How to teach your kids earth-friendly habits

5 ways to get the kiddos involved with sustainable activities
A young boy waters daisies at the Troy Kids' Garden.
Photo courtesy of Patrcia Espedal.

The next generation — that’s why we’re trying to take care of our planet today, right? Introducing green practices to your children is probably easier than you think, even while practicing social distancing during this time. Use outdoor family activities to foster a love for nature, and model environmentally responsible behavior to raise earth-friendly kids. It can be simple, and it’s never too early to start. Here are some ways to get your kids involved:

A man stands on a ledge overlooking Devil's Lake State Park

(Photo courtesy of Ben Bromley)

Take a walk. Gov. Tony Evers ordered the Department of Natural Resources to close 40 state parks, forests and natural areas until further notice, so camping will have to wait. But during this time, moments spent in fresh air are especially important. If kids are restless for activity, lace up their boots and simply enjoy a walk out in nature. Be sure to keep social distancing and the safer-at-home order in mind; you don’t need to go to a playground or friend’s house to spend time outside. Even a 20-minute walk around the neighborhood can be enough to enjoy the sun, scenery and sounds that we often take for granted.

radishes piled high

Photo courtesy of Dane County Farmers’ Market

Enjoy products from local markets and vendors. The Dane County Farmers’ Market is the largest producers-only farmers’ market in the country, and there certainly is something for everyone — even if the market is closed for the time being. The Dane County Farmers’ Market has modified the Capitol Square experience until further notice to keep members of the community safe and healthy, and is instead connecting customers directly with vendors. The market is currently piloting local food pickups at the Garver Feed Mill parking lot after customers contact the vendors, order and prepay. Let the kids help choose locally grown foods for the evening’s dinner, or pick up some freshly baked goods as a morning snack. Incorporating the use of Wisconsin-grown ingredients into your everyday routines and let your kids be a part of the process is a great way to foster a love for local products. For more information on markets, check out our ultimate guide to Madison farmers’ markets.

A happy little boy in an apron holding a paint stick at the Madison Childrens Museum

A consistent Best of Madison winner, the Madison Children’s Museum provides an exciting environment for kids to learn. (Archive photo)

Experience the Madison Children’s Museum. As the only LEED-certified museum in the state, it uses green building practices, nontoxic materials and places an emphasis on the use of local talent in the making of its exhibits. Eco-related exhibits like Urb Garden, the three-season wonderland on the museum’s outdoor deck, teaches kids about sustainable practices like composting and greenhouse activities. Even though the museum is temporarily closed, its Facebook page is constantly posting online videos and activities during this time for children to exercise their brains and get creative. This museum has been honored around 40 times, and has won Madison Magazine’s Best of Madison category for Best Museum numerous years. Read more about the Madison Children’s Museum and its green initiatives here.

Participate with your kids in events. We’ve got a whole list of virtual Earth Day events going on in the month of April right here.

A young girl examines daisies.

Visiting community gardens is just one way to foster a love for nature at a young age. (Photo courtesy of Patricia Espedal)

Check out Troy Gardens’ environmental education programs for teenagers and younger children. Troy Gardens includes mixed-income green-built housing, community gardens, an organic farm, and restored prairie and woodlands. It’s a national sustainability model. The Kids’ Garden in particular is a great way to develop a connection to nature that can sometimes be difficult to establish in urban settings. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, face-to-face educational programs are suspended until further notice and spring field trips are currently on hold. However, Ginny Hughes, deputy director of Rooted, says that the staff of the gardens are working during this time to produce virtual content to pair with meal kits for the schools and community centers that they serve.

Whatever you do, you can still have fun! Make sure kids help choose activities that interest them.

Hannah Twietmeyer is an editorial intern at Madison Magazine.

Editor’s Note: This article has been adapted and updated from a previously published article from Madison Magazine’s archives.

To read more stories from Madison Magazine’s Beyond Earth Day section, click here.