A while ago I wrote about how to use storytelling to inspire frugality in our kids.  I apply the same storytelling techniques to teach my kids about the importance of being green and friendly to the earth. Some things work and some don’t, but over time, I’ve developed a system that works quite well.

Going green and being aware of the environment should be instilled deep into the hearts and minds of our kids. When better to start to instill these values than when our kids are young and we’re their biggest influence?  So, start early and put a green voice in their heads with these fun ideas.

1. Share a story about the life cycle of things that matter. Find different ways to get the message across.

Depending on the age of your child, introduce environmental concepts that matter in the world today. Choose just a couple of them.  Find interesting ways of getting your point across — and make sure you tell a complete story, which is a chain of events.

Photo by Marcus Böckmann

How is paper made? Why does it rain? How are seasons created? Why does the vegetation change with the seasons? Introduce simple environmental concepts such as these as a little story, very early on. Find innovative ways to tell your kids these stories.

Here is the rain story we share with my two-year-old and 3.5-year-old:  The oceans have so much water. Little clouds float around and sip a little bit of water everyday. The clouds get bigger and bigger. And they get heavier. The sky gets really crowded and the clouds start running into each other. Then there is thunder, and soon after comes rain.

That’s it — our rain story. The kids love to hear it and tell everyone the story. We also draw and enact the idea — drawing a story is a really great technique to help little kids learn about the environment. We use my office whiteboard to “draw” out the story — no rules really. Since I have little girls, we also do a lot of story plays in our household. We run around as clouds, act like we are all bloated up, run into each other and pour down in rain.

Before you know it, the kids have learned about the rain cycle in a fun way.

2. Help them understand the WHY behind the story.

Once your child has understood the story, start to introduce the whys into the story. Why do we need rivers and oceans? Why do we need the rain? Why do we need the clouds?

In order to help them understand the whys, ask the kids a lot of “what if?” questions. Find opportunities to talk about why each little fact in the story is important.

Since my kids know the different events that tie in to make the rain story, they understand that having no water in the rivers or having no rain for the plants can “changes the story.”

3. Connect environmental issues to every day life. Tie in the emotions effectively.

Learning to nurture the environment is key to building green consciousness. We will never hurt what we nurture, right? Get your child a plant and have them care for the plant every single day.

Photo by Thomas Guingard

We bought our kids little plants. While we don’t always want to talk about death at our home, the kids have wanted to talk about it since our dog died almost six months ago. Strangely, the kids have extended the concept into all living beings. They clearly do not want their plants to go to “plant heaven.”

Kids understand what happens to a plant if they do not water it. As a logical extension, I try to ask them if they understand what happens to the forests if there is no rain and the days get hotter and hotter. After that, I take the opportunity to explain why the  right temperature and rain are important for our forests to be healthy.

Tying tangible issues to their little lives helps them connect emotionally to bigger global issues. At a young age, there is no way children can understand global impacts, but they do have the ability to feel very strongly about things.

4. Make green choices along with them. Then talk about it.

We are extremely serious about not wasting water in our house. Waste water, and you are taking away from the precious rivers and the less fortunate kids who have to walk miles to get clean water. We will always think of ways to save and reuse water.

Every single time I notice my kids wasting water, it is a great opportunity to have a discussion about why they shouldn’t waste it.

We tie paper and forests into a story too.  A great time to tell one is when the kids are using both sides of the paper to draw and color.

It is always important to talk about the choices you make on a daily basis. This is key to driving in stories at a personal level.

5. Find your own stories. Celebrate.

Every story needs a happy ending.  In order to continue making a difference, we need to celebrate our smallest accomplishments and teach our kids to do the same. After all, each of us has to make small differences in every little way we can. So, don’t forget to celebrate your kids’ accomplishments.

We measure the plants that my kids are caring for. We share the joy of a growing plant. I appreciate every little effort they make to save paper and use fewer paper napkins at restaurants.  Positive reinforcement is key for action.

What stories do YOU share with your kids? How do you inspire them to be earth friendly?