It's that time of the year again when 178 countries around the world take a stand against climate change by going dark. On March 19, at 8:30 p.m., thousands in the Philippines are expected to participate in the annual symbolic switch-off. This year, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Earth Hour event will be held at Quezon City Memorial Circle, and taking center stage are bicycles, electric vehicles, renewable energy technologies, and other climate change solutions.
The buck doesn't stop there, of course. There are many ways where you can continue to help save the environment right in your own home--and you can get the kids, to help, too! Education through involvement is the key. Here's a quick age-by-age guide and some practical suggestions:
Toddlers: Start experienced-based environmental education early. Teach your toddlers through puppet plays or storytelling. Simple experiments such as showing how much faster an ice cube melts in warm water compared to cold water will help illustrate sea level rising in a fun and interesting way, or turn recycling a game are good ways to teach them about the environment.
Preschoolers: Preschoolers have a natural affinity for nature. Plan a family garden and make it organic. Plant something you can all eat or drink like a calamansi plant. Encourage your child to take care of the crops with careful watering and then make your own juice from the fruits of your labor. This can lead to discussions about where your food comes from and the importance of caring for food sources.
School-age kids: Adopt a section of road in your neighborhood to keep clean and recycle the cans and bottles you find lying around, or bring them along to participate in a neighborhood recycling drive, or beautifying an area that has been neglected.
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Activities that can teach kids how to help preserve the environment can be embedded in daily life activities. Here are nine everyday things you and your family can incorporate in your daily life to help reduce global warming.
1. Instill a love for the environment in your children. Kids learn best through familiar and simple experiences. Explore and appreciate the plants, animal, and insects in your own backyard or playground.
2. Teach your children to appreciate the outdoors. Take them away from their computers and encourage walks around the village. When kids are more aware of their environment, they will have a natural penchant to look after it. Cultivating a sense of respect in your children means they will grow into caring, knowledgeable adults who are good custodians of their environment.
3. Trash is for the garbage can. Teach your children to throw trash properly. Small items such as candy wrappers should be kept in pockets or bags until they can be disposed properly.
4. Begin with the basic concept of recycling paper, plastic, glass, and metal. Teach children what happens when these items are thrown away. For example, if your child asks why you are recycling plastic grocery bags, explain that grocery bags will stay buried in a landfill for about 100 years.
5. Teach children the concept of reuse. Take all of the clothes your children have outgrown and donate them to charity or a children’s shelter.
6. Be a detective. Take young children around the home and talk about areas where you can save electricity. Are there any lights left on? Appliances left on standby? Slightly older children could be given a specific daily task, such as unplugging the mobile phone charger once fully charged (a shocking 90% of electricity produced by mobile chargers is heat and only 5% actually charges the phone).
7. Save water. The simple act of bringing up your children to turn off the tap while they are brushing their teeth can save five liters of water per minute.
8. Don’t forget to have fun. Don’t make them into some “must do” chore. Presenting these lifestyle choices as a gift rather than a chore helps your children to feel a sense of pride about what they are doing. Giving them specific roles within the family helps them to feel important and valued.
9. And the most important thing, set an example! Whether we like it or not, kids take after an elder’s behaviors. Model care and respect for the natural environment. Talking to children about taking care of the Earth is far less effective than demonstrating simple ways of expressing care—gently handling plants and animals, properly disposing of trash, and recycling or reusing as many materials as possible.
Additional text by Rachel Perez. A version of this article appeared in th August 2008 issue of Smart Parenting magazine.