I believe that you can teach children about the environment while keeping it positive and even making it fun! This book can help.
I am not into doom-and-gloom environmental literature for children. I know that kids have to learn about endangered animals, global warming, deforestation, and sustainability, but I think it’s important to their little hearts and minds to focus on the positive, and too much juvenile literature tries to teach children about the environment by focusing on the negative. How it could possibly be considered helpful and appropriate to make children fear living on a collapsing planet, I do not know.
*steps down off of soapbox*
Anyway… one way to stay positive while still discussing environmental issues with kids is to focus on the “helper” aspect. Just like Mr. Rogers said to do, find the helpers who are making positive changes. And one of the things that I like the most about the book 23 Ways to be an Eco Hero (which I definitely received free from a marketer at some point, but I have no idea when of from whom–sometimes, I kid you not, they seriously just send books to my house without any say-so from me) is that the focus is on the kid as the helper.
23 Ways to be an Eco Hero discusses environmental issues, but always in the context of giving a kid a specific activity to help abate that issue. Kids learn about carbon footprints, then are taught how to cook a vegetarian hamburger patty from scratch, since eating meat-free at least one day a week can reduce one’s carbon footprint. Kids learn that throwing away plastic is terrible for the environment, and then learn how to make reusable shopping bags out of T-shirts and jeans.
We’ve done some of the projects of this book already–we made Mason bee nests this spring, and we still have the bat box that we made years ago–but each of my very different kids nevertheless found several projects that appealed to them in the book. I will say that the projects are on quite a wide spectrum of difficulty and complexity, which is nice because kids of very different ages can all find something to suit in it, but you’ll likely want to take a look through the book yourself, first, if you’re planning to give your kid free reign over what to make. They might choose to make a cute little self-watering planter, or a timer that will encourage them to take shorter showers, or you might find yourself spending the weekend in the backyard helping them make an honest-to-goodness pond. My older kid SUPER wants a small pond and that’s for sure on our to-do list… just not for this weekend, okay?
Instead, one kid chose to make a mini rain barrel out of two plastic bottles, to use for watering our indoor plants, and both kids chose to plant trees. In fact, they got REALLY excited over the tree-planting chapter! My younger kid took a cutting from our neighbor’s willow tree and is now babying it in a little pot in her bedroom window, and my older kid…
Well, I couldn’t help her make the pond that she wanted, so instead I bought her the redwood sapling that she also wanted.
Yes, it is breaking my natives-only rule, the one that has me dragging the kids out every other day to help me hack down the millions of multiflora rose that proliferate on our property (Friends, for the sake of all that is good in the world, don’t ever plant multiflora rose!), but we do have the space for it, with a grassy acre or so around it on all sides, and also?
She wanted it!
I received 23 Ways to be an Eco Hero for free from… someone, because I can’t review a book if it hasn’t inspired my child to plant the world’s largest tree in our backyard.