Sustainability for Preschoolers: Activities to Teach Your Youngest

By Bethany Johnson in Thinking Sustainably

Sometimes I wish my kids would grow up so they can understand the important lessons I'm trying to explain. Then it hits me: no one likes a lecture. Whether my kids are nine months old or nine years old, I can and should make learning fun, especially when it comes to our family's environmentally friendly lifestyle.

Believe it or not, lessons in sustainability for preschoolers and toddlers can be tons of fun. Here are a few activities that impart ideals—minus the lecture.

Touch, Don't Teach

It's tempting to try to explain principles to the little ones in your life, and someday soon, you'll be able to talk your heart out. For now, though, tactile activities are a good go-to. Here are five sustainable activities for toddlers to get you started:

  • Plant a kitchen garden. Digging, watering, weeding, and plucking are some of the most enjoyable feelings for little hands.

  • Salvage a cereal box instead of throwing it away. Cut the front side of the box into big, grabbable pieces and let your child put it together again for an upcycled puzzle.

  • Swap out the words to the popular song "The More We Get Together" for CRM Preschool Bilingual Project's "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle" version.

  • Nurture a worm farm. Wriggly little friends are the perfect introduction to later, more complicated lessons about composting and biology.

  • Swap leaves for construction paper. Did you know you can hole-punch leaves? You can also color on them, arrange them, cut them, and glue them just like paper. Think of them as paper that doesn't hurt the trees! What paper crafts will you do today that can be done with backyard leaves instead?

Change Values, Not Behavior

You probably already know you can't expect your three-year-old to start a petition or brainstorm solutions for an endangered species. You can, however, steer your kids toward a love for the outdoors which often translates to conservationism later. These simple swaps can do just that.

  • Hit the farmers' market instead of making your usual grocery store trip.

  • Snooze outside. Gone are the days when you'd see workers pausing for a nap outdoors under a tree. Bring back the tradition by planning an outdoor downtime at least once a week.
    Fun activities to teach sustainability for preschoolers and toddlers alike.

  • Hang clothes on a line to dry instead of tossing them in the dryer. Even the youngest child can hand you pins to help.

  • Picnic! Little hands love loading a basket, spreading a blanket in the yard, and unpacking tasty goodies.
    Fun activities to teach sustainability for preschoolers and toddlers alike.

  • Phone a loved one on a backyard nature walk. When it's time to call Grandma, take the conversation outside. Your child will love telling her everything he sees.

  • Play cards in the yard. Bring your favorite board games outside where youngsters can feel the grass underneath them and the sun overhead.

Play "Squee!"

Stuck inside? Your little ones can learn to enjoy nature without stepping foot outdoors. Here's how.

All parents know: babies love babies. The National Wildlife Federation has a new interactive online quiz that can teach sustainability for preschoolers and toddlers alike by tugging on their compassionate heartstrings. It's called "Quiz: How Well Do You Know Baby Animal Names?"

As you scroll through the pictures together, have your toddler point to the babies. They're not hard to find: the cute, fuzzy, big-eyed youngsters have a natural connection with your own little one, and identifying them among their older counterparts is an educational exercise young environmentalists love. Older children can help answer the surprisingly difficult question of what each baby is actually called.

(Spoiler: Baby skunks are called kits. You're welcome!)

You're right to believe you can't impart the complicated nuances of a green lifestyle to a toddler. However, you can always instill your love for and enjoyment of the environment. And when you do, you'll be surprised by how much your littlest child will pick up. Those values translate into lessons later on when they're more interested. By then, you will have laid the groundwork for an easy, interesting conversation. And that's better than a lecture—at any age.

How do you teach your smallest ones about an environmentally friendly lifestyle? Tweet your own sustainability activities for toddlers to other eco-conscious parents at @TomsofMaine!

Images source: Flickr | Flickr | Flickr

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Why It’s Good

The only thing better than seeing your kids adopt an environmentally friendly lifestyle is knowing the lessons are-fun. But starting early in toddlerhood can make you wonder whether they even understand your lessons. Fun, age-appropriate activities like these can ensure both fun-and-learning are taking place.