Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Influencing School-Age Kids to Live Greener

Moms Can Set the Example
for Living Greener

There are many ways to influence your children, or a group of children with whom you work, to live greener in their daily lives. Like many adults, children are creatures of habit. For example, if you establish a routine of turning off the water while teeth are being brushed, and you brush yours along with your child, this habit will eventually take root. At the risk of being cliche, practice makes perfect.

Choosing stories and videos which exemplify a green lifestyle are good examples for your children, and good starting points for discussion over dinner. Open ended questions are usually best to get a discussion started; something like:

  • "What did you learn from the way Johnny handled his job of taking out the trash?"
  • "Did he put miss any recyclable items, when sorting?"
  • "Did you enjoy watching the family take care of their garden, and see their vegetables grow?"
  • "Would you like to grow vegetables in our back yard?"
  • "Did you get any ideas from this movie/book on things we could do to help the Earth stay greener?"
  • "What are we doing in our home that you would like to change?"

When school reports are assigned with the topic being the child's choice, try influencing that choice by making a list and talking about the pros and cons of each choice. I'd probably use about 4 ideas, with 3 of them being topics I know my child won't pick, and the fourth being a living green topic that may have some appeal to him or her. You know your child best, and can use this to your advantage in planning this to assure that your child picks the green topic.

Now that your child has a green topic to write about, you can give helpful ideas on how to research the topic that don't all include the Internet. Perhaps an outing or two to recycling facilities, farmers' markets, nature preserves, river clean up projects, or the like, would be more fun, and especially more eye-opening than a sore backside at the computer desk.

Studying food ingredients for no-nos like preservatives and food colorings can be a wonderful less for children. A visit to the local healthy food market will allow your child to see labels that have ingredients he can read and understand. Counter this with a visit to a traditional supermarket, where your child will quickly discover many ingredients that he cannot read and doesn't know how to identify. Write some of these long names down.

Your next outing could be a visit to the library, which will allow him to look up their true identity. I have a copy of an old food ingredients reference, which describes the mega-long names on all those food labels. Trust me, it will be very educational for your child to read for himself just what is in those big, long names. This will be the best lesson of all.

All that said, the bottom line is that the best way to teach your child anything is by example. You may not see the results this week, this month or even this year; but I promise you you will eventually see your lessons played out in the kids' actions later. That, my friend, is your legacy.

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