Conserving the earth’s resources and protecting the environment are big concepts to grasp, even for adults. But they can be taught to young children in a way that’s fun and accessible and lays the groundwork for lessons in science and citizenship.
At Primrose schools, we use Megy® the pig to teach simple lessons on conservation, such as reusing items, recycling paper and turning off the faucet.
“Children feel empowered when they learn they can make a difference for our planet,” says Dr. Maria Shaheen, senior director of early childhood education for Primrose Schools®. “They sense that the small actions they can take are important, and that feels positive and motivating.”
How to Introduce Conservation to Children
Toddlers and preschoolers can understand basic conservation lessons. Here are some ways we make the topic accessible at Primrose schools, and how you can keep the learning going at home.
- Make it relatable. Megy finds simple steps to help protect the planet and then shares them with students (with the teacher’s help, of course). It helps to start with a topic that children can relate to, like littering, and explain why it’s important to dispose of trash properly.
- Use everyday opportunities. Primrose teachers find opportunities in daily activities to point out the importance of conservation. For example, when using glue, a teacher might say “One dot will do it!” and encourage children to use both sides of the paper when drawing pictures. Teachers also explain the reasoning behind conserving these materials, such as “Paper comes from trees, so we don’t want to use too much. Trees help us breathe and give animals a place to live.”
- Model good habits. Environmentally friendly habits practiced in the classroom and at home help foster the same good habits in little ones. Here are a few ways to go green:
- Turn off the lights every time you leave a room.
- Always turn off the faucet while brushing your teeth.
- Use reusable shopping bags and food containers.
- Unplug your cellphone charger and hair dryer when not in use.
Fun Ways to Practice Conservation at Home
Conservation for children can be educational and fun. You can incorporate math, science, reading and other lessons into environmental education without too much effort. Try these ideas:
- Turn recycling into crafting. The items you’re about to toss into the recycling bin can be great craft materials. Turn milk cartons into bird feeders or paper towel rolls into binoculars. Bottle corks can become boats. Or you and your child can create an original masterpiece with a cardboard box.
- Count and sort recycling. Have your child help you sort bottles, cans, paper and other items for recycling. Before putting them into the appropriate bins, encourage your child to practice their counting skills, group objects together by color, and compare the different sizes or feel of the various objects.
- Incorporate conservation into story time. Read books or poems about the importance of conservation and then talk about how your child’s actions impact their neighborhood, community and the world. Here are a few recommendations to get you started:
- “Recycle! A Handbook for Kids” by Gail Gibbons
- “Recycle Every Day!” by Nancy Elizabeth Wallace
- “The Great Kapok Tree: A Tale of the Amazon Rainforest” by Lynne Cherry
- “The Great Trash Bash” by Loreen Leedy
- “Where Does the Garbage Go?” by Paul Showers
For more on teaching children about conservation and nature, check out:
- 4 Ways to Explore Spring with Your Child
- Why It’s Beneficial to Let Your Kids Play in the Dirt
- Spring into Science
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