Six Ways to Raise Eco-Conscious Toddlers

March 31st, 2010 by Dionna | 13 Comments
Posted in Children, Compassionate Advocacy, Eclectic Learning, Ecological Responsibility and Love of Nature, Environmentalism, Guest Posts, Homey Goodness, Infants, Just for Fun/Miscellaneous, natural parenting, Preschoolers, Toddlers

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Today I am happy to welcome Tara, who has written a guest post on raising eco-conscious toddlers. Tara publishes, a light green living blog dedicated to offering tips on eco-conscious living. Mother of five beautiful kidlets, ages 3 months to 12 years, Tara loves all things eco-chic and natural. She considers herself “light green” among the shades of being green and enjoys organic coffee to keep her going. Visit today for more tips on going green!


woman and toddler on grassYou probably know that children learn by example – but sometimes setting a good example can be tricky for parents. However, if you start early enough, and follow the six tips given below, you can teach your toddler to be more eco-conscious. Teaching environmental responsibility from an early age makes it a lot easier for children to be eco-friendly when they get older.

As with most other activities, not all are appropriate for all age groups. With your toddler, it may be too far of a reach to expect your child to choose the environmentally friendly thing to do on his/her own.

You can help toddlers learn to be eco-aware in the following ways:

1.  Teach your toddler that it’s good to shut the water off when brushing their teeth. Not only will you be teaching them good oral hygiene, you’ll be modeling good water conservation habits, too.

2.  Toddlers can also easily learn the importance of saving energy and turning electronics off when they are not being used. It doesn’t really matter how old your child is – most will just walk out of the room and leave the TV, computer and radio on. Turning the lights off when you leave the room is an activity that a toddler can easily handle. Teach him or her that when the blinds or drapes are open, there’s usually enough sunlight to illuminate the room during the day. Frequent but gentle reminders will help your toddler remember to turn things off when they are done using them.

3.  When taking your toddler to the park or to day care, try to carpool with other parents or friends. Tell him or her, in age-appropriate terms, how important it is to conserve fuel by sharing trips when more than one person is going to the same place. When going out grocery shopping, you should use paper bags (having your toddler put them in the recycling bin when done using them) or get reusable totes, allowing him or her to decorate their own.

4. Show your toddler how to separate trash. They can tell the difference between paper, metal, glass and plastic at an early age – it’s like a “memory” game. They may not be old enough to grasp WHY the trash is being sorted, but they can certainly have fun putting each piece of trash in the correct place.
When I started teaching my oldest son (at 2 1/2), I kept two wicker baskets in my kitchen. One had a red liner and one had a blue liner and the front of each basket had a photo of paper or milk jug. Anytime I needed to get rid of papers or newspaper products, I asked my son to put them into the “red” basket. I made it somewhat of a game to get the recycled goods into the correct baskets instead of in the trash. After a few months, he would find things around the house or be in the kitchen while I was cooking, and would grab things just to put them into the baskets. It was fun and he was proud he was doing something good.

5.  Instead of buying your toddler the newest toy as soon as it goes on sale, help them learn how to find new uses for their old toys, or teach them the value of giving to others by donating toys. By helping your toddler figure out what to do with their old toys, you’re teaching them not only about charity, but about recycling as well.

6. You can also teach your toddler to be more eco-conscious by getting them outside. Good environmental practices are more likely to sink in if the child has a concept of exactly what it is that they are “helping” to do. This can be as simple as taking them on a nature walk, or to the zoo. You can also teach them about gardening and most children enjoy getting dirty, so gardening is right up their alley! Grow some simple vegetables for your family to eat. You’ll be feeding everyone at a lower price, teaching Science, and you’ll be helping to diminish the impact that pesticides and fertilizers have on the environment.

Teaching your toddler to be more eco-friendly is really quite simple, and if it’s done the right way, it can even be fun. Start instilling good habits early on, and those habits will stay with them for life. The world is in the next generation’s hands – teach them how to take care of the Earth!

Photo credit: Toni Blay

13 Responses to:
"Six Ways to Raise Eco-Conscious Toddlers"

  1. Marilyn @ A Lot of Loves   ALotofLoves

    These are some great ideas. I’m glad to see that we do more than half of them already!

  2. curlymonkey   curlymonkey_

    Great post!

    • Tara   thewahm

      Thanks! I appreciate it! I always love sharing tips with fellow parents on raising green kids.

  3. jen   diplomom08

    Great post! We have been teaching our little guy (youngest of 3) where to put things (recycling, green waste/compost and actual trash) since he showed any interest in them (late crawling/early walking?). We now only need to say “green waste” and he walks right over and puts the item in.

    Oh, and getting outside…even just to play in the mud on a rainy day…they love it!

    • Tara   thewahm

      It is amazing how easy it is to teach the recycling and/or trash helping habits. Kids are just amazing with putting things into trash can by nature. HaHa

  4. Dionna   CodeNameMama

    We do all of these things!! Ok – the carpooling not so much, but we do carpool occasionally. It’s just such a pain to switch car seats!
    Thank you for the guest post, Tara :)

    • Tara   thewahm

      Thanks for the opportunity Dionna!

      Your right it can be a pain to move the car seats around, thank goodness for the LATCH system because it does save major time.

  5. Amber   AmberStrocel

    We do these things. My daughter is 5 now, and I’m not sure how much of it she ‘got’ until she was around 4 or so. But I believe that during toddlerhood I was laying the groundwork all the same. Now, it’s second nature to her, whether she even really knows why or not.

    • Tara   thewahm

      Amber, I agree with you that when they are very young we are laying the groundwork! As with anything, kids learn behavior by repetition, so by the time they are a few years old..maybe 3-4 they not only do what we have taught, but understand why,

  6. Melodie   bfmom

    Great ideas! I know that one thing I could do better is teaching my kids how to sort the recycling, and it would be fun! Right now I do all of it because our bins are in the garage, but I should bring a couple baskets into our kitchen too. Thanks!

  7. Tara   thewahm

    Hi Melodie,
    Next time you are out on a weekend, hit a few yard sales and see if you can find a few cheap baskets. My kids have really enjoyed helping with the recycling.

  8. Amy

    Great list. I want to add one that doesn’t appear to be explicitly about ecology at all:

    Teach them to clean up after themselves.

    Children who, when they’re toddlers, find, “if I let it fall, it’s magically picked up and put away” grow into adults who think “whatever mess I make isn’t my problem.” “The earth can take care of itself.” “The ocean / the air / the landfill has plenty of room.”

    So when we say to our kids, “We need to put away the Tinker Toys before we get out the dolls–here, I’ll help you,” we are giving them a life skill that may keep our planet fit for human habitation. If it isn’t too late by the time they are our age…

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