Make the last of Earth Month Count! Yes, HUG A TREE
With only a week left in April, you may be wondering how to fit in some Earth-month education for your kids if you haven’t done so already. Of course, caring for our environment is something we should aim for year-round, but with this spring reminder it’s good to take a little time to contemplate how we impact our environment. Our kids will carry our torches forward. How can we best prioritize the principles with which they govern their lives and navigate the earth? Here are a few ideas.
2) Reduce, reuse, recycle. There are so many ways to encourage these habits, from incorporating them into chores to having kids gather and donate toys they no longer use to those in need. Craft projects like birdhouses can be extraordinary whether you spend $50 at the craft store or use recycled toilet paper rolls and old socks, so be creative and give loads of positive feedback when children develop their own ideas encompassing the three R’s. Remember once again, you are a role model, so try to be creative yourselves with this too. I’ve saved every cute tee-shirt or onesie my two boys have ever owned, and one day I will cut them into squares and make quilts for them. Nostalgia is cozy and never goes out of fashion. I hope my project will inspire my boys while keeping them warm.
3) Food. Now, kids can be fusspots, so no one will blame you if you can’t get your three year-old to eat organic broccoli…but chances are you can charm them with something else. With the obesity epidemic affecting millions of people worldwide, it is more important than ever to show our kids what it means to fuel their bodies rather than polluting them. Get rid of the processed cheese and white bread! You might as well be feeding them styrofoam. No one will begrudge you the occasional box of mac & cheese, but keep it for rare occasions, not as a meal staple. Take your kids foraging, and let them experience food picked right out of the ground. Fresh herbs, lettuces, vegetables and fruit can all be more enticing when taken straight from the source (I remember stealing carrots from our neighbours’ garden when my mom wouldn’t give us pre-supper snacks)! If you have access to a free-range farm of any kind, load up the gang and go see the animals. Talk to them about where our eggs and milk come from. Meat and fowl are a different issue for everyone, and more families are choosing vegetarian lifestyles…but make the call that works for you and give your kids an understanding of food sources. Take on a real project and plan to spend the day finding locally grown foods, either through your own foraging expeditions or farmers’ markets, and then have a family meal prep party. Plant a family vegetable garden and make sure the kids are responsible for their own plants. This is the stuff they will remember decades down the road!
4) Break down a week of playtime into studies of the four elements. How do humans harness the energies of earth, water, wind & fire? Earth lessons could include discussion of and playtime with materials harvested, like oils, gems, stones and clay. Water provides us with fish, salt, minerals and a place to swim or float a boat! Speaking of boats, kids love to learn about how the wind can push a sailboat around, or how windmills use it to generate power. Craft, thrift and dollar stores are full of great little items for making models of these things. Fire, the final element, is used to harden clay, bend metal and cook food, among other things. Use your imagination – these are such basic concepts that as adults we sometimes forget how we take them for granted. Allow your kids’ excitement to reignite your appreciation!
5) Play a game where everyone pretends they’re a squirrel, or a bird or a gopher (and so on). Everyone has five minutes to gather materials and then they get to build a nest/home/bed with what they’ve gathered. This is best done outdoors with natural materials, but it can easily be converted into an indoor, rainy-day activity with a little creativity – pretend dishcloths are leaves, train track sections are branches, and so on. Talk about how animals use what’s available to them to build their homes, and how much or little they impact the space around them. This is a discussion which could take off in a few directions so be prepared to lead a debate!
6) Teach compassion and empathy. Any parent knows that every child arrives with their own personality, and some are more attuned to the feelings of those around them than others. This does not change the importance of teaching our little people to treat each other well. We live in a fast-paced world, and even the best of us sometimes get too caught up in “keeping up with the joneses”… Take pause and make a conscious effort to both model and talk about kindness, generosity and gratitude toward others with your kids. Take it to the next level and broach the subject of what happens to those who make decisions based in fear or jealousy. How does it change our behaviour toward others? How does it affect them? Healthy competition is quite different from a life lived to “out-do” our neighbours. Kids can get really panicked when they feel this is expected. Remind them that if they take the time to interact with heart, it will not only be enough - it WILL make the world a nicer place.
- Samantha Agar