As any parent knows, if a child wants to know something, they’ll ask. And if they haven’t already, your young child will someday ask you a question related to our changing climate.
It may come after hearing something directly during a play date or preschool, or through their own observation, perhaps following a strong storm or after seeing activists collecting petition signatures in a public park. We also live in a time when even the youngest kids can sometimes be exposed to really serious stories by simply flipping through TV channels looking for their favorite shows.
When your child does begin to ask questions about global warming or the climate crisis, be sure to not ignore their curiosity – it could diminish their long-term interest or come off like you don’t think climate change is a big deal (and, to follow, neither should they).
Instead, look at their curiosity as an opportunity to engage with them about this incredibly important issue.
While many kids may not be fully equipped to truly tackle the science and stakes of the climate crisis until they’re a bit older, you can lay a strong foundation for future learning and action by engaging your child in some age-appropriate activities that will instill a sense of environmental responsibility that they will carry with them into adulthood.
And luckily, there are plenty of ways kids can take action to fight climate change and do a little learning along the way – while also helping out around the house. Check out the awesome climate action “chores” below to get some ideas on how your young one(s) can take action to save the Earth!
1. Go On A Local Berry Picking Adventure
Eating locally grown, in-season fruits and vegetables cuts down on the energy used to grow and transport food, meaning fewer emissions from massive, refrigerated trucks, and less demand for the heat and light required to keep a northern greenhouse toasty and productive year-round.
Convey this fact by taking your kids berry picking this summer. With kids, especially younger ones, showing is often far better than telling. So show them when strawberries (and blueberries and raspberries and on and on) are in season in your neck of the woods. Have them taste the berry to see how much more flavorful it is than some store-bought produce, which is often picked before peak ripeness so it can travel great distances. Introduce them, if you can, to the local farmer who will benefit from your big day filling buckets in their berry patches.
They’ll learn fast just how much work goes into getting food on the table every day, and that locally grown, in-season produce is a better option – for both their taste buds and the planet.
2. Spread the Word
Children’s voices can be uniquely impactful. When they speak, they’re honest (sometimes to a fault). They don’t couch their sentiments in nuance – kids tell you what they think and ask what they want to know.
And is there a better topic for that kind of no-nonsense approach than the climate crisis?
Kids today will face the challenges of a warming world head-on. Encourage them to speak out about that fact. From a postcard or drawing sent to your local mayor, state representative, or US senator to a brief letter to the editor of your local or school newspaper, there are plenty of ways for your kids to put their minds to use and create some attention-getting good in your community.
>> Start the Conversation: How to Talk to Kids About Climate (Free Download) <<
3. Unplug Patrol
Many don’t realize the amount of energy consumed by some appliances and device chargers, even when they are not in use. This so-called “vampire energy” amounts to an estimated 20 percent or more of US residential energy use! Which means that around 20 percent of residential energy consumption goes to… nothing. Nada. Zero. Zip. Zilch.
Time to send in the kiddos. If they’re old enough to be safely around electrical cords and electrical outlets, that is.
Having your kids go around and unplug device chargers that are not in use is a great, and fairly quick, chore that will cut your home energy costs while helping establish the connection for your kids between energy use and fossil fuel pollution. It’s a lesson they will carry with them later in life when making energy and appliance decisions of their own.
Just don’t let them forget to flip the light switch to off if they are the last person to leave the room.
4. Hang the Laundry Out to Dry
If you have the outdoor space – and ideally, a sunny and breezy day – show your kids that Mother Nature can do the very same thing as the Maytag Man by having them hang some of their clothes out to dry.
Let them know they are saving energy by not using the drier, but getting the same effect (dry clothes!). And that there are other inventive ways they can cut energy use in other areas of their life too.
5. Replace the Light Bulbs
Again, if they’re old enough to do it themselves without feeling the need to explore the socket with their little fingers, that is.
This is an old standby for a reason.
As they replace a regular old incandescent lightbulb with a LED one – which use at least 75 percent less energy and last 25 times longer than incandescent bulbs – be sure to explain to your kids why these lightbulbs are different. Modeling and discussing these smaller behavior changes for your kids can go a long way toward instilling a strong sense of personal responsibility for the planet as well as helping to make the larger climate solutions we need seem infinitely more achievable down the line.
At home, be sure to turn as much as you can into a teaching experience.
If you’re lucky enough to be able to travel, consider taking your kids to see places and things that you can turn into a climate discussion. For example, few things can bring home the magnitude and power of the ocean better than seeing it – and with the waters lapping against the shore, a quick discussion of sea-level rise may feel more concrete.
Get to know your school’s approach to climate science education. And be sure to advocate loudly in your community for science instruction that includes robust, standards-based curricula on climate change.
Eventually, you’ll learn that everything can be a lesson. And when your child grows up into a responsible, compassionate adult who cares as much about the future of the planet as you do, you’ll be glad you insisted they be the ones to change out the lightbulbs and hang the laundry.
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