The Importance of Sustainability in Play
Malte Niebelschuetz is the founder and CEO of Shore Buddies. Malte is a German native who moved to San Diego, CA in 2011. Inspired by the beautiful coastline of Southern California, but confused with the intensive use of single-use plastic in precious coastal environments, Malte took on the challenge to improve the world. Shore Buddies is the world’s first stuffed animal made from 100% post consumer recycled plastic bottles. By 2020, Shore Buddies has kept over 500,000 plastic bottles from entering the environment and turned them into cute, soft stuffed animals. Malