When you think about people making a difference in terms of sustainability, the under five’s may not be the first group of people that you think of. But really, these are the exact people who we should be looking to for a greener world - because they are our future.
Toddle spoke to Cat Aniere, the CEO of Millennium Kids, Toddle’s charity partner, to find out how Australian children are getting more and more involved in this sustainability movement.
Tell us about Millennium Kids and the work that you do
Millennium Kids is a youth led environmental organisation. A team of young people (from as young as 10 years old) are the Board members and decision makers. These young people raise the issues, create solutions and the rest of the team offers support to make their projects real.
Why do you think we should be teaching the under 5’s about sustainability?
When parents and educators embrace sustainability principles in their daily lives they become role models for future generations. When they choose to limit their waste, recycle, conserve water, catch a bus or train to their destinations instead of driving - young ones are watching. Under 5’s learn from the actions of the adults around them.
Do local schools and child care centres tend to view things with a sustainability lens these days?
I love visiting centres that embrace a range of sustainability challenges, centres that learn about local plants and use local indigenous names, that immerse young people in nature experiences, whose sustainability education programs are intertwined by clear actions. I am seeing more and more schools developing holistic programs that embrace a range of sustainability challenges, it is an exciting time.
What are some easy ways that families can bring more of a sustainability message to their children?
My favourite go-to at the moment is nature-based experiences - a wander in the local park, by a stream, in the bush or just observing a tree. I am working with a primary school to develop a weekly nature journaling experience. So the children will sit and observe, draw and make notes, just like Beatrix Potter, the author, illustrator and naturalist did all those years ago.
Experiencing nature, enjoying the rhythms of the natural world, help form the basis of many sustainability education attitudes.
Do you think children under five are too young to make a difference in terms of the environment?
The beautiful part about sustainability education is we can learn together. I listened to a young researcher from the UK last week as we talked about a child care centre she visited. The children had regular activities at the beach, where they could explore and learn alongside teachers and parents. Children played in the sand, learned about sea life and the birds that migrate to their shores.
I added the challenge of a waste free picnic, where children had to create a waste free lunch and at the end of the day they could use gloves and tongs to pick up any waste they found on the beach left by other people.
Of all the sustainability issues, which do you think are the easiest for under 5’s to understand?
I think it is important for under 5’s to explore and play in nature, for child care centres and parents to nurture a love for observing the birds and the insects that come into the birdbath, to watch seeds grow, to create opportunities to experience the wonder of our natural world.
To keep diaries, note the weather, the seasons, the shapes of clouds, to keep a rain gauge, to photograph and draw the weather patterns. To link the rainfall to water conservation messages, with Toddle stickers to remind us that water is precious.
Would you like to help raise much needed funds for Millennium Kids, to support their ongoing efforts in the area of sustainability? Toddle has produced some gorgeous child-centred sustainability themed merchandise that you can buy for a nominal fee. All money raised from the books, stickers, and colour-in posters goes to Millennium Kids - visit the shop here.
With every child care centre in Australia on our comparison site, Toddle can help to make finding child care easier. Whether you want to find a child care centre with a strong sustainability ethos, a centre that’s near your work, or a centre with extended hours - it’s all there for you at Toddle.
Start your search for child care here with Australia’s most trusted child care comparison site, Toddle.
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