As the schools break up and parents find themselves faced with over-tired, possibly grumpy kids; how about creating some quality time by embarking on some sustainability activities. You've got to admit: it's going to be more fun than iPads and TV and the stress they create!
A few principles can help: (1) lead by example - be a role model by practising sustainable living yourself; (2) make it fun - be resourceful; (3) get the kids involved - ensure that there are plenty of 'hands on' opportunities; (4) read to and with the kids - there are plenty of great books out there, for children and adults, alike; and (5) volunteer with them - litterpicks, tree-planting, etc.
Why not engage your children in considering how your home affects the planet, i.e. how to work towards a zero Carbon footprint. What are the main resources you consume as a household? How can these be minimised? Start by setting an example in little but important ways: have you installed LED, low-energy lighting? Do you turn the lights off as you leave a room? Do you have a water meter? Do you turn the taps off properly? Do you have water-saving devices to reduce water use, e.g. when flushing the toilet, taking a shower, etc. do you conserve waste water during the day, in order to water plants before going to bed?
Getting them involved is easy and lots of fun. Consider reusing packing material and cardboard from purchases you've made, for arts, crafts and creative play. The same goes for plastic bottles and packages, which can be used to make much-needed winter bird feeders, for example. If you've got stuff you're not going to use, get them involved in flattening it before it goes into the recycling bin. Why not introduce child-sized bins to match the household ones, as a way to help them become 'waste wise'. Show them what gets recycled and why, and what we throw away and where this ends up. You could always weigh it, too.
Food waste is a big issue and one that children can be helped to understand. Ensure that you put food scraps into a compost bin, rather than throwing them out. Create your own composter in the garden or, better still, build a wormery. Get them involved with food shopping choices, thinking about air miles and what's seasonal. Consider the merits of buying local, looking for ethical products that support indigenous communities, and consider the benefits of organic production. Set them a fun challenge to choose the best value, lowest footprint products.
Become a green cleaner - make your own household cleaning products, free of harmful chemicals. Children can join in, testing 'new products' safely, while helping you get your home clean! Why not use colour-coded microfibre cloths that can be washed and reused.
Get some fresh air, away from the centrally-heated house. Use the garden or local greenspace as a teaching and learning tool. Go out and search for, collect and use natural materials in creative play. Go on a nature hunt: how many different bird species can they spot?
Or, if the weather's not conducive, then find ways to bring the outdoors inside. Think about designing your own wildlife-friendly green areas either in your own garden or in the school grounds. Involve them in choosing what goes where, thinking about the creatures it will benefit. You might even want to start growing some things indoors, on the window-sill. Children love finding out what seeds turn grow to become.
All of these activities can help to develop critical thinking skills, help to build global awareness and understanding of the inter-connections and, most of all, engage the next generation in positive solutions. It goes without saying that you should avoid simply telling - show them and explain why, giving them the opportunity to reflect (possibly with a daily or weekly journal). It's meant to be fun, right, and offers a more varied diet than lounging on the sofa in front of the TV.
I'll let you know how we get on. Good luck!