As a parent we make so many choices about how to bring up our children and manage our families. In all my choices I consider the impact on the environment and the natural world. Teaching my children about the environment comes naturally to me and integrates easily into my lifestyle. I’m not sure how to sum up my lifestyle. Some would use terms such as environmentally or eco-friendly, natural, respectful etc but I have chosen green.
Here the five lifestyle principles I try to live by, and uphold in my childcare business:
1. Reducing waste
I purchase a lot of foods at a minimal waste shop where I can buy dry goods and cleaning products without any packaging. Fruit and veg come from the local market. I cook mostly from scratch, avoid processed and convenience foods and bake my own bread and treats. Food waste is mostly composted and packaging recycled or used in craft projects!
My own children use reusable cloth nappies and cloth baby wipes. They are washed in the machine and dried outside. We use cloth wipes, flannels and handkerchiefs for mucky hands and faces.
2. Buy and use less plastic
Plastic is environmentally costly to manufacture and to recycle, and when disposed of it is harmful to wildlife and the environment. Plastic toys are often poor quality and can easily break and cannot be repaired. There are also safety concerns over the toxicity of plastic toys and tableware especially when considering young children who mouth and chew everything.
Our toys are mostly of sustainable materials – wood and fabric. We do have plastic toys but these are chosen carefully to ensure longevity and safety. Most of our toys are chosen to stimulate open ended play and loose parts play whereby items are used in a huge variety of games to encourage creativity, imagination and learning.
At the dinner table the children eat from enamel or porcelain crockery and use real metal cutlery. Cups are glass, metal or bamboo fibre depending on the ability of the child. I find that when children use real crockery they are less likely to confuse it with a play thing and fling it across the room. Of course if cup flinging is a risk I would not opt for glass ware!
3. Natural cleaning
I have been making my own natural cleaning products for a while. I don’t like to use toxic chemicals around my home when I have children in close contact to floors and surfaces and breathing in the air. The chemicals in commercial cleaning products enter the water cycle when we flush them away and have a negative effect on the environment. Making my own products also allows me to minimise the plastic I buy and waste.
My cleaning products are made from water, white vinegar, lemon juice, soda bicarbonate and essential oils. All ingredients are natural and non toxic.
4. Thoughtful food
I cook all our own meals and snacks from scratch. We usually eat vegetarian during the week but have loads of protein from beans, pulses, dairy, nuts and seeds. In every meal I maximise the vegetable and wholegrain content. A lot, I can’t claim all, of our fruit and vegetables are organic and during the summer a lot comes from our own allotment. When we eat meat it is ethically sourced, usually local and organic.
5. Learning about the environment and nature
Teaching children about the natural world is what I am passionate about. We visit a wide variety of wild places such as parks, woodlands and nature reserves to learn about different environments and wildlife. I am a member of the forest childcare association which encourages regular wild outings. The children develop a love for the wild outdoors and learn to value and respect the environment from a young age. Our allotment is a brilliant resource where the children can grow their own vegetables and learn where real food comes from.
The practices I have described above, from minimal waste shopping to natural cleaning, introduce children to environmental issues. The children are actively involved in recycling, cooking, gardening etc which are all brilliant opportunities for learning.
Teaching the next generation to love and respect the environment from a young age is the single most important way we can protect our world for the future.