If Greta Thunberg and the School Strike for Climate movement have shown us anything in recent years, it’s that children are the future of the fight against the climate crisis. The millions of teens that have taken a stand over the past few years are the ones who will be leading the fight in the next few decades as world leaders, politicians, campaigners, scientists and entrepreneurs. Today’s young children, the ones whose only concerns in life are what they’re going to play next, will be taking the baton from them when initial carbon emissions targets are met.
And while many of us have learned about sustainability and the challenges facing our planet in adult life, it is now our responsibility to teach our children about it from the beginning.
But this doesn’t need to be sat at a desk with a pen and paper taking notes from a lecture. It can definitely be fun and engaging for a child. And dads and playtime will have a big role in making that happen.
The growing role of a dad
Society is changing dramatically in so many ways, with opinions and expectations on an almost unlimited number of topics shifting completely from what they were even just a few years ago. We all know that, traditionally and stereotypically, the role of a mother is the caregiver, the homemaker, while a father is the breadwinner and the protector.
A modern-day father is very, very different from one of even just a decade ago. Dads are taking a more active role in their children’s upbringing and home life than ever before, and it’s something that has been accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic. DaddiLife’s Dads in Lockdown survey found that 76% of dads are more involved in the day-to-day parenting of their children since the beginning of lockdown in the UK.
Whether working from home, being placed on furlough or losing their jobs altogether, dads have had a lot more time with their children over the past 10 months. More than two thirds (67%) said they are doing more cooking for the family than pre-lockdown, while 70% have taken on more of the cleaning around the house. And, interestingly, 83% said they are spending more time playing with their kids. Now, it’s important to note that various studies have shown that mums have taken on more than they were already doing. But it’s promising to see an accelerated trend of dads being more actively engaged with home life.
This is particularly important because numerous studies have shown that children who have a more engaged and involved father experience a wide variety of developmental benefits in the future. They are often more engaged with learning and perform better in school, achieving stronger academic performance and having greater enjoyment of school. Naturally, a child who engages better with learning will be better able to understand the importance of sustainability and what we can do to help the planet.
The importance of playtime
Learning through play is a wonderful concept, helping children to understand and explore new and sometimes difficult topics in a fun and engaging way. With dads spending more time together - particularly more time playing - with their kids, we now have the opportunity to teach our children about the climate crisis and sustainability in a way that excites them.
Several studies have shown that play enables children to make better sense of the world around them and develop meaning in their experiences. It also paves the way for greater social interaction through communication and understanding of different opinions, beliefs, which helps to build stronger relationships. Play gives children the opportunity to explore their own ideas and see what is possible.
Therefore, we can see that play is the perfect opportunity for children to learn about the planet, climate change and sustainability. You can do craft activities using only recycled materials to create climate-themed images or simple experiments to illustrate the impact we have on our planet.
Another benefit to the pandemic has been the notion of nature ‘reclaiming the planet’. As city centres became nearly deserted, we saw emissions drop and the skies cleared. It allowed us to engage in new hobbies like stargazing whether from the comfort of our homes or outside in nature. Parents searched for the best telescopes for kids and started their new hobby, exploring the night sky and spending quality time with their kids.
As more and more of society becomes aware of the climate crisis and the changes they can make to their day-to-day lives, parents are increasingly looking for more sustainable toys for their children. We’re now starting to ditch plastic toys, or at least searching for toys made using recycled materials, brought to us in recycled packaging.
Some are understandably going further, looking for brands that have a social purpose, donating a portion of sales to climate charities and campaigns or ensuring their whole supply chain is eco-friendly. And, of course, there are a growing number of brands like Shore Buddies that exist to help children’s understanding of climate issues, particularly ones themed around animals and nature that are in stark danger because of the crisis.
While the pandemic has presented so many challenges to millions and millions of people around the world, perhaps this is an opportunity to take advantage, build stronger bonds between fathers and their children and educate them about the challenges facing our planet.
Jonathan Davies is a father of two - a three-year old boy and six-month old daughter - and writer for DaddiLife, a site for modern-day dads with a community of over 150,000 across the US and UK. He is a passionate believer that fathers should take the most active and engaged role possible in their children’s lives, and has become increasingly dedicated to sustainability in recent years.
Photo credit: Juliane Liebermann/Unsplash, Jude Beck/Unsplash, Pichara Bann/Unsplash