There are a number of ways to empower your aging parents and your children to engage with the natural world, and doing so can lead both generations to become more conscious of environmental issues, such as climate change and conservation practices. The available fun activities your parents and children can share to learn and grow together are endless, with the right mindset and some ingenuity.
How we interact with the Earth and our daily habits have a direct effect on the environment. Our choices of whether or not to recycle, what kinds of arts and crafts we choose to do, and where we volunteer our time can all impact our natural world — for better or worse. Fostering a relationship around the following activities can aid in making both your parents and your children more aware of the need for environmental protection and why it is important to try to implement more sustainable living practices into our daily routines.
The importance of building an eco-friendly home and backyard for your child is often underemphasized, and gardening offers so many different facets of learning and connecting with the environment available in your own backyard. Additionally, experts have drawn a parallel between working with soil and psychological benefits for all ages, such as reducing symptoms of depression. Seniors benefit from working in the garden due to the low-impact activity which keeps them moving.
Start with planting trees in your background and creating an eco-friendly garden with your child to raise their awareness of nature. You can also establish a vegetable garden to show them where their food comes from and the effort it takes to grow it. Both children and their grandparents can take pride in reaping the benefits of their hard work, as well as helping the environment. On top of trees, planting a diverse vegetable garden can help to restore depleted soils and promote the growth of healthy bacterias.
There are many fun activities that seniors and children can do together that allow both participants to get some low-impact exercise, such as nature walks. Moving at a walking pace through nature allows for a more captivating experience than one would have on a bike or in a car. It provides you and your loved ones the opportunity to stop and explore when you feel called to do so. Taking nature walks may also help your parents and your children establish a deeper connection to a place. The more a person can connect with somewhere, the more likely they are to take action to protect it.
Additionally, nature can serve as its own diverse classroom — offering biology, geology, ecology, and wildlife science lessons while resting from a spot under a tree. You or your parents can also use this as an opportunity to teach your children about pollinators and how important bees are to our food system. It may help to alleviate any negative feelings that your children may have associated with bees.
Environmental education has a variety of positive impacts on young learners. As noted by Concordia University, it can:
- Teach students to serve, protect, and participate with their communities
- Promote citizenship and social responsibility
- Influence learners to consider the long-term condition of the world they will inherit
- Teach real-world problem-solving skills
Communities are constantly looking for volunteers to lend a hand in a variety of different ways. From fundraisers for conservation efforts to participating in river cleanups, there is a broad range of opportunities for your parents and children to choose from. Grandparents can set a leading example for their grandkids in how to give back to their community by showing up or organizing events that serve the environment and the community. Volunteering has also been shown to have many benefits for seniors, from keeping depression at bay to preventing dementia — an additional reason for your parents to be volunteering after retirement.
Finding ways to bring together your parents and your children should not be thought of as difficult. Even if your parents have physical disabilities, help put together some of the following activities to create a deeper bond between the two generations and the environment:
- Storytelling: Have your parents and your children get together in a green space and share stories about memories of when they have spent in nature with one another. Perhaps you live in an area where your children have never seen snow or the ocean, but your parents can share the experiences they have had.
- Nature art: Anything in nature can be used to make art. A single pinecone can be taken apart to create a piece on the ground. It is a valuable lesson for children on the ephemeral nature of the natural world as they watch the wind carry it away.
- Share pictures: Everyone loves beautiful places and seeing photos of them. Go through family albums and share some of the places that both your parents and yourself have spent time and how they have changed today.
Even if your parents have never considered themselves environmentalists, they may feel compelled to set a good example for their grandchildren. With the activities outlined above, they can engage with both nature and their grandchildren. It can create small changes in their own behavior, such as finding themselves picking up litter where they never would have felt compelled to before. Such actions have a domino effect when shared with others — encouraging your parents and children to be environmental advocates may, in turn, create a few more!