How To Turn Materialistic Kids Into Eco-Minded Children
Raising Eco-minded children has it’s challenges, but I believe it is 100% worth it and crucial for the survival of the planet!
If like myself, you live in a westernized, materialistic, society and you are doing your best to raise your young children armed with a sense of responsibility towards looking after our planet, by being ethically minded and Eco-conscious, then you will certainly be facing an uphill battle. You my friends, will be facing the battle of, “STUFF”!
“Stuff” vs Eco Friendly
This battle is a result of the combination of peer pressure, clever marketing, specifically and shamelessly aimed at children and just the normal childhood responses of kids wanting everything they see.
Many parents nowadays are doing a fantastic job at teaching their children all about saving water, electricity, recycling and composting. Parents are teaching children how plants grow, why we need to save trees and bees, yet the hardest thing to teach our children, is to curb the desire to want all that environmentally unfriendly, “STUFF”.
“STUFF” can really be anything from toys, the latest fashionable outfits, electronic gadgets, stationery, packaged snack food and of course junk and fast food. “STUFF” is basically the things that we don’t really need and that negatively impact on our environment.
Personally I am finding this more of a challenge with my 8 year old daughter, who is now more socially aware being in grade 2, than it is with my 5 year old son, who is in prep.
My daughter sees many of her friends coming to school with the all the latest plastic, toys, trinkets and stationery gizmos. She watches as they get treats and regular lunch orders from the school tuck-shop. I really do completely understand her wanting to have these things too.
It is not just our children but us as adults too, that are easily enticed by “STUFF”, but being adults, we can curb these wants and as opposed to children, we understand the far reaching environmental consequences of “STUFF”.
To my daughter and also at times to her father and I, it does indeed seem that the kids she mixes with are getting everything they desire and she and our son are missing out. But we quickly both erase that thought, as this is exactly what the clever marketing companies of all this “STUFF'” want you to feel, guilt! Guilt from parents more often than not, equals a guilt absolving purchase.
How To Raise Eco Friendly Children
Teach Your Kids To Love & Respect Nature
Firstly, above all else, you need to instill in your children a deep love and respect of nature, animals and the planet in general. This means getting children playing outside more and seeing nature, rather than computer screens.
Teach Children How “Stuff” Is Made & How It Impacts The Environment
We also need to teach our children how things are made and how they impact the environment. Children can understand a lot more than we give them credit for, so explaining how things are made; e.g. where books come from (I don’t just mean trees, but the printing, laminating etc), where plastic toys come from, how clothing and food are produced and end up on store shelves, is all very important. Kids need to understand the pollution that the manufacturing of “STUFF” causes.
Show Children That Being Environmental Warriors Is Fun
Turn things into a positive experience. Show your children just how much fun it can be to use recycled household things to make your own one of a kind toys and that not everything needs to come from a store. Teach your children to bake with you, using organic wholesome ingredients, so they can pack their own, home-made, snacks into their lunchboxes.
Educating Children About Making Eco Choices
Educating our children as to the reasons why we do not buy or eat everything the other children are getting is important; but we need to educate them without ostracizing them from their peers and this is a fine and delicate balance to achieve, but it can be done.
Lead by example. Don’t impulse buy in-front of your kids.
Do your best to find Eco-friendlier, healthier, replacements for all the “STUFF” they want and take the time to explain to them the reason, why you chose these healthier and greener alternatives, as opposed to what their friends might by playing with or eating.
Here are some ways I educate my own children about ‘STUFF’.
The Tuck-Shop Dilemma For Eco Conscious Parents
When my children come home asking if they can get lunch from the tuck-shop, as all their friends do all the time, I have to carefully explain to them that the food from the canteen is not really very healthy. I word it carefully, as I don’t want them to alienate their friends and in turn their friends parents.
