April 22 is Earth Day. I believe (and I'm sure you'll agree) that every day is a good day to teach our children to be kind to our planet. I have been asked a number of times what I do to communicate this on an ongoing basis to my four-year-old son. So, I'd like to share an acronym that I use to help teach Ethan about the EARTH:
E = Experience
A = Appreciate
R = Reuse/Reduce/Recycle
T = Teach
H = Help to Make a Difference
E = Experience nature.
Since Ethan was a baby, I have tried to expose him to nature in a way that resonates with him, because for kids, it's all about the experience! From taking him outside when he was a week old to feel the rain, to crawling on the grass for the first time, to hiking in the woods when he was 2 (and in a carrier or backpack when he was an infant!) and feeling the bark on the trees and the moss on the ground and listening for birds we can identify --- the exposure to colors, textures, sights and sounds and the opportunity to experience the beautiful things about the Earth is important for building an appreciation of them.
Hiking with Ethan as an infant:
Ethan always loved the view from the Kelty Kids backback:
Canoeing in Vermont at 3 years old:
Hiking the Redwoods in CA with Uncle Buddy and Aunt Jen:
A = Appreciate the beauty of our planet
With every experience, I would talk with Ethan about how important it was to appreciate the things around us….to be kind to the creatures on the Earth and to our natural resources in order to build an appreciation for clean water, clean air, and plants and animals. Finding little creatures on our hikes and quietly viewing them has taught Ethan to be aware and gentle in nature.
Exploring a hollowed out tree on a hike in Vermont last week:
The first lizard Ethan held (he's 2 yo here and found it on a gravel driveway and thought it would be happier put back into grass):
A frog we came across on a trail:
R = Reuse/Reduce/Recycle.
Ethan and I talk a lot about R-R-R. Always carry out what you bring in when hiking. Recycle whenever possible. Use both sides of the paper to draw. Turn off the water when brushing your teeth. Turn off the lights to save energy. By incorporating these messages into our days, they become “just the way we do things” and are part of our lives and who we are.
Ethan uses his dump truck to clean up toys and his recycle truck to collect scrap papers for the recycling bin:
T = Teach by example
My feeling is that every day and so many moments are teaching opportunities….and I remind myself that the most powerful teaching is by example. And there are many beautiful books and stories that help to illustrate how we all can make a difference. Stories like the Lorax really resonate with children (this is one of Ethan’s favorites!).
Reading the Lorax (Love this book! Check out my Lorax blog.):
H = Help to Make a Difference.
I point out to Ethan how he can help make a difference even as a young child. He picks out clothes to donate to Red Cross, toys to donate to a local thrift shop that supports community health services, coats to send to “keep a child warm” and I take him with me to deliver them. We are “building a well” as part of the “Born in September” program of Charity Water (as Ethan was born in September). He watched the benefit for Haiti with me and is collecting change to send to Haiti.
The bag Ethan labeled to collect money for Haiti:
After a trip to TD Bank to convert the change Ethan has collected to cash to send to Haiti...$6.95:
It has been wonderful to watch Ethan grow and explore nature and the world....and especially to see him develop an appreciation for the creatures in the world and the resources around him! One of my happiest parenting moments was when Ethan told me as I was brushing my teeth with the water running, “Mom, you’re hurting the earth! Turn off the water when you’re brushing your teeth!” I almost danced around the bathroom! (This was as good as hearing Ethan ask “is this organic?” and “is this healthy?” in the grocery store!) I was soooo happy to see that the “be kind to the planet” message that I try to communicate to him on a regular basis was taking hold.
Earth Day provides us all with a great opportunity for important teachable moments in our childrens' lives. After all, they are the ones who will inherit the Earth...I want them to know that the power to change things for the greater good is in their hands.
Remember...be kind to the Earth...and teach the same to your children!!
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