Want your kids to be climate warriors? Go to the beach instead of the mall

With UAE schools at the forefront of teaching children about climate change, parents can strengthen the message with simple conversations and activities

Helping the environment and fighting climate change are important conversations that should be reinforced at home. Getty Images
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As with charity, environmental awareness begins at home.

Cop28 has shone a light on the UAE’s contribution to fighting global climate change, sparking a series of events across the country.

This is particularly true in schools around the Emirates, which have become instrumental in educating children about the effects of climate change and what is being done to fight it.

The effectiveness of the message is being improved by intertwining it with subjects such as science, English, drama and connected curriculums, making awareness a part of young people’s lives – and always with a message of hope.

With educational establishments playing such a major part, it’s vital that parents don’t leave that message at the school gate, but continue to reiterate and reinforce it at home.

Through actions, words and, most importantly, setting an example, raising the next generation of environmentally aware and active young people has become a shared, lived experience – at least in my family of five.

Here are some uncomplicated, age-appropriate and fun ways to incorporate easy-to-understand environmental messages into your children’s daily lives.

Build on what they learn at school

Busy lives mean parents may miss out on doing the school run when, as many mums and dads can attest, the little ones are most talkative about their day and what they’ve been up to.

That chatty half-hour after pickup can be a far cry from the “I don’t know” or “nothing” answers that can come a little later.

To counter the “don’t knows” and “nothings”, familiarise yourself with your child’s school calendar and timetable.

Use the class and year chat groups to find out from other parents what the children learnt that day and initiate discussions around those topics, with an emphasis on areas with an environmental slant.

Seek out daily teachable moments

Like most people, children respond far better to dialogue and discussion than lectures.

Get into the mindset of looking for learning moments throughout the day, which can turn any activity or task into a lesson that encourages children to look at things from a different angle.

While brushing teeth, talk about why we don’t leave the tap running as a lead into a conversation about water conservation.

During mealtimes, discuss the importance of preparing and cooking the right amount to avoid food waste.

At the supermarket checkout, bring your own bags and point out that you’re using them rather than single-use plastic, while at the coffee shop, highlight why you’ve brought along your own reusable cup rather than getting your drink in a single-use cup.

Reuse and repurpose

One-use items, especially plastics, have long been a hot topic when it comes to the environment.

Recycling, reusing and repurposing should be at the forefront of young minds. Once that happens, when they’re finished with something, their first thought will be to consider all other options rather than throwing it away.

Toys they’ve grown out of can be passed on or donated to toy drives and charities; empty yoghurt pots can be used to grow seedlings; egg cartons can become paint pots; and old clothes can be cut into cloths to be used around the house.

Websites that focus on repurposing, and sharing tips for living a thrifty or frugal lifestyle can be an invaluable source of ideas.

Start a family competition for the most creative ideas for reusing something in the house – and don’t forget to reward their innovation.

Get out in nature whenever you can

School trips are a big part of school life, with many visits adding an environmental slant, such as visits to the beach or desert.

Make being out in nature part of your home life too, by incorporating hikes, nature walks, bike rides and even walking the dog into the schedule.

Small things such as hanging out in the garden at the weekend rather than inside on the sofa or at the mall can make a big difference in cultivating your child’s relationship with nature.

Turn walks into a game with a nature scavenger hunt, getting children to tick off all the things they see on their stroll, such as white flowers, a tree that’s taller than dad or a bird with coloured wings.

Or take small bags along for children to collect items such as leaves, seeds, twigs, bark and petals, which can be taken home and used in arts and crafts, or to make “nature potions”.

Be sure to point out wildlife along the way, including plants and flowers, as a way of showing young people what is at stake with a loss of habitats and ecological systems.

Become a hotelier

A bug hotel is something you can easily build in your garden or at the local park.

There are plenty of bug hotels available online to buy, but it’s a lot more fun to create your own from the materials provided by Mother Nature.

Look for dry leaves, twigs, bits of fallen bark, hollow stems such as bamboo and dead grass. Rolled up cardboard is also useful.

The idea is to create a warm, dry space to attract bugs and mini-beasts for children to observe.

Encourage them to keep a diary or logbook of the creatures they see visiting their hotel, including photos or drawings.

Updated: December 01, 2023, 6:01 PM