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Ways To Encourage Pro-Environmental Behaviour In Children

Updated on May 10, 2014
Kids Recycling
Kids Recycling | Source

1. Make Recycling Fun

You might wonder how something as simple and mundane as throwing objects in a recycling bin can be fun. Well, toddlers and young children love to sort things by size, colour, shape - you name it!


Start by making different recycling 'stations'. You could designate one bin to paper, one to plastic, one to aluminum, etc. Once you empty those bins, you can change the stations by designating one bin to white objects and one to colourful objects. The next time, switch it up again!


Some other ideas for sorting:


  • Have separate bins for different sizes of items (small, medium, large)
  • Sort based on items with pictures versus items with no pictures (or create more bins and sort by different types of pictures; food pictures, pictures with people, abstract images, etc.)
  • Have bins for shapes (rectangle, square, circular, etc.)


If you're planning on returning bottles, make sure to include your child in the process. Give them their own tray and designate a type of container to them (ex. "Put all of the juice boxes in your tray") and let them sift through the other types of bottles/cans to find their designated item.


The idea is to introduce them to the act of recycling at a young age. If it's something that's normal and appealing, it's something they'll be more likely to keep up with as they grow older.

2. Spend Time Outside

This sounds really simple, and it really is! People actually form emotional attachments to things in nature, be it a specific tree, a river, a swamp or a field. Forming attachments to nature will motivate your child intrinsically. Intrinsic motivation means that behaviour comes from within oneself, and is associated with much higher levels of achieving goals specific to that motivation.


So, what does that mean for pro-environmental behaviour? It means that if your child is motivated by their own love of the environment, they are more likely engage in pro-environmental behaviours long-term.


So let them explore the outdoors, let them be inspired by their surroundings, let them learn the immense comfort and exquisiteness that nature has to offer them. Allow their favourite memories to take place outside, let nature be their place for deep thought, and let it calm them when the world inside is much too busy. Nature will become a friend, a confidante, and a part of who they are. If it is something deeply rooted in their identity, they will be sure to protect it.

3. Buy Sustainable Toys

Every child loves a good toy. Try making sure that a bulk of your child's toys are environmentally friendly. Sure, a loud plastic toy that lights up and talks to your child is exciting and certainly has its place. But keeping those toys to a minimum will be beneficial for both the environment and your child's imagination. There are a number of stores that focus entirely on selling eco-friendly toys and products. One of my favourites is bynature.ca, but obviously depending on your location, you might be interested in searching for a store that has more convenient shipping, or one that's close enough to visit in person.


You'll find that a good number of the options are wooden toys. Wooden toys are often more aesthetically pleasing and more durable than plastic toys, and the paints used are often non-toxic.

4. Read Your Child Books About The Importance Of Caring For The Environment

Yes, there are actually a whole bunch of books that are geared towards teaching young children about caring for the environment! How cool is that?


Some suggestions:


5. Do A Litter Cleanup

You'll probably be able to find organized litter cleanups in your area, and it's always a good opportunity to get out into the community and contribute to a good cause. However, you can do your own litter cleanups! If you're used to going for leisurely walks with the kids, you can turn some of those walks into litter cleanups. We try to do once every week, but you can choose how often you'd like to do them with your family, be it once a month or every day!

They work similarly to recycling in that you can make it fun by giving them specific tasks or items to sort. Some ideas:


  • Ask your child to pick up only one particular kind of common litter (napkins, wrappers, cups, etc.)
  • Give your child a certain colour of litter (pick up all white litter, pick up all red litter, etc.)
  • If your child is old enough to grasp the concept of BINGO, you can make a Litter Bingo sheet. You can have a square for a napkin, a cup, a straw, a candy wrapper, a receipt, a plastic bag, etc.


Obviously, use your common sense and ensure that your child is not picking up potentially dangerous items or cigarette butts. You can stick a pair of gloves on your child if you're worried about them getting their hands on something unpleasant.

Did your parents encourage you to engage in pro-environmental behaviour?

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6. Model Pro-Environmental Behaviour

Studies have shown that modeling behaviour is the most effective way to promote behaviour change in others, especially when it comes to pro-environmental behaviour!


The best thing you can do to encourage your kiddos to respect the environment and live a sustainable lifestyle is to do it yourself. They will watch you, and they will pick up on your behaviour. You can remind them a million times to turn off the lights when they leave a room, but if you don't do it yourself, it's probably not going to stick. Families fall into routines and those routines carry on into your children's adult lives. I'm sure you can all think of something your parents did with you that you then went on to do with your own children. So do your best to make sure that your children will grow up having pro-environmental behaviour as a norm, and hopefully it will continue to be the norm when they start their own family one day.

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    • Maggie.L profile image

      Maggie.L 3 years ago from UK

      Great ideas here. I've also found books to be good for reinforcing these important issues. Thanks for sharing.

    • Aime F profile image
      Author

      Aime 3 years ago from Trudeauland (it's like Disneyland but hotter)

      Thanks so much, Maggie. Are there any books you find to be especially good? I'm always looking for new ones!

    • Maggie.L profile image

      Maggie.L 3 years ago from UK

      Aimee, I love the books you mentioned above. They're great pre-school books to teach your child about the environment. My daughter is especially fond of the Charlie and Lola book series. I also recommend the Last Tree in the City by Peter Carnavas and Energy Island by Allan Drummond for age 8+. They're great books for older kids so maybe not suitable if your family is still very young, but books to consider in the future.

