Don’t dampen his enthusiasm Most children this age pay considerable attention to their surroundings because they have an innate curiosity to learn. That’s why he digs holes in the garden, looks under stones, asks lots of questions, and has an endless desire to explore. His eco-awareness is instinctive – don’t discourage it.
Explain about limited resources Your child probably assumes that resources such as water, food and fuel will always exist, exactly as they do now. He takes for granted that when something in his environment disappears (for instance, when he finishes a slice of bread), it can be replaced by simply buying another one from the supermarket.
Discourage waste He might also assume that if he can get water from the tap in his kitchen, everybody else in the world can get water from their taps in their kitchens – and that water will always come from there. So, your nine-year-old might not be bothered to turn off the tap after he uses it, until you point out that supplies of water are in fact limited.
Develop hIs ecological sensitivity You can help him become more environmentally aware by asking him to treat his surroundings in the same way in which he treats his own possessions. Point out that just as he has no more sweets when he finishes the packet, people can run out of water if everyone wastes it. Be careful not to frighten him, however, into thinking that the world is in danger.
What he does makes a difference For a child this age, the world is a vast place and he may assume that what he does won’t really change things because he is so small. Tell him that every little bit helps, and that if enough children his age save water and recycle old books, that would soon add up to a large amount.
Provide a specific project Suggest that he plant flowers or herbs in a pot outside your flat, play his part in throwing recyclable rubbish into the right bins, or give his old toys to other children instead of throwing them out. Such first-hand experience of an action that helps to conserve the environment can stimulate his interest further, as well as provide him with a fun activity.
Consider a field trip You could take your nine-year-old to a nature reserve in order to let him study the wildlife there, or encourage him to notice the difference between the different species of birds that fly around the house. Stimulating his environmental awareness now could start a process that lasts throughout his life.
Set a good example Your child is heavily influenced by your attitude towards the environment – if you behave in an eco-friendly manner, this has a positive impact on his attitude. Let your child see that you, for instance, recycle your rubbish effectively by dividing it into separate piles for collection.
Ask for his suggestions and implement them Challenge your little one to think of ways in which your family could become more eco-conscious. Where possible, put his suggestion into practice. He will be delighted to see you take up his suggestion of, say, using fewer plastic bags when you pack your groceries in the supermarket. This makes eco-friendliness very real for him.