So how can we, as parents, help them to take action to
make the planet a better place to be?
In her long-awaited 25-Year Environment Plan announced earlier this year, Prime Minister
Theresa May waged war on plastic waste. Setting out steps for a greener Britain,
she pledged to:
• Eliminate avoidable plastic waste by 2042.
• Persuade supermarkets to introduce plastic packaging-free aisles where food is
• Fund new research for ‘plastics innovation’.
• Provide aid to help developing countries manage plastic waste.
Alas, the pledges are so long-term that they’re more likely to affect our children’s
future than ours! Indeed, the only immediate policy was to extend the successful
5p charge for plastic bags to smaller shops in England, as in Scotland and Wales.)
Greener living means limiting your consumption. Buy fewer, hard-wearing toys rather
than overloading children with ‘stuff’. Wear
second-hand clothes, initiate toy swaps, support charity shops
and organise car boot sales. Visit farmers’ markets and shops so children see that
food doesn’t magically appear on supermarket
shelves! Encourage children to donate old toys to those in need.
Draw up your own Car Boot Bingo cards and enjoying tracking down the listed items
with your little helpers. Be warned – it’s addictive!
‘Upcycling’ is all the rage – think Kirstie Allsopp’s ‘Fill Your House For Free’.
Re-use discarded objects to create something better, such as revamping scrap paper
into a pretty notebook. If you’re party planning, choose an ‘Eco’ theme with eye-catching
decorations crafted from items you’ve reclaimed from home and outdoors.
Give children a sense of ownership over the recycling. Together, create signs for
your recycling containers, transforming them into beautiful artworks.
Make puppets together from old socks, with buttons for eyes. The possibilities are
Typically, people in the UK throw away their body weight in waste roughly every seven
weeks. That’s about a tonne of waste per family, per year. Recycling is the perfect
introduction to greener living. Toddlers love sorting! Demonstrate how to categorise
using building blocks, then let them sort through food packaging. Leave recycling
bins in bedrooms and craft areas.
Devise a super-simple recycling plan with separate boxes for different materials.
Attach pictures to boxes so little ones can identify the right place to put things.
Visit your local recycling centre to see how it works. Children won’t
forget this hard-hitting visual of the magnitude of waste we accumulate.
Toilet roll snake
You’ll need: one toilet roll, ‘googly eyes’, paint, glue, felt-tip pens, red paper
Paint the outside of the toilet roll and let it dry. Cut a spiral strip from the
roll, shaping one end like a tail and the other like a snake’s head. Glue on the
‘googly’ eyes. Cut a red, forked tongue from the paper and glue it to the snake’s
Finish by adding designs along the length with felt-tip pens.
YOUR CHILD’S INHERITANCE
What sort of world could our children inherit if nothing changes?
Populations of vertebrate animals (such as mammals, birds and fish) declined by 58
per cent from 1970-2012, and freshwater
wildlife populations have dropped by 76 per cent since 1970, according to the World
Wildlife Fund (WWF).
For four decades, our ecological footprint has been the size of one and a half Earths.
We’re rapidly using up more resources than our planet can provide.
The number of cars on roads and airmiles from planes will nearly double by 2040,
according to US researchers, Bernstein.
The human population has (roughly) doubled since the 1960s.
By 2030, it’ll expand by another third!
The good news is that the next generation takes saving the planet seriously. A study
by Explore Learning found that the biggest worry amongst four to 14-year-olds is
‘saving the environment’. So, how can families harness this enthusiasm and play their
part? A great starting point is to teach children the 3Rs: reduce, reuse and recycle.
The average person uses 150 gallons of water daily. But globally 1 in 9 people still
don’t have access to clean water near home.
Turn taps off while children clean teeth, record how long they’re in the shower with
a funky timer, and bathe pre-schoolers together. Why not install a rain barrel together,
for watering fruits, vegetables and flowers?
Make your own rain
You’ll need: a glass jar, a plate, hot water and ice cubes.
Pour 5ml of hot water into the jar. Cover it with a plate and wait a moment. Ask
your little ones what they think will happen… While they ponder, put the ice cubes
on the plate and instruct them to watch inside the jar. Soon, the hot and cold elements
will cause the water to condense, rise into the air, and form rain droplets from
the top of the plate! Once the water cools, explain that you’ll re-use it, for instance
to water plants.
Explain the importance of turning lights off when they’re not needed and closing
doors in winter. Just switching off lights can save over £50 a year! Turn off central
heating in rooms rarely used during colder months, too. Encourage (nag!) everyone
to switch off electricals at source, not on stand-by.
Nurture a competitive spirit around energy-saving – design a
sticker chart for the kitchen! Every appliance or light that’s switched off earns
a sticker. Ask older children to think of other energy-saving ideas for the chart.
THE GREAT OUTDOORS
Out and about
Anything that gets children out in the fresh air and increases awareness of their
surroundings helps to ignite interest in protecting the planet.
Take the bus
Use public transport where possible. Children love buses and trains. Air pollution
is increasing in cities, globally, and Sustrans estimates that a typical school run
by car costs £400 a year!
Grow your own
Courgettes and strawberries are perfect for first attempts at growing. Don’t despair
if you’re short on space. Old wellies make comfy homes for chilli plants and hanging
baskets can produce lots of strawberries.
Dig for spuds
Grow potatoes in rubbish bins. Once ready for harvesting, children can help to dig
through the dirt to find the potatoes and then enjoy cooking them with you!
Bugs and compost
If you’re blessed with outdoors space, start a compost heap. Toddlers love carrying
scraps to the compost bin. They also adore minibeasts so invest in some worms to
munch through household waste, turning it into compost.
They sell ingenious Can-O Worms and Worm Café composting systems. Shifting fresh
compost to feed the garden is exciting and children can count the worms too!
Follow Dan the Gardener & Friends’ adventures in Three Little Woods. These gutsy
green gurus encourage children to respect nature and have fun! Visit www.danthegardener.co.uk
WWF’s Green Ambassador programme teaches youngsters about the natural world and how
to safeguard it.