    • Aime F profile image
      Author

      Aime 3 years ago from Trudeauland (it's like Disneyland but hotter)

      Thank you for the suggestions, I will be sure to check them out. :)

    • chef-de-jour profile image

      Andrew Spacey 2 years ago from Near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire,UK

      Some excellent suggestions. A pro-active approach to eco-awareness must be the way forward. I particularly like the outdoors idea because these days many children just aren't encouraged to go outside and play, which is what kids of my generation did as second nature. Great article. Votes and a share.

    • peachpurple profile image

      peachy 2 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      teaching kids from young to save, recycle and reuse is important, voted up

    • Aime F profile image
      Author

      Aime 2 years ago from Trudeauland (it's like Disneyland but hotter)

      Thank you, chef-de-jour and peachpurple! I definitely agree that raising awareness for the younger generation is so, so important. I didn't grow up with much knowledge of the environmental issues we face and so it was a big adjustment for me to live a more sustainable lifestyle as an adult.

    • PeterStip profile image

      PeterStip 2 years ago

      A great hub. Education is everything. To many times I see people throwing away their tins or chewing gum on the streets. Around where I life I stumble over the beer tins hunters throw away in the woods. Spoiling nature, for what??

    • FootballNut profile image

      FootballNut 16 months ago

      Love this tidying up without getting paid. That is what life is about.

      On the flipside though, I hate recycling, because here in England in our homes we have different coloured bins to put different types of materials in.

      But let's use plastic bottles for example, I pay for that bottle and it's contents, when I am finished I put it in the correct bin, then a lorry comes and takes it. That lorry then cleans the bottles etc and sells them back to companies that use bottles, or recycle them and sell them to other companies to crush the bottles and use them for other plastic objects, of which higher their prices as and when they like, so I end up paying more for something I already paid for in effect.

      Then I buy that bottle back again in some form at a later date and go through the same process.

      Should I be entitled to CHARGE the company that collects my used materials, because I paid for that then they end up selling it and earning money out of something I paid for.

      Not only are they getting paid by selling something I paid for back to plastic needing companies, but they also have ME sorting it for them, ie..putting it in the correct bin. That saves them employing people at their sorting depot.

      What I also hate is, if we put the wrong items in the wrong bins they won't take it, this is because we have not sorted it for them at no expense.

      So really we should firstly be able to charge them for products we have purchased, and they should pay us for sorting the materials into correct bundles.

      I do believe to, that here in the UK if we do not do recycling, we can actually get fined for it, so not only do I have to give my paid for stuff away, along with sorting it correctly, I also get bribed to do it.

      That is mad.....

    • PeterStip profile image

      PeterStip 16 months ago

      @Footballnut,

      you're paying for the process of recycling plastic. A plastic bottle will take at least 450 years to decompose. That's what your paying for, using a material that's around for more then 450 years.

      It's an incredible low price to pay. If you don't want to pay then the best option is not to use plastic but buy your drinks in bottles or tins.

      We live in a disposable society and that has it's costs (not only money wise...)

    • FootballNut profile image

      FootballNut 16 months ago

      I am not sure if this can be took as fact.

      It seems like it has been set up to benefit businesses.

      More to the point, do they have a piece of plastic that is 450 years old to proof this?

      That is such an easy thing for them to say, then have us giving them stuff and working for them by sorting such things correctly for free/at our expense.

      You say, if I do not want to use plastics so I don't have to be treated like this that I can use bottles or tins, then why are they not using these materials for certain products in order to save the planet? Like you said bottles and tins work, so why they using these recyclable materials as they call them? Why are they using materials to create this problem when like you say alternatives are there?

    • PeterStip profile image

      PeterStip 16 months ago

      FootballNut.

      You know why "they" are not making more environmentally friendly products. They will do so only when it turns into profits.

      More to the point, do they have a piece of plastic that is 450 years old to proof this? - eh... Science is pretty precises when it comes to determining how long a material will exist. Simply a matter of looking at a moleculair level. All atoms have a decay time. That's something you can mesure and calculate.

    • FootballNut profile image

      FootballNut 16 months ago

      So this calculation that is just a guess really is being deemed as scientifically proven?

      That sounds well fishy to me!!

      They don't need to look for more environmentally friendly materials to use, like you said it already exists in tin and the likes....

      So is the solution not simple? Don't use plastic use tin?

      Or when they find these more environmentally friendly materials that you mentioned, will they sell them to me cheaper, due to me helping them gain profits now in order to do research into finding the materials they are seeking? I don't think they will make things cheaper and say thank you us lot for giving away our stuff along with investing our time weather it is 30 seconds or not. Let's treat time like they do, "Time Is Money So Let's Charge People For It".

      Just a thought.

    • PeterStip profile image

      PeterStip 16 months ago

      FootballNut the calculation on an atomic level is incredibly precise.

      If you do not trust science and scientific methods then you should shut down your computer right now.

      Lots of environmentally materials are allready for sale. We use for instance garbage bags made from a certain kind of plastic that can easily integrate with the soil. We use it for organic waste.

      They probably won't make things cheaper, but if you have the choice to buy different materials that do the same job, I would choose the one that is more environmentally friendly, even if it costs me a bit more.

      Money is not the only thing in this world. Health is just as important, actually more important.

    • FootballNut profile image

      FootballNut 16 months ago

      But if we continue to use these garbage bags that integrate with soil, does that mean the bags vaporate?

      If so, does this not mean we will eventually run out of plastic?

      What the computer that is scientifically built for us to see websites, that sell products? Everything scientific seems to be only created to benefit the rich lol

      I won't start on money and health....

    • Gaurav Oberoi profile image

      gaurav oberoi 11 months ago

      Truly a great hub!!! I am gonna follow you.

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