It is never too early to encourage children’s sustainability skills. The earlier we start, the more likely they will develop lasting habits that will benefit our planet and future generations. We list must-have skills children can learn at home that promote sustainability.

Practising sustainability helps children learn about the world around them. They can explore different values and figure out how the natural environment relates to their lives through individual and community actions. This supports them to become responsible adults, and it has a positive impact on children’s learning and wellbeing.

It is important to make sustainability fun and engaging to get children interested during their early years. You can use games, stories, arts and crafts or a combination of them to get children excited about what sustainability means for their future.

Once children gain an understanding of sustainability, there are many ways to incorporate sustainable practices into everyday life at home. Read on to discover:

Two children stand behind a loose-parts table filled with natural materials that encourage children to learn about nature and sustainability.

What is sustainability for children?

Sustainability for children means inspiring them to respect the earth and its resources. As a result, we can encourage their thoughtful use of resources and minimise waste. This includes learning about nature, the causes and impacts of climate change and finding solutions to reduce our environmental footprint, such as conserving energy and water, recycling, and eating sustainably.

Living sustainable means teaching our children to think beyond what they need today and to consider the long-term impact their actions have on the natural environment. Environmental education is part of the Early Years Learning Framework and goes beyond outdoor environment experiences.

If you are unsure where to start, the UN Sustainable Development Goals are an excellent tool for introducing a child to sustainable practices. Promoting the importance of global sustainability is integral to early childhood education and supports children who are passionate about protecting and influencing their wider communities.

Several water buckets and watering cans left outside when it rains can inspire sustainable practices at home.

How to inspire sustainable practices at home

As adults, we know that sustainable practices are essential for the environment. But it can be hard to remember to recycle or use less water when busy with our everyday lives. That is why it is essential to instil sustainable habits in children early on.

When children learn how to recycle and conserve resources, they are more likely to continue those practices into adulthood. Likewise, when they see us practising sustainability, they are more likely to copy, learn and develop an interest in what we do.

By leading by example and helping our children develop sustainable habits, we can make a real difference for the environment and future generations.

1. Make sustainability a part of your family culture

One of the best ways to teach children about sustainability is to make it a part of your family culture. Show them by example that you care about the environment and want to do what you can to protect it. This can be as simple as turning off the lights when you leave a room, recycling, or taking public transportation whenever possible.

2. Get outside and explore

Another great way to teach children about sustainability is by exploring nature outside. Go for walks in the park, visit a local farm, or go on a nature hike. Teach them about plants and caring for animals, and how humans impact their natural environment.

3. Try some eco-friendly crafts

Crafts are a fun way for children to learn about sustainability, and there are many eco-friendly options! For example, make recycled paper together, grow plants in recycled containers, or make a solar oven to cook food.

4. Plan a zero-waste meal approach to food

Cooking at home can be an excellent way to teach children about sustainability. Try planning a zero-waste meal together, using all ingredients and creating no waste in the process!

An educator encourages children to explore life-long sustainable skills such as gardening.

Life-long sustainable skills for children

Together, we can support children to engage in long-term environmentally responsible practices:

  1. Refuse what they don’t need.
  2. Reuse what they have.
  3. Reduce their reliance on single-use items.
  4. Recycle what is no longer usable.
  5. Repair what needs fixing.
  6. Compost what can be composted.
  7. Learn what they can learn.

These lifelong skills will practical experience and help them develop a connection with nature as they become stewards of the planet. In addition, you can help guide your family to live sustainably by:

1. Understanding the environment

One of the most important sustainability skills for children is understanding the environment. This includes understanding how the environment works, how human activity impacts it, and what we can do to protect it.

You can become an advocate for education for sustainability. Teaching children about the environment can help them develop a lifelong appreciation for nature and a commitment to protecting it and creating a sustainable future.

2. Reducing, reusing, and recycling

Important sustainability skills include reducing, reusing, and recycling. Children can learn the importance of reducing waste, reusing materials, and recycling items instead of throwing them away.

These are critical skills for helping to protect the natural environment and preserve resources. It also involves collecting natural materials for play, participating in clothing exchanges and only taking what you need.

3. Conserving energy

Energy conservation is another key sustainability skill for children. This involves learning ways to save energy, such as turning off lights when not needed and unplugging electronics when not in use. Conserving energy not only helps to lower energy consumption and reduce energy bills but also lessens our impact on the environment.

4. Water efficiency

Water efficiency is another essential sustainability skill for children. This involves learning about ways to save clean water, such as turning off the faucet while brushing your teeth, taking shorter showers, and collecting rainwater for the garden. Conserving water not only helps to save money but also reduces our impact on the environment.

ALT: Children gather around a compost bin filled with unwanted fruit and vegetables. One child holds a bucket with scraps.

5. Composting

Composting and using worm farms to reduce food waste is another important sustainability skill for children. This skill involves learning to recycle food waste and other organic materials into nutrient-rich compost that can fertilise plants. Composting not only helps to reduce waste, but it also helps to improve soil health and reduce our reliance on chemical fertilisers.

6. Understanding where food comes from

Toddlers and preschoolers may not yet understand where their food comes from. Teaching children about where food comes from can help them understand the importance of a sustainable future. Sourcing natural and wholesome foods from farmers’ markets can inspire children’s learning and ideas.

7. Planting a garden with children

Gardening is another great way to teach children about sustainability. Gardening encourages children to go outdoors, get their hands dirty and learn where food comes from. Plus, it’s a great way to bond with your child while teaching them the importance of eating healthy, locally-grown food.

One way to teach children about sustainability is to show them how to grow food. This can be done with edible gardens or by growing a few plants in pots on a windowsill. By involving children in food preparation, they learn about the process of healthy food production and will appreciate the effort that goes into making nutritious meals.

An educator crouches in front of a garden bed planting fresh herbs and inspiring children's sustainability skills. Next to her a young child with garden gloves plants herbs too.

Partner with Petit Early Learning Journey to inspire children’s sustainability skills

By encouraging children to learn about sustainability, we can help them develop the skills and knowledge needed to make positive changes in their own lives. At Petit Early Learning Journey, we collaborate with families to give children essential life sustainability skills.

Want to know more about how our centres inspire children’s interest in the environment and sustainability? Our educators are passionate about sustainability and inspiring children to become environmentally responsible. You can learn more about our family partnerships, curriculum and learning programs by talking to your nearest Centre Director.