The latest generations of kids are rapidly growing up in a modern world full of wonders and challenges that couldn't have been imagined in decades past. They're often referred to as "natives" in regard to technology - and to watch a young child maneuver their way around a smartphone or iPad, it's amazing just how intuitively children can operate technologies that mom and dad had to make an effort to learn. For kids today, learning to live sustainably from the start is as much a part of growing up as surfing the Internet, but by making it fun and easy to comprehend, parents can ensure that the lessons of today will last a lifetime.
The science and studies behind environmental conservation might be a bit too complex for children to understand, but the practical ways to make changes toward a "greener" lifestyle are easy enough that even the youngest family members can participate. Putting environmental awareness in child-friendly terms will encourage kids to participate.
A relatable character -- such as the animated Pocoyo, whose show airs on Nick Jr. and who was named the first Global Kids' Ambassador for the World Wildlife Fund's Earth Hour "Beyond the Hour" campaign -- can make it easier for kids to understand why protecting the environment is both fun and necessary. And by taking a creative approach to "green" household chores, you'll help your children form habits that benefits your own home and the world.
Try these helpful tips from Pocoyo to help your kids be eco-friendly from the start.
* Turn off the energy. Explain to kids that lights, televisions and computers use energy, which uses up precious natural resources and creates pollution. Make a game of turning off lights before bed: Whoever shuts off the most unnecessary lights is the winner. You can also make a special occasion out of saving energy: have an energy-free family night, using flashlights and fun activities like playing board games or storytelling.
* Make recycling fun. There are lots of ways to make recycling an activity your kids will look forward to. Try a short-distance toss game with non-breakable items, or simply make a game of sorting items the day before you set them out for collection. You can also reinforce the value of recycling by reusing materials for craft projects; try making masks out of cardboard from old boxes or paper planes from excess paper.
* Look for ways to cut waste. Disposable items like plastic water bottles and shopping bags take up a lot of space when you save them up, making it easy for a child to understand just how much room they might take up in a landfill. Instead of wasting all those bottles and bags, have your child help pick out reusable bottles and shopping bags for the whole family to re-use.
* Try new ways to travel around town. It's easy to rely on cars to get around, but they're the cause of a lot of pollution and use up natural resources as well. The fun of simply being together on a walk or a bike ride can make for an exciting alternative to the standard car ride. Or, if you need to go a longer distance, try taking public transportation - kids will love the opportunity to get on a big bus or a train that will deliver you to your destination.
* Take it to the table. The way we eat can have a big impact on the environment, so teaching kids to be thoughtful about where their food comes from is important. Try instituting a meatless meal one day a week and get kids involved in picking recipes and the cooking process. You can also have fun getting your hands dirty by planting a backyard garden, in which you can grow herbs, fruits and vegetables.
When kids get an early start on learning to be earth-friendly, it'll simply become a part of how they live. To learn more, visit www.pocoyo.com and watch Pocoyo on Nick Jr. on Saturdays and Sundays at 1 p.m. EST or 10 a.m. PST and visit www.earthhour.org for more information.