day, to get the full effect. If possible, head straight to a hiking trail, creek, or other lovely natural wooded spot for a picnic or a hike afterwards. Teens and tweens may grumble and complain, but they will remember the sights and smells of both…..

Outdoor Activities for Kids

In my youth television (and MTV specifically) was to blame for keeping kids indoors. Today it is xBox, Playstation, computers, etc. One of the best ways to engage your children in the pursuit of environmentally friendly behaviors is to show them the beauty in nature. Try the following:

  • Go for a walk along a walking trail, hiking trail, beach, or in a wooded area (remember to keep safety in mind). Whether they are in a stroller or a backpack, on a bike or on a skateboard, get your kids outside. While you may not see many outward signs of their appreciation for clean air, trees, birds, and squirrels, it is all making an impression. Being aware of what we are trying to preserve and protect is the first step to promoting environmentally-friendly choices in kids.
  • Hiking with kids: Nature walks were a family requirement for my dad when he was growing up, and he carried on the tradition with me. I do the same with my children. These are more structured than the walks mentioned above, as there is a specific goal stated. The easiest way to get started is on a marked hiking trail. Check your local conservation areas, provincial parks, or state parks for maps with short trails. They will have signs along the way to point you in the right direction and to point out interesting flora, fauna, wildlife, and sometimes even local history.
  • Community sponsored cleanups are becoming more and more common, and a great way for the entire family to contribute to the care of the local environment. Check your city or town website or local papers. Often held in the spring, volunteers are always needed to clean up public greenspaces, creeks (remember the safety issue), and parks. If you have teens who require community service hours for high school, they may be able to get them here.

Plan a Family Camping Trip

Best introduced once everyone is out of diapers and prior to potential teenage attitude issues (but where will I plug in my flat-iron?) tent camping is a truly wonderful way to introduce children to our beautiful natural environment.  As long as the weather is cooperating, and sometimes even when it isn’t, camping can be a crash-course in getting to know the outdoors. I have been tenting for over thirty-five years as both a child and a parent, and have camped all over Ontario. Some of the activities we have enjoyed while camping include canoeing, hiking and nature walks, fishing, swimming, visiting interpretive and nature information centres, and learning to live without so many of the conveniences that we take for granted.


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