What does ecological awareness mean for children? It’s about transmitting respect for the nature that surrounds them and the beings that inhabit it from an early age. The responsible use of resources, the habit of recycling and reusing and the importance of coexistence are concepts to be taught.
To awaken the ecological awareness in the children implies to transmit from the infancy the care and respect for the environment and the living beings. Teaching children to love nature allows them to build positive ties with the environment and, in this way, inhabit the planet with a responsible projection.
There are many ways to awaken ecological awareness, through simple concepts such as reduce consumption, reuse and recycling. The deep empathy towards living beings who experience infancy, greatly facilitates the development and assimilation of ideas about ecology.
Nature: a factory or a house?
Reflecting on nature can lead to several paths. First, one can distinguish in the immediate environment which things come from nature and from which materials they are obtained. It is amazing, for children and not so much, to discover that absolutely everything is nature.
For example, you will find toys made of plastic, a material derived from petroleum, which in turn is extracted from the earth, which is a ‘non-renewable energy source’ and therefore scarce. Another case is that of books, which may evoke the pine forests, from which the wood is extracted, which will then be used for the leaves on which they make their drawings.
Afterwards, the visual route can be placed on a teddy bear made of cotton, or on the bricks of a wall, made of mineral products. Suddenly, something that seems as abstract as the word ‘nature’ begins to be palpable through the objects and visualizable through the analysis of their materials.
One way to assimilate this idea is to ask children what the preferred toy is and to crumble the material with which it is made. For a child, the story about the object will bring a completely new value-added. This detail could become the seed for awakening ecological awareness.
For the little ones, it is enough to have an ecological conscience that focuses on respect for nature in general and responsible consumption. From the age of ten or twelve, on the other hand, children are capable of assimilating the finitude of natural resources.
In addition, children can be made aware of the selection of certain products that affect the environment less. It is also possible to invite them to reflect on the role of large factories in the care or mistreatment of the planet, the danger on the use of agrochemicals and the need for respect for biodiversity.
Nature needs to feel good, to recover from the pollution caused in big cities by mining companies, paper mills, etc. How can one, from home or the classroom, awaken ecological awareness and think of simple solutions, little grains of sand to the great problem of environmental pollution?
Raising ecological awareness: 10 options for change
On the occasion of World Environment Day, the World Association of Child Educators (AMEI) has drawn up a list of 10 options or rules for children to learn how to take care of the planet’s health:
Turn off the tap: Saving water is the number one rule to teach children to take care of the environment.
Waste should be avoided when brushing teeth or taking a bath, for example.
Basket papers: Another simple rule that applies to everyday life is to keep the streets clean.
Sharing toys: The idea of not consuming more than necessary can be taught this way. It also fosters solidarity and empathy towards others.
Recycling: The concept of recycling in these rules is unavoidable; the ideal is to have garbage bins destined for organic and recyclable waste. You can also recycle things at home, such as plastic bottles or cardboard boxes.
“For the little ones, it is enough to have an ecological awareness that focuses on respect for nature in general and responsible consumption.
Plants, pets and recycling
Caring for plants: On impulse, children often pull leaves or flowers from plants. Respect for all forms of life is essential to awaken early ecological awareness.
Turn off the light: The room that is abandoned simply does not need to be illuminated. On the other hand, seeking natural light for everyday tasks raises the mood a few decibels.
Taking care of pets: If you have pets, it is healthy for children to learn to take care of them from an early age. Responsibility in living with other species generates awareness and empathy.