Everyone knows that in their small (and often sticky) hands, kids hold something special. As future voters, decision makers and citizens of the world they hold the power to make real changes and reshape marine conservation.
It’s never too early to encourage kids to think about conservation and we’ve got some tips to get you started.
• Practice what you preach
Like with most things, kids learn through observation. The first step to encouraging them to be environmentally responsible is to be so yourself. When they see you doing the right thing – or at least trying (we know we’re not all perfect) – they’ll quickly catch on.
• Get Crafty
There are so many great craft ideas out there than can encourage recycling or can include a conservation lesson! One example is to buy a blank calico/canvas bag and allow the kids to decorate it themselves. They’ll be proud of the work they’ve done and be more likely to use their reusable bag.
• Encourage curiosity and exploration
Of course we’re big advocates of encouraging kids to explore the underwater world (we know, we might be biased). Kids as young as 8 can participate in PADI®programs and start learning about the underwater world through scuba. But exploration doesn’t just have to happen underwater. Encourage them to explore books, films, websites – anything that will engage them. PADI AmbassaDivers Steve & Riley Hathaway of Young Ocean Explorers have created a great free interactive website that encourages kids to explore, learn and have fun at the same time.
• Cook up a lesson
Few things are more fun (or more messy if I’m completely honest) than cooking with kids and it can teach them so many things – not just about conservation but maths and nutrition too. A great way to turn a cooking class into a conservation lesson is to cook ocean themed snacks or meals. A quick browse on Pinterest will leave you with ideas to last you all year.
• Incorporate lessons into everyday life
Use every opportunity to help kids understand the importance of sustainability. Things like discussing sustainable seafood when cooking their favourite meal, or encouraging them to turn the tap off as they brush their teeth. These may seem like small things, but they can make a big difference.
• Turn sustainability into a game
Create a game between siblings or friends to encourage them to consider the environment. Develop a points system for different conservation acts – composting, recycling or saying no to a straw when out at a café – and reward the winner with a prize.
Each year, more than 50 million plastic straws are used in the US alone! There’s some really funky alternatives out there, let the kids choose their own colorful glass or aluminum straw options featured on StrawlessOcean.org and we bet they’ll be excited to take it everywhere with them.
• Give them a Job
No, we’re not supporting children working, but giving kids ownership of things can help get them excited and involved. Decide on roles and responsibility together, for example the ‘Electricity Monitor’ who is responsible for turning off any unnecessary lights in the house at any given time. This approach can also be used in the classroom with roles being shared amongst students.
Do you have another way that you get kids involved in conservation activities? Let us know.