Kids’ entertainment is a massive industry and has a massive impact on the environment. Vast quantities of children’s toys and games are manufactured in the U.S. and also imported, particularly from China. Many are made from non-recyclable and non-biodegradable plastics.
Yet millions of these items are barely played with before they end up in a landfill site. Even community conscious families who prefer to take unwanted toys to a charity shop rather than toss them in the garbage may meet with resistance as some charities refuse to stock toys and games because of the risk of selling on items containing lead.
And when our children are not playing with or asking for new toys, many of their other activities have just as much impact on the environment. Driving children to and from various extra curricular activities accounts for half or more of the total car use in some families.
Even when your child is quietly entertaining himself at home, chances are that he is doing so with some kind of electronic device, from TV to computer or mobile phone. A recent poll by the National Sleep Foundation found that 97% of teenagers have at least one electronic device in their bedroom; on average sixth grade kids had over two devices in their room, and high school seniors reported having four!
All this goes to show that taking a serious look at how your children are entertained can be an area of huge scope in terms of reducing your family’s carbon footprint.
Here are some ideas for low or zero carbon activities that could be jumping off points to lead you and your kids down fun, educational and environmentally friendly paths to new hobbies and interests.
There are dozens of fun games that can be played both outdoors and in, and which require no equipment whatsoever. Some are more appropriate for small children, while others can be exciting and entertaining for all ages.
Do you remember any from your own childhood? Here are a few suggestions to look up if you’re stumped for ideas!Swapsies
What’s the time Mr. Wolf?
Down on the Farm
Who am I?
Hide and Seek
Red Light Green Light
You don’t need a garden in order for your children to have fun with plants. A balcony or even a window ledge is enough space to let your kids grow a few organic plants and you can do it at very low cost.
Yoghurt and other plastic containers can be reused as planters, and you should remember to encourage your child to save bath water or other lightly used water rather than running a tap.
Mini-tomatoes, green beans, celery or sweet peas are good choices, and for older children a herb garden can be particularly satisfying.
Be sure to encourage your children to “own” their plants and take care of them daily just as they would a pet.
Re-use Before You Recycle!
Teaching our kids to recycle is very important, but there are hundreds of fun and inventive projects you can do with things before you throw them into the recycling bin!
Cardboard boxes make great playhouses, old clothes are fun for dressing up and jam jars have dozens of important uses from bug catching to making containers to organize your room.
A fun resource you can use is http://www.kid-at-art.com/htdoc/matchtmp.html – here you can search for an art project suitable for your piece of waste.
Walking and Nature
Walking and exploring nature is a great zero-carbon way to spend time as a family. Kids used to spend much more time walking and playing outside than they do these days.
Today, a lot of kids won’t show much enthusiasm if you simply suggest a “walk”, so if you want to spend time outdoors as a family then you may find that you will need to turn your outing into something more interesting – an adventure, a mission or a field trip. Ideas to help prevent the cries of “I’m bored!” Include:
Water – kids love anything to do with water so make a pond, stream or river your destination and let them paddle, dabble with a jam jar or feed the ducks
Collecting – turn a walk in the park or woods into a competition to see who can collect the most different feathers, colored pebbles etc, or who can spot (and identify, if your kids are older) the most birds / trees / flowers
Benefits for the Environment and Your Kids
When you put a bit of imagination and effort into encouraging your kids into zero-carbon activities, there are added health benefits that naturally follow when your child spends less time in front TV and computer screens. It’s a good thing to do however you look at it!