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Clever Hacks to Introduce our Children to Sustainability

By: Dee Maloney and Meagan Crawford | Published: October, 2022

Dee and I are continuously amazed by how much our daughters want to be involved in our transition to becoming a sustainable household. We each have two daughters of a similar age, all under 6 years old, the inspiration for Nudj, our four little birds (Luna, Esme, Madeleine & Eleanor).

Since co-founding Nudj almost two years ago, my daughters Madeleine (5) and Eleanor (4), have actively sought to be mini brand ambassadors both at home and at their school but also in public. For instance, Madeleine last year in reception, recounted to her Head Teacher that they should not be eating a specific snacking biscuit due to the presence of palm oil and its damaging effects on rainforests! My gosh, reflecting on my mini self at age 4-5, I had zero awareness and never would have considered the impact I had on the environment, let alone the food I was eating.

It is inspiring to see our daughters thrive and constantly engage in the world around them by openly asking questions and taking a hands-on approach to sustainability and the wider environment. Though, when my 5-year-old comes home from school fearful of London being submerged due to rising sea levels, it’s a blow to my being! Situations like this remind me of why Nudj was created – out of an overwhelming desire to protect our kids from the effects of climate change. It’s up to us, capable adults to lead by example and start taking meaningful strides to protect their future. Thus, taking the lessons I have learned from engaging in a salient topic with my children, such as sustainability, I offer these simple hacks to get your children involved in becoming a sustainable household and opening their eyes to the world around them in the process.

Involve your children in tasks around the house. My children are busy bees who thrive on being engaged through hands-on learning. Simple tasks like separating out the recycling into different coloured bins or helping sort through clothing to be donated open up opportunities for conversations about the value of our possessions, the items we use, and protecting our planet’s scarce resources. It opens up conversations surrounding the purpose of recycling, helping others in need, and reusing items to make the most of their lifespan. Both of my girls have become fond of reusing containers for various ‘science experiments’ and crafting. It’s a great way to encourage their creativity and teach a valuable lesson around the circular economy.

Cultivate their curiosity. My husband and I have always taken a very open and rational approach to encouraging discussion, focusing on moderation and not falling into extremes or fads. I must confess that it’s hard for me to balance a healthy, open and questioning stance whilst trying to avoid saying anything that could be construed as angst inducing. Nevertheless, we support their inquisitiveness with brainstorming ideas of how they can take action at home and continue to develop and enrich their understanding of these complex topics. Mind maps are Madeleine’s favourite medium for sharing her ideas about Nudj and other themes as it enables her to problem solve in a very logical fashion. Moreover, both girls have taken to creating posters for Nudj, as a way for them to illustrate to others the importance of the environment and simple things that we can all do to help. Their passion is palpable, they choose to talk about the natural world for show and tell, and expand upon discussions at school.

There’s power in storytelling. My children both love story-time before bed each night. It’s a chance for us to spend some quality time together, but also lends itself nicely to fostering a sustainability focused dialogue. Don’t get me wrong, the stories we read are not always about the state of our planet, yet it is a proud parent moment when my 5 year old chooses to read about climate activists like Greta Thunberg. Dr Seus’s the Lorax is perhaps one of the most age appropriate stories to teach our children to value and protect natural resources and the notion of ‘tragedy of the commons’ a parallel to what is playing out in the world around us presently! Storytelling has been a useful tool in our home when done from a more positive and uplifting lens and has encouraged my husband and I to share positive climate news with our children as well. We can celebrate the little wins, like welcoming back Cheetahs to India after 70 years of local extinction or the recent news of Patagonia being given away to help combat climate change.

Shift the narrative around gift-giving. Both Dee and I have taken pride in our daughters’ approach to birthdays. By showing them alternative ways to celebrate a birthday, such as adopting an endangered animal, or raising money for charity, our children can feel empowered by their actions and develop empathy for others. Last year, Madeleine chose to forego birthday presents from friends and family in favour of raising money for the NAEF. For a 5 year old to connect the power of helping children less fortunate, in another part of the world, it’s a lifelong learning moment. Dee’s daughter Luna has opted for an alternative way to approach a birthday celebration by initiating a book swap for her friends. Instead of receiving birthday presents at a party, each child brings a book along that they can swap with their friends. Seeing the little ones’ faces light up at the book they get to take home at the end of the day reminds us of the value that pre-owned items hold, regardless of their ‘newness’ and helps us to refresh our home library, win, win!

Spend Time Outdoors. Both my husband and I have grown up investing a significant amount of time into spending time outdoors. It’s incredible how just by immersing yourself in nature, you are provided with a reignited appreciation for and passion to look after our planet. This is something that we have continued to prioritise with the girls. It’s incredible how when you introduce your children to time outdoors, they naturally just gravitate to imaginative play and exploration. I am always amazed how much time they can spend exploring, looking under rocks, playing shopkeeper with bits of twigs, and leaves – they really don’t need much. Recently, we made a visit to Hyde Park and my husband was astonished as the girls played for hours around a single log, their imaginations took hold and they were content without need for adult intervention.

Children are keen learners and helpers, they rise to the challenge. Let’s give them the opportunity to do so by leading by example and opening their eyes to a better future.

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