Today’s kids are more and more disconnected from the outdoors. Most are plugged into their tablets, phones and computers for hours a day instead of exploring nature and the outside world. Without that connection to their environment, how can parents teach their kids to take care of the planet? Follow these simple steps and soon your children will be living green.

Make a Game of It

Starting at a very young age, make environmentally friendly practices fun. Kids are never too small to sort recyclables. Have different bins available for glass, paper, plastic and cans. Put pictures of each type of refuse on each bin and turn it into a matching game.

Grow Your Own Food

One of the best ways to educate kids about the environment is to teach them about real food and where it comes from. Grow your own vegetables, fruits and herbs in a garden. Besides being a fun way to spend time together, a home garden can help lessen your carbon footprint. The plants can help reduce the amount of CO2 in the air and will also prevent more from entering from the trucks, planes and boats needed to transport it to your local store. Better yet, start a backyard compost bin with your food scraps rather than putting them in the garbage and having a truck cart them away to a landfill. It’s a natural way for organic materials to break down into nutrient-rich soil that you can reuse in your garden. It’s nature’s way of recycling!

School Programs

There are many programs locally and nationally that focus on teaching our kids how to take care of the environment. NCF-Envirothon is a program that encourages high school students to become interested in natural resource conservation and environmental issues and careers. Many elementary and middle schools follow this model and have their own competitions. If your school doesn’t have a current program, volunteer to create one. Start a community garden, recycling program or host an Earth Day event.

Lunchbox Lessons

When your child heads off to school, you’ll want to pack a lunch that is nutritious, fun and also earth friendly. Rather than a brown paper bag, use an eco-friendly lunchbox like this one from Go Green Lunchbox. Avoid buying prepackaged snacks, throwaway plastic utensils, napkins, juice boxes and plastic bags to wrap items individually.

Be a Good Environmental Role Model

When you leave a room, turn out the lights. Turn off the water while you brush your teeth. Set a timer for while you are in the shower to use less water. Lower the heat a degree or two in the winter and use an extra blanket at night or put on a sweater. These are all simple ways to model green behavior. Once your children see you doing it, they will naturally follow suit.

Vacations as Teachable Moments

If you head to the beach, collect seashells or talk about the plant and animal species that live in and around the ocean or lake. Visit a National Park and have your kid become a Junior Ranger. The Junior Ranger motto is “Explore, Learn, and Protect!” When visiting many parks, youth can complete a series of activities during the visit, share their answers with a park ranger and receive an official Junior Ranger patch and Junior Ranger certificate.

Get Outside

One of the best ways to teach your children about the environment and raise health-conscious kids is to actually get outside and have some fun.Take them hiking, fishing or canoeing and let them connect with nature. Encourage them to get dirty! Collect sticks and leaves to take home and upcycle into art. Lift up rocks and see what natural surprises may be underneath. Create a scavenger hunt or participate in letterboxing. Build a birdhouse and watch who comes to visit. Mother Nature can be one of the best teachers if you use all she has to offer.

What ways have you taught your kids to become more environmentally friendly? Tell us in the comments!