Blog / Sustainability in Early Childhood Education

March 23 2022,

Sustainability in Early Childhood Education

Becoming environmentally responsible, what does that mean? This can often be confusing and complex for children as this concept is very broad. When we hear the word ‘sustainability’, we often link this to a major project such as ‘Green Space’  where it incorporates steps to be followed and outcomes to be achieved. However, sustainability in early childhood education breaks this down to simple and manageable tasks where the goal is not for children to comprehend the concept but to expose and prepare them as they continue to learn in their later lives. 

In order to expose children to sustainability in the ‘right’ direction, we need to look deeper at what this concept actually means. An article from Early Childhood Australia states ‘educators engage in tangible aspects of sustainability such as establishing compost bins and introducing the concept of recycling’ (The Spoke-  Early Childhood Australia, 2019). However through pedagogical practices and informed by research, perspectives on sustainability should be shifted as this results in more meaningful conversations and critical reflections with children. The need for greater sustainability becomes more apparent globally, therefore the importance of embedding sustainability in children's programs and routines are also increasing. 

Parents often say ‘we don’t have that much time on our hands to teach and come up with experience ideas like teachers at home, however this is much easier than you think and can also make children’s routines more fun. Below are some examples and ideas that can be adopted costing very little money and time. 

  1. Teaching children to wash their hands and turn off taps to conserve water. 

E.g. If you observe your child leaving the tap on for convenience while they are brushing their teeth,  that’s an opportunity for teaching. We all know ‘show’ is more effective than ‘tell’,  role-model how you turn off the tap when you brush your teeth and observe the child’s reaction.

  1. Allow your child to engage in your routines when appropriate.

E.g. When you take the bin out, explain to children why there are different coloured bins and encourage them to assist you by categorizing the rubbish. Ask them ‘why’ there are different coloured bins to encourage critical thinking and inquiry. This builds not only on their knowledge of recycling, reusing, sorting and classifying but also simple numeracy concepts are also evident. 

Experience idea: 

To follow up what’s mentioned above, you could create three child-friendly bins out of milk containers that match with the ones in your household. Remember to label with pictures! 

  1. Only ‘buy’ toys when necessary.

Yes, there are toys that cannot be made, however observations and experiences from early childhood educators will tell you that toys that are created last much longer than the ones from the shops as children don’t get bored easily. These toys are much more open-ended which provides more opportunities for children to manipulate it in their own creative  ways. 

Some materials to keep include (just to name a few): 

  1. Egg cartons 
  2. Milk containers 
  3. Any cardboard boxes (Children really do  love them). 
  4. Corks 
  5. Jar lids 
  6. Take away containers 
  7. Large yoghurt containers 

The most important thing to embed sustainability practices at home with your child is through role-modelling. Children are full of questions and are very curious as  to what is happening around them, therefore if you view their ‘why?’ as an opportunity for teaching they will have fun while learning! -  spontaneous teaching occurs anytime. Sustainability is a complex and important topic , however  through games, creative ideas and your role modelling, children will find it easier to relate to and will therefore become more observant to what’s happening in their  environment, influencing their habits as they grow!

Much sustainable love from the team at Turtletot

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