Monthly Columns

Raising the Next Generation to be Environmentally Kind – An Excerpt from the Upcoming Book ‘Practically Pagan: An Alternative Guide to Planet Friendly Living’ by Mabh Savage


As we move into warmer months and hopefully have more access to the outside world, I thought it would be timely to share these thoughts about raising kids in a Pagan family to be respectful for Planet Earth. This excerpt is from my upcoming book, Practically Pagan: An Alternative Guide to Planet Friendly Living, available to pre-order now at Amazon and other book stores.


Kids are our greatest teachers when it comes to appreciating the world around us. Anyone who has children or has the chance to interact with children will know that there is nothing more magical than seeing them become enthralled with nature. That look of amazement when they see leaves fall, or dragonflies zoom past, or even midge larvae in a murky pool of water. Whenever you see that wonder in action, do whatever you can to encourage it. I know it can be tricky when your youngest wants to make friends with a slug and it makes you feel nauseous, but that kindness towards living things could be the start of a reverence for nature that will stick with them their entire lives.

Whether you decide to deliberately raise your children on a Pagan path or not, the simple truth is you can’t go wrong by teaching them how to look after the environment around them. Our children are the first generation growing up fully aware of the damage previous generations have done to the world. They will learn that the Earth is being ravaged by the effects of climate change, thanks to the actions of former generations, and the lack of action by current the generation, in some cases. Regardless of whether we, as individuals, contributed towards the problems, collectively as a society we all have a responsibility to pick up the slack. It’s tragic that we are inevitably leaving so much of this hard work on our children’s shoulders, but at least we can give them the tools to best navigate their way through this world with as little negative impact on the environment as possible. I think the first step in this is to foster that spark of love for the natural world around us, whether that’s glorious woodlands or a patch of moss on a city wall.


Lead by Example

I guess this is good advice for any aspect of parenting. Kids do what they see, not what they’re told. Okay, sometimes they do what they’re told! But they watch us, they memorise the things we do, and they will definitely repeat or imitate it at some point. That’s how they learn to walk and talk; it’s how they learn to treat others kindly; it is the primary way they will learn what the best way is to treat the world around them.

Let your kids watch you sort the rubbish out. If you split it into recycling, see if they want to help. Go at the task with enthusiasm, and they might want to join in without too much prompting. My three-year-old is obsessed with putting one thing in another at the moment, which is great for tidying up. We talk about everything: “Where do the bottles go?” “Where’s the bin, can you find the bin?” and we make a game out of everything.

If getting your kids involved in what they might see as “boring housework” is just too difficult (I understand, believe me, I do), then lead by example in smaller ways. Let them watch you upcycle, or sew up a rip in some trousers instead of throwing them away. Make sure they’re watching as you carefully dispose of litter properly when out and about. Talk about why you turn the lights off as you leave a room, or why we turn the tap off while we brush our teeth. All these tiny, daily rituals become strokes in a bigger picture as they grow up and absorb not just what you say, but what you do.


In the Garden

If you have a garden, even if it’s only tiny, this is a wonderful starting point for getting your kids interested in nature. According to the National Geographic, you’re just as likely to discover a new species in your garden as in a tropical rainforest (Mueller, 2014); how exciting is that?!? Taking photos of the plants, bugs, birds, and other creatures in your yard can become a fascinating project; not just a fun exploration but intensely educational on many levels. Kids learn about biodiversity, and enjoy the surprise factor of just how many species can survive right there in their yard. They learn that lifting a stone gently can reveal a home for tiny families, different to theirs yet similar in many respects. They learn about being gentle in order to preserve these creatures and their habitats; a gentleness which, if nurtured, could stay with them their entire lives.

If you don’t have a garden or yard, you could grow some plants on a windowsill, or try making a terrarium. You could learn how to craft a bird box or bat box, and involve your children in that project. You might have somewhere to hang a basket of flowers, or trailing fruit like strawberries or some species of raspberry or tomato. Watch for pests like aphids, then watch for their predators like ladybirds, and explain what’s happening and why. Explain why, thanks to the ladybird, you don’t have to use harmful chemicals like pesticides. Plant flowers that attract bees, and talk about pollination and how as well as pollinating the flowers, the bees also pollinate our food crops, so looking after them is looking after ourselves. This can start conversations about how everything is connected, and the beginnings of an understanding of ecosystems.

You can even insert some aspects of your own spirituality into your garden ecology. Talk about the turn of the seasons and how that relates to your faith. Speak of plants and trees and which deities or beings they’re connected to. Tell stories, share folklore and superstitions, and show how looking after the things we hold sacred is about looking after the planet itself.


Nature Journeys

When you can, taking your kids out into nature to find out what’s in the wider world is the next step in making them fall in love with the world. Think about all the different settings you could take them to. You can think as big and as small as you like, depending on where you are in the world. Here are a selection of outdoor settings where you can find nature, even in surprising places:

    • A city street – think moss and lichen, birds, city trees, rats, bugs
    • Deserts
    • Forests and woodland
    • A local stream or beck
    • Rivers
    • The seashore
    • A patch of grass in a housing estate
    • Fields
    • Hedgerows
    • Farms – look out for ones that encourage visitors
    • Grass verges
    • Mountains
    • Lakes
    • Sand dunes
    • Limestone pavement – a stunning, natural formation
    • Cliffs
    • Moors
    • Parks
    • Flower gardens
    • Stately homes or other places of national interest

Can you think of any others? I’m sure I’ve only scratched the surface here. If there is one recommendation I could give, it’s to always take photos whenever you visit anywhere with your kids; of them, and of the nature you find. I adore looking back on photos of my eldest and the adventures we went on when he was younger. We went rock climbing on Ilkley Moor (Yorkshire, UK) when he was about six years old, and I have a favourite picture of him sitting astride one of the rocks, triumphant. That same day, we saw butterflies and any number of delicate wildflowers hidden among the grasses of the moor. Having a record of that is a snapshot of pure happiness, plus a reminder of how easy it is to reconnect to nature when you have a child with you.

Look out for the book next March or pre-order now! Thanks for reading.


About the Author:

Mabh Savage is a Pagan author, poet and musician, as well as a freelance journalist.

She is the author of A Modern Celt: Seeking the Ancestors & Pagan Portals – Celtic Witchcraft: Modern Witchcraft Meets Celtic Ways.