“We dig into the trash.”
“Whoa! What?” I asked Maanasee when she said that she and her daughter dig into trash to reduce wastage.
“We can keep talking about waste and landfills, but do they really understand?”
Maanasee is a Mumbai-based interior designer, who believes that just conversations with children about waste are fruitless.
“Our objective is to dig into the waste created by us and figure out items that are going into the waste bin uselessly. Plus, what are the items that can be reused or possibly be removed from the bin?”
If you’re wondering about making a child dig into dirty trash where there is infection galore, you can relax.
Maanasee and her five-year-old have their own play-bin where they put some dry waste, a few vegetable peels, and mostly broken toys. They wear rubber gloves before they dig in and discuss every bit of waste in the play-bin.
This inspired me to divide things that children waste the most in three categories. Here they are:
“Take what you’ll eat and finish what you take. So many poor people don’t get food and you waste!”
Not only Maanasee, but many among us have heard this statement almost during every meal—comparing our better-off state to many underprivileged people around us.
Were our parents wrong? No. However, would we repeat these statements to our own kids?
“I never understood what my parents meant when they said ‘poor’ people,” says Akansha, a marketing executive with a leading pharmaceutical company and a mother of two.
So how do we get the idea across to them?
Parts of the whole
I regularly notice the housekeeping staff at my building clean the garbage stacked near the fire exit as bits and pieces of trash fall out off their bins.
Yesterday, I saw a perfectly fresh, half-eaten apple in the bin.
That’s my inspiration for this next activity!
The rotten apple
Ever seen an apple whose skin has blackened a little due to heat or the pressure of stacking apples in a pile? Most refrigerators deliver specimens like these once in a while. The next time you unravel such an apple, show it your child.
- Slice the apple, remove the skin, and tell your child that a dark peel does not necessarily mean a fruit is rotten.
- Cut a slice for yourself and eat as your child looks on. Show that the apple is not inedible.
- Talk to your child about wasting fruit like bananas just going by their skin.
- Tell them about eating the fruit till the core (examples apples, pears and guavas).
- Make them taste the peels of a few fruits to talk about every part of the fruit being edible.
The seeds? Those you can collect and plant in your nearest garden!
Fun with carrots
- With the help of your child, wash a carrot (skin on).
- Peel the carrot and keep the peels aside.
- Next, make a salad out of the carrot as you talk about the benefits of a salad.
- Then, collect the peels in a pan to which you have added some water.
- As the peels boil, tell your child about vegetable broths and soups.
Oh and don’t forget, tell them that you’re using the peels so that nothing goes waste!
The food challenge!
- After a few lessons on not wasting food, you can play this game with your child.
- Make a list of things cooked in your house on a certain day.
- At the end of the day, list out the things that were not completely used/eaten or trashed.
- Tell your child the reasons why they were wasted (someone skipped a meal, someone is not well, or the food cooked was more than the required quantity).
- If the food cooked was more than needed, tell your child that you will check your measure.
- If your child has not eaten enough and has wasted food, then point it out to him/her.
In a fun way, make your child realise that waste not want not!
“I count to ten and he has to switch them off. It’s his job!”
Anamika, a stay-at-home mom, makes her son switch off all the lights before they leave home to play every evening. By counting to 10, she makes the job fun.
What are the tricks you employ to avoid wastage of resources at home? Read on to add to your repertoire of tricks:
The happy sad face
“Teacher gave me this for my homework today,” says my son while pointing to the star on his hand.
Children revel in good feedback, especially if it comes in tangible forms like stickers, gifts, prizes, or awards. I decided to use this same affinity for the next activity.
What you’ll need
- Happy and sad face smiley stickers
Here’s what you do
- Select a few switchboards/switches around your home that are not mounted too high.
- On these switchboards, stick the happy face on the ‘off’ side and the sad face on the ‘on’ side.
- When you switch on the lights during the day, point to the sad face at the bottom of the switch telling your child that using electricity during the day is wastage and that’s a sad thing.
- When you leave the room and switch off lights, point out to the happy face and mention that you just saved electricity and that’s a happy thing.
By using emotions to denote wastage, you will be able to convey your message of saving electricity quite well. Don’t forget to stick a happy and sad smiley to the TV switch first!
“I add lots of salt to the water and give it to her to drink,” says Maanasee.
The bad-tasting water makes her daughter cringe and gives Maanasee a chance to tell her that most of the water on Earth is salty and cannot be consumed—which is why it is important to save freshwater.
Mouth is a washing machine
- Show the child the washing machine.
- Explain that the machine fills the tub with water before it washes the clothes.
- Within the tub, the water swirls and turns to clean the clothes.
- There is no need to keep the tap running to wash clothes in a washing machine.
Our mouth is also like a machine which we can fill with water and swirl to clean our teeth. There is no need for a running tap. We can just fill a small tub/cup with water and use it to rinse our mouth after brushing our teeth.
I can hear loud gargling and swirling sounds from my washroom as my son brushes his teeth. Gee, it works!
The potty’s gone!
Don’t get dissuaded by the name!
This is a fun way to teach children to not waste water in the washroom where they keep flushing long after the commode is clean. Sometimes they flush even when they’ve not used it. This wastes water!
Tell them that flushing is complete when the potty’s gone. They will giggle at the choice of your words and so will you, but the fun will make remembering this rule easier.
The leak peek
What you’ll need
- A spare plastic bowl (takeaway boxes work best)
- A glass of water
- A knife or sharp cutter
- Some playing clay (play-dough)
Here’s what you do
- Pour the glass of water into the bowl and show it to your child
- Now empty the bowl, pouring the water back into the glass.
- Using the cutter or the knife, make a tiny hole in the bowl.
- Pour the water into the bowl again
- Water starts dripping out of the bowl and the level of water in the bowl decreases.
What’s the solution?
- Fixing the leak is the only solution to stop water from wasting and if you ask your child, this solution will come from him/her.
- To demonstrate the fact, stick the playing clay on the tiny hole on the outer wall of the bowl.
Water will stop leaking.
Talk to your child about leaking water from taps and water tanks and the wastage caused by them. Also mention that leaks should be fixed on priority. It’s nothing but awareness for them for life!
Ink pen faucet
This one is tried and tested on my precious clothes.
What you’ll need
- An ink pen
- A bottle of ink
- A sheet of newspaper
Here’s what you do
- Show the child the ink pen as you pour the ink into it (we are using the conventional ink pens that have a separate section to add ink and a separate nib).
- Screw the nib of the ink pen back but don’t close it all the way.
- If you leave the nib a little loose and turn the pen upside down, ink leaks from the pen.
- Let the pen leak on the newspaper (and not on your clothes like me)
Closing the ink pen properly is important to avoid ink from spilling. Spilt ink causes wastage and mess just like a half-closed tap from which water keeps dripping. Hence, close the tap tight and save water.
The long and short of all the talking and games is that we can teach children to avoid wastage if we employ a few practical and fun mechanisms to do it.
What are the ways in which you teach your child to not waste things? Share a couple of ideas with us.
Image Credits: American Center Mumbai