By: Suzanne Elston
And so it begins. With a final clanging of the bell, school is over for another year. And while every child in the province will soon be singing the songs of summer, somewhere their parents are wondering, "How on Earth am I going to keep these kids busy for two months?"
In our house it only takes a week or so of freedom before the halcyon days of summer begin to get a little bit tedious. The truth is that we are all creatures of habit, and kids, like grown-ups, need a little structure in their lives and a little encouragement when it comes to making good environmental choices.
They may protest at first, but include your children in your daily routine and environmental practices. Draw up a list of daily chores and then assign each child age appropriate tasks. Even the youngest child can empty a compost bin or help sort laundry. This process helps to give your children a sense of personal responsibility, while freeing up your time for more family-centered activities
When planning family outings, always keep the environment in mind. There are plenty of healthy activities that enable both you and your children to enjoy the beauty of our natural world. As an added bonus, these environmental outings are generally free, much less exhausting than a family trip to an amusement park, and a lot more educational and enjoyable.
Providing children with the opportunity to learn about the natural beauty that surrounds them helps to foster a deeper appreciation and respect for the environment. Conservation areas can provide an entire day's entertainment for inquisitive young minds. To help identify the different species that you encounter, purchase an inexpensive pocket field guide for flowers, trees and birds. Pack a garbageless lunch and bring along plenty of fresh water. Remember to protect your children with a sunscreen that provides protection from both UVA and UVB radiation. Hats, t-shirts and sunglasses are also necessities for outdoor activities. At the end of the day, take nothing but photographs with you and leave nothing but footprints behind.
If you’re looking for a more organized outdoor experience for your child, many conservation areas offer day camps for children aged 6 to 13. For more information call your local Conservation Authority.
Rediscover the joy of riding a bicycle. It's amazing how much ground you can cover on a bike without too much effort. Plan a day trip with your kids, complete with a picnic lunch, and tour your local community. Don't forget to set a good example by wearing a properly fitted bike helmet.
Once you get the hang of it, you may soon find yourself parking the car a little more often and using your bike for local errands. Your entire family will benefit from the exercise and the air will be a little bit cleaner from one less car on the road. If you plan to leave your bicycles unattended, bring along an adequate number of bike locks and don’t forget to pack bottles of water to help protect against dehydration.
It's almost impossible to fully appreciate the incredible volume of garbage we produce daily without visiting a garbage dump. To arrange a visit to your dump, contact your local Public Works department. Making a visit to your local recycling centre is a good way to show children that curbside pick-up is only the beginning of the cycle. Contact your local recycling centre for further information.
Canadians are the highest consumers of electricity, per capita, in the world. This summer, challenge you kids, and yourself, to find creative ways to cut down on your family's electricity bill. Have your children help you install compact fluorescent light bulbs, close curtains and blinds during the daytime and turn off any unnecessary lights or equipment. Unplug the TV and rediscover the joy of family conversation or the pleasure of reading a good book.
Have a safe and happy summer!
Conservation Ontario represents a network of 36 Conservation Authorities – community based, environmental organizations dedicated to conserving, restoring, developing and managing Ontario’s natural resources on a watershed basis. To find the Conservation Authority nearest you, or for more information about summer programs, visit Conservation Ontario
For more energy saving ideas, visit Powerwise