Sustainability for kids: How to spark wonder for an awesome future

Sandwich session

Getting to grips with sustainability isn’t always easy – especially for kids. But in a world where environmental issues are increasingly common, it’s important to help our kids understand how even the smallest steps can make a big difference.

Here are a few ways to make sustainability for kids fun, easy and exciting, and spark their wonder for a better future to play and grow in.

Have positive conversations

Typically, when we talk about the environment, we tend to focus on the negative. From global warming and rising sea levels to plastic pollution and species extinction, there’s a lot of big issues that can worry little minds. But there’s a lot to be hopeful about, too, and having an optimistic outlook is key when it comes to talking about sustainability with kids.

Try to focus on the positive things you can do as a family to be more sustainable, and why it’s important for the whole family to get behind better choices. Start by asking simple questions that spark their curiosity, like “What happened to the trees that used to be there?”, “How does our car get energy to drive?”, or “Where does our food come from?”. These can act as starting points for positive conversations that motivate your kids (and even yourself) to learn more about our planet, and the things we can do to make a difference.

Get creative about minimising food waste

Once your kids have grasped the basic idea of sustainability, it’s time to take action. This is the fun part, where you get to put their learning into practice – and what better way to begin than by starting with an activity they do every day: eating.

There are loads of awesome ways to get your kids thinking about food sustainability. You could go through the fridge and pantry together, looking for leftovers to transform into amazing new meals; you could start composting, showing them how scraps can become food for the garden; and you could even start growing your own food as a family. The opportunities are almost endless, so start experimenting and find what your kids enjoy most.

Teach them to shop sustainably

We all love buying new things and kids are no exception (just think of your last trip down the toy aisle). But the way we shop can have a big impact on the planet. By taking the time to teach kids about where things come from – and what happens to them when we’re finished using them in both a linear and circular economy – you can play a part in creating the next generation of eco-friendly consumers.

Mindful shopping means thinking twice before making a purchase, and it’s something you can encourage your kids to practise each time you shop with them. Simply sharing the question “Do we really need this?” can be enough to get you both thinking more about what’s actually necessary. You should also show them how to spot labels that indicate a product’s sustainability, while using your own knowledge of brands to guide them. 

You can also teach them that, sometimes, shopping sustainably means not shopping at all. For example, before heading to the shops, send your kids on a scavenger hunt through your home – you might find that you already have what you were going to buy or something that can do the same job. If something is broken, help your kids to try to fix it. And if you really don’t have the thing you need, take them to the local op-shop or employ their help scouring through second-hand shops online.

Make recycling fun

At its core, recycling is creative, relying on new and innovative ways of using what’s around us. And if there’s one thing our kids do way better than us parents, it’s thinking creatively. It’s why making recycling fun mightn’t be as hard as you might think. All it takes is a little ingenuity.

Start by helping them design and decorate their own recycling bin, or introduce them to the epic world of upcycling. Also known as creative reuse, upcycling involves reusing old, discarded objects or material to make something even better than the original. Think colourful tin can planters and toilet paper roll bird feeders.

Sustainability for kids – and recycling especially – is always more fun with friends, so it’s a great idea to encourage your kids’ school to get involved in recycling initiatives. As well as being more fun, the act of coming together with their peers will also encourage other kids and families to make sustainability a bigger part of their lives. 

Spark wonder for the future

When you’re thinking about sustainability for kids, remember you’re not alone. From engaging online videos and wondrous websites to brilliant books and amazing museums, there are so many incredible resources out there that can help you and your kids on your sustainability journey.

And the more you learn together, the more you’ll spark wonder for a greener and greater future.