There is something incredible about watching your children discover the world around them. Whether that’s experiencing a new food for the first time, smelling fresh flowers, or feeling the wind blow around them, children have a way of making us all see the world from a different vantage point—one that is simpler and often more acutely tuned into what is actually happening in the moment around them.
But how do we as parents and caregivers continue to foster that wonder in the world around them, and raise children that care and advocate for our planet as they grow older? From personal experience, I’ve found that as a mom, often the best ways to teach my kids to care about our planet are simple, involve food, and are fun for the whole family!
A farmers' market is one of the best places at which you can start to engage your kids with your local food system, and encourage planet-friendly eating. Use the farmers market in your local area as a way to get your kids interested in the food they may or may not see at home, and even encourage them to ask the vendors questions.
You can also talk to your kids ahead of time about choosing a recipe to make from food you find at the farmers' market, and have them help pick out everything on your list. This is a great way to get your kids interested in new foods and learn more about where their food comes from.
Kids love farms, and luckily, today, many farms offer open visiting hours or educational events to help teach children and families about farming. If your child is interested in animals, visiting a local regenerative farm can be a really fun activity and a great way to start conversations with your child about how your local farm supports your community and the planet.
When it comes to planting a garden with little ones, it's important to remember that your garden probably won’t look exactly how you imagined. Little hands and feet may not quite yet understand the concept of being gentle with growing plants, but it still is one of the simplest ways to teach children about the responsibility of caring for our planet.
As the garden grows, kids will become more and more invested in the transformation taking place in front of their eyes, and the role they have to play in making sure their plants are taken care of. Before you know it, your kids may be running outside in the morning to check on the garden and see what may have grown overnight.
4. Get Kids Involved in the Kitchen
While it may not be possible to have your kids cook dinner with you every night, getting your kids involved with you in the kitchen from a young age is a great way for them to learn about their food. Embrace the mess and the not-so-perfect recipe, and aim to commit to cooking with your kids as much as you can. One of my favorite ways to do this is to choose one or two days a week and give your kids a few choices of recipes that you can make together. Once they choose what they want to make, you can plan to shop together for ingredients or even head to the farmers' market as a family.
Once you have all the ingredients, give your kids small, age-appropriate tasks to help them get involved in preparing the recipe. Some of my favorite recipes to make are these carrot cake muffins with Navitas Organics Grain-Free Flour or a big batch of overnight oats with a healthy dose of plant-based omega-3s from Navitas Organics Chia Seeds.
While you have your kids cooking with you in the kitchen, this is also a great time to talk about where their food came from, how different foods make you strong or help you see really far, and how yummy the recipe will be when it’s all done.
If you have a picky eater on your hands, this can also be a great way to make food and cooking a fun and engaging experience for your child, and may even help encourage them to try something new!
All people thrive in nature—and kids are no exception. If your kids are old enough, one fun way to help excite them about nature is to let them lead your family on a nature walk. This means that your child gets to have a little more independence and responsibility on your walk and can decide what paths you take, how long you spend outside, and what you stop to look at and discover.
Go into these child-led nature walks with an open mind, low expectations and always bring snacks! My family loves Navitas Organics Blueberry Hemp Power Snacks that come in convenient, on-the-go packs, and are made with organic ingredients like hemp seeds, chia seeds and dates, which are all great for growing kids! I often find that meltdowns happen when little ones are hungry, which is why bringing along some planet-friendly snacks for these outdoors adventures is key!
If you choose to embark on a child-led nature walk, remember that your child is in the lead, which means that they may decide they want to explore one small spot of your walk—and that’s okay! The point is that your child gets to decide what they are interested in exploring and showing you, which is such an exciting experience for your child and something that will only help further reinforce their connection with their environment—and I guarantee that you will have a lot of fun!
6. Focus on Planet-Friendly Eating Habits in Your Home
While every family has their own food culture, food access and eating habits, focusing on including more planet-friendly plant-based foods in your home is something that all families can do.
Our children's eating habits really are a product of what they see and experience around them, which is why focusing on offering planet-friendly food choices in your home can help encourage a connection between our food and planet from a young age. This can be as simple as choosing in-season fruit at the grocery store and talking with your kids about the seasons they experience around them (and how our food has seasons, too!).
There are so many incredible books to help start conversations about protecting our planet for all age ranges, and, fortunately, kids love to read! If you are struggling with finding the right words to talk to your kids about protecting and caring for our planet, most likely there is a children's book out there that would be perfect for getting the conversation started as a family.
8. Show Your Kids How You Care About Our Planet
Our kids watch everything we do, which is why simply leading by example is one of the best ways that you can raise children that deeply care about the world around them. If they see their parents and caregivers doing small things like eating and cooking planet-friendly plant-based foods, using reusable bags, having fun in nature, and picking up trash when they see it on walks, they will feel compelled to do their part to protect our planet, too.
Author Bio: Megan Faletra, MS, MPH, RDN is an experienced photographer, maternal-child health dietitian, global health and sustainability advocate, and creative entrepreneur specializing in social impact communications strategy and content development. Prior to founding The Well Co., Megan worked in global health nutrition and water security programming both internationally and domestically. Megan holds a Master of Public Health from Tufts University School of Medicine and a Master of Science from Tufts University School of Nutrition. She also is a Registered Dietitian and completed her dietetic training at Brigham and Women's Harvard Teaching Hospital.