Generally school tuck-shop food is not really great for our kids and even though they promote what are “so-called”, healthier options; e.g. a white bread salad sandwich, low-fat hot dogs, lite-jelly, bags of flavoured popcorn and fruit yoghurt ice-creams, these are far from being healthy and they all come individually packaged in plastic and paper wrappers, which add significantly to landfill and pollution. This in itself goes against the waste-free lunch campaigns.
I don’t want my kids going back to school and telling their friends that they eat bad, unhealthy food and that their mummy’s shouldn’t be letting them buy these things. They are too young to be in the middle of a debate like this.
So when my kids asks me if it is okay to tell their friends that they shouldn’t be eating those unhealthy things, I explain to them that no, it is not your responsibility to say anything and it might make their mummies feel upset if you do. I then tell them that it is up to their friends own mummies and daddies to choose what they can eat, just like we, their father and I choose for them.
I also let them know that our family is actually really lucky to be able to eat , fresh, healthy, organic foods. I then remind my children about all the yummy, home-made, biscuits, cakes, muffins and icy-poles they get to eat.
After saying all the above, I do very occasionally, as a very special treat; e.g. the last day of school term, allow my children to buy lunch from the canteen.
Toys & Clothes Teaching Kids To Go Eco
When it comes to toys and clothes, I teach my children that they are very lucky to live where they live and have what they have. I also teach them that the more toys and stuff they have, which they don’t really need, the more packaging and rubbish pollutes the environment.
“THE LORAX” by Dr. Seuss, is an excellent story to help children understand the implications of producing too much “STUFF”. When my children ask for plastic toys, especially PVC ones, like Barbie Doll and Fisher Prices toys, I explain to them that just like in “The Lorax” movie, you need big factories to make all the plastic PVC toys and this makes a lot of poisonous waste, which makes the environment, animals, and plants sick and this is why Mummy doesn’t buy you both plastic toys.
When I do buy my kids toys, I try my hardest to find safer, more natural options. Here is a list of eco toys companies for those of you who are interested.
ECO PARENTING TIP – I always write on all my children’s party invitations, “please no PVC Plastic pressies as we are Eco-friendly”.
I spend also spend a lot of time researching and finding Eco-friendlier, greener, less synthetic options for toys and clothes for my children and for presents that I give other children on birthdays. I never buy plastic or glittery stickers as these are often made from PVC and I always try to buy books with the Forest Stewardship Council logo (FSC) stamped on them. Even better, I look for books and puzzles printed on recycled paper and printed with soy or vegetable inks.
Teaching Children To Be Ethically Minded As Well As Eco Minded
I also think it is important to teach our children not only to be Eco-friendlier, but also to be ethically conscious too.
For example, I teach my children why choosing organic, fair-trade, dark chocolate as a treat is better not only for the environment, but also for people. I explain to them carefully, that in some countries young children are taken from their families to work all day picking chocolate beans and they are very sad and scared and that when we choose to eat fair-trade, organic chocolate, it means that these chocolate beans are never picked by young children and this is why we should all choose to eat this type of chocolate when we can.
Therefore, when my kids want to buy chocolate at the supermarket and look at the Freddo Frogs, I say no, remember what I told you about why we choose fair-trade and organic chocolate and I steer them over to the organic choc section.
Yes it may seems a bit full on and some parents may say it is too much, but I feel when children are young, this is when they learn the most and when they see things clearly and honestly for what they are and so arming them with an ethical, humane way of thinking is only full of positives. By doing this we can help shape future generations to be more responsible Eco and ethically minded, to protect and love the earth they live on and respect and take care of all they share it with.
If you and your family are predominately living a healthy, Eco-friendlier lifestyle, then I believe as parents, we occasionally have to look the other way and allow the odd “STUFF” treat too, but your children should understand that this is a special occasion.
*ECO Tip – Where you can, when giving a “STUFF” treat, do your utmost to do it with the least amount of environmental damage; e.g. I recently gave in to the loom band craze but I searched for 100% rubber loom bands that i know will biodegrade, as opposed to silicone and plastic ones. I took the time to research before I bought.
So come on, let’s all do our best as responsible parents to raise environmentally aware, compassionate children.
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