Full disclaimer - I’m a first-time mumma and not a parenting expert. Yes, I have a degree in education and can show a teenager how to calculate the area of a triangle. But when it comes to toddlers, I’m simply learning on the job!
In saying this, I want my son to grow up in a household that is waste-conscious and reduces our environmental footprint. My boy is 18-months-old, so I don’t expect him to understand what I do with him. But I can start paving the way to engage in activities that are better for the environment. Hopefully, since you're reading this blog, you feel the same!
So let's get to it, here are my top five eco-friendly activities for busy parents and their young ones.
1) Engage With Nature
Picture this, it's a beautiful morning, the birds are chirping, you're walking with fresh coffee in hand and there's not a cloud in the sky. These are idyllic settings for any park, beach or nature visit.
In reality, the weather is not always perfect. Depending on where you live, perfectly fine days can be pretty rare. But it's usually worth the effort! Even during those cold, wet mornings, there are still many nature reserves you can explore. Just dress appropriately, wear those wellies and beanies and jump in the mud puddles - it's sensory overload and will have your little one fast asleep come bedtime. Bonus points if you walk, ride or skate there.There's also plenty of activities you can do when you get home using bits and pieces you find along the way. Using play dough to replicate some of what you spotted in nature is also a great little activity, especially trying to replicate trees or stamp leaf patterns into some dough. Check out Pinterest for more nature-based kids activities.
2) Sign Up To The Library
The library is an amazing place for young tots to explore and learn to be curious. See if there are any free events or any librarians are running an afternoon story-time. Getting involved is also a great way to meet other people. Often librarians will put out building blocks or wooden toys, so ask a friendly staff member if they have any available. You can also borrow books with ethical intent. Check out any picture books about sustainability that will inspire your wee tot to protect their planet!
3) Go Through The Recycling Bin
How about using cardboard boxes to make post-boxes, toilet rolls to use as a telescope and even tissue paper to draw on? It doesn't have to be fancy to entertain a young one.
Pinterest has plenty of crafty ideas on what you can do with recycled materials, so get searching. Try looking up phrases like "recycled materials project for kids."
Big cardboard boxes are the BEST for making tunnels, cut-out cars or small cubby-houses. You can even cut some different sized holes along any box and use this for your toddler to practice placing objects through. Also, window flaps are a lot of fun and bound to create a few laughs.
4) Do A Toy Swap With Friends Or Join The Toy Library
I didn’t even know a "Toy Library" existed until earlier this year and what a fantastic concept. It’s essentially a library where you borrow toys instead of books. There's generally a small yearly fee but most places reduce this price if you volunteer your time (another great place to socialise and meet other people). If you have one near you, get involved, these places are amazing!!
Also, a great idea is to do a toy swap with other local parents just to mix things up a little. Remember to give the toy a thorough clean (COVID style) before returning it.
Well….realistically this could be a little challenge with a toddler. I have a learning tower (also known as a kitchen helper) that my son loves. He’s only just started walking and will happily stand at the table and attempt to mix (or mainly eat) what I’m cooking.
Try searching Pinterest (again) for homemade gift ideas you can bake at home, especially with Christmas approaching. For instance, we recently baked salt dough with my son’s handprints to give as small Christmas keepsakes. You could also do a snack/meal swap with some other parents and add these to the freezer stash. Make sure you double-check the allergies of other children first before doing any swaps!
There are plenty of eco-friendly (and free) activities to engage your toddler and teach ethical values for the future. Get creative and do some research online as there's loads of stuff out there. Make sure you share it with me too as I'm always looking for inspiration to keep my boy busy!