One challenge is teaching your young child lifelong eco-friendly habits at home. However, it is even more difficult to ensure that teaching outside the home is reinforced.
If you’re a parent who uses daycare to care for your child, it doesn’t seem like you have a lot of control over how eco-friendly the center is – but your contribution can redesign your child’s daycare experience to make them stand out . There are a few things you can do to help your child continue learning about sustainable living habits in daycare.
Coordinate with your day care center
If you haven’t selected a daycare center, check the options available for clear statements about sustainability practices. If an organization doesn’t cover sustainability on their website or in their recruiting materials, you can bet they aren’t consistently promoting environmentally friendly behavior.
However, if you already have a daycare center, start the discussion with a conversation with the daycare staff. Talk about your family’s sustainability focus and the importance of having your child at the center of the same values. Some centers are more receptive to parental involvement than others. So, if you haven’t chosen a daycare center yet, choose one that welcomes your help with green changes.
Study and play time
Children’s learning continues when they are not at home. And when you get your day care center on board, your child can learn more about the environment and sustainability on the go. Here are a few ways you can change your existing daycare program:
- Donate books to the daycare center that is about caring for our planet and active environmentally friendly practices like recycling. The Lorax from Dr. Seuss is a great addition to any daycare library and a storytime winner.
- If the site doesn’t have recycling bins, donate or have your local recycling program deliver them. Make recycling a fun activity for your child at home and in daycare. A simple sorting activity can be a fun game that will help build visual perception and thinking skills and teach kids to recycle. If your daycare center does not yet have bins for recyclables, suggest that the children be involved in setting up their own recycling center. Once set up, it can become a daily activity for kids to make sure the right trash goes into the right bins.
- If your daycare doesn’t need outdoor class time yet, suggest it – and offer help. Put some blankets on the grass and learn about nature and our role in the environment. Let the children roam the garden or take them on a class excursion where they can collect natural objects such as interesting stones, leaves or pine cones to use in future art projects.
When snack time is running out, it is easy for daycare workers to give the children whatever is simple, cheap, and causes the least amount of clutter. But prepared snacks often contain unhealthy ingredients and are individually packaged in packaging that is difficult to recycle. Send your child to daycare with snacks you wrap to make sure they get healthy food that meets your sustainability standards.
- Skip the prepackaged lunchables. Instead, pack a healthier snack for your child that is fresher, eliminates packaging waste and saves money.
- Use fresh fruit instead of buying pre-cut and wrapped apples or clementine slices in plastic cups. Just peel or cut larger fruits so that little hands can handle them more easily.
- Pack snacks in reusable containers to avoid waste. Make beeswax wraps and use them to wrap your child’s snacks instead of disposable plastic bags.
Help in daycare
As a parent, you don’t have much control over the types of activities your daycare center offers. However, they can make inquiries – and donate materials and time to help them integrate sustainable activities into their everyday lives. Since most day care centers are small, independently owned businesses, they usually operate on a tight budget and will likely appreciate free materials and help.
- Find free resources in your community. If your daycare needs books or toys, reach out to other families in your neighborhood to see if they have unused families that are still in good shape and ready to donate.
- Offer to spend a Saturday helping the daycare center create a kid-friendly garden or set up a compost bin. When they are receptive, gather a group of parents to help. Gardening and composting offer many opportunities to learn about the environment and sustainable practices.
- Empty milk cartons, cereal boxes, and plastic bottles are great for teaching kids what can be recycled, but they can also be great materials for art projects. Offer these (clean) materials to your daycare center and suggest fun handicraft projects that turn these materials into something new. Even paper bags from your grocery stores and old newspapers may be welcome for coloring, drawing, and paper makingIt is Activities.
The bottom line
Although the main job of a daycare center is taking care of the kids, at the end of the day you are the one paying the bill. So don’t be afraid to let them know your sustainability preferences and see if they can help achieve these goals while they take care of your young child. Sending your child to daycare doesn’t have to negate your hard work teaching your child environmentally friendly habits.
Even if you have coordinated with your day-care center beforehand, you should be prepared for the fact that the day-care center staff may push something back. If they are new, they may not understand your intentions and may think that you are including yourself because you do not trust them to properly care for your child. Let them know that you trust their childcare expertise and just want to help.
About the author
Emma is a digital nomad and a freelance sustainability writer. When she’s not jumping from cafe to cafe, you can find her at your local beach cleaner or hike to the nearest lookout point.