Sustainability in Childcare: How We Teach Children to Care for Our Environment

Sustainability in Childcare: How We Teach Children to Care for Our Environment

Photo: Follyfoot Farm by Busy Bees

As a five-year-old in Ireland reportedly explained to an International research group, sustainability means “to save the world for later” (OMEP Congress, Sweden, 2010)

As part of Quality Area 3 of the National Quality Standards, educating and supporting children to become environmentally responsible is an important part of early childhood. A sustainable early learning Service will not only include environmental education within their curriculum and learning programs, but will also role model sustainable practices within their daily operations. This may include developing sustainable policies around energy usage, water consumption, food waste and engagement with the local community.

Photo: Busy Bees at Warwick

Introducing sustainability to children

It’s never too early to teach children about the environment. Children of all ages benefit from opportunities to connect with nature and experience the great outdoors. Time spent in nature allows children to form connections with the environment as well as learning their place within the world and their ability to influence things. As these connections with nature form, so too does children’s growing environmental awareness.

Four simple ways to teach children to be sustainable include:

1. Read storybooks with environmental themes

Reading storybooks with your child is both an opportunity to bond with them, and an excellent way to introduce difficult topics such as climate change in a child-friendly way. ABC Kids recommends some well-known classics such as Where the Wild Things Are and Charlotte’s Web to start the conversation about the importance of living sustainably.

2. Discuss sustainability at home

Engage your child in discussions about being sustainable at home, such as noticing how the rubbish bin is full, or how many food scraps are left over after dinner, or when the tap hasn’t been turned off correctly. Discuss what can be done to reduce waste, such as recycling rubbish or composting food scraps. You may even like to start a worm farm or compost bin at home, or involve your child in sorting through rubbish together to see what can be recycled or re-purposed. For pre-schoolers, having a responsibility or job to do can help scaffold their growing independence while also forming sustainable habits. Give your child the job of being the “energy saver” in the house, responsible for noticing lights, fans and other appliances left on when not in use.

3. Spend more time in nature

When was the last time you got outdoors as a family? Going on bushwalks, visiting the beach, birdwatching or simply enjoying the nature in your own neighbourhood provide many important opportunities to discuss sustainability. As you’re walking or enjoying the scenery, discuss the environment around you, observe any animals you see along the way, or you could even bring a bag to collect some rubbish on your walk and discuss how it’s important to keep our environment clean.

4. Start a veggie garden

Perhaps you could start a veggie patch at home. Planting seeds, watering and caring for plants helps children understand the concept of food and where it comes from. Through growing their own vegetables, children learn about the process of farm to plate. This also opens up so many potential conversations around food production and climate change: How long do you think this zucchini will take to grow big enough to eat? What would happen if there was not enough rain to water the garden?

Photo: the children at Busy Bees at Fraser Coast build a frog hotel

How we embed sustainable practices at Busy Bees

At Busy Bees, we are committed to protecting our environment to ensure a sustainable future for our children. We do this in a number of ways within our Services and Head Office such as using electronic communications to limit paper waste, incorporating recycled and second hand materials in children’s play, reducing water wastage where possible, and regularly reviewing our policies and procedures to ensure more sustainable outcomes.

Our employees, children and families work together to protect our environment as we educate children about the importance of being environmentally responsible within our everyday practice.

In our educational programs and conversations with children, Busy Bees Educators support children in learning to care for the environment by:

  • Including sustainability and environmentally responsible practices as part of the curriculum, and in discussions with children and families
  • Providing information to families on environmentally responsible practices that are implemented at the Service and encouraging these practices at home
  • Making recycling part of everyday practice at the Service – Recyclable containers will be provided throughout mealtimes and in learning experiences
  • Sharing ideas between Educators, children, and families about environmentally responsible ideas, implementation, and resources. This will be supported through our communication strategies, including parent meetings, emails, newsletters, and informal conversations.
  • Role modelling energy and water conservation practices: For example, turning off lights and air-conditioning when a room is not in use, emptying water play containers onto garden areas.
  • Embedding the concept of ‘reduce, re-use and recycle’ in everyday practice for both children and Educators to build lifelong attitudes towards environmentally responsible practices
  • Purchasing equipment that is environmentally friendly where possible. Educators will reduce the amount of plastic and disposable equipment they purchase and select materials that are made of natural materials.
  • Using worm farms and/or compost bins to reduce food waste in the Service. Children will be encouraged to place food scraps into separate containers for use in the worm farm or composting bin. Educators will provide visual guides and discuss with the children and families which scraps worms can eat, which foods can be composted, and which food scraps must go in the bin. The children will be involved in maintaining the worm farm and compost bin.
  • Using ‘green cleaning’ products to replace chemicals where possible
Each Busy Bees Service has created their own Busy Bees Environmental Commitment Statement to ensure that as a whole, Busy Bees is working toward providing an environment that is cleaner and healthier for all our stakeholders while supporting sustainability. To find out more about how Busy Bees supports the environment, contact your nearest Service.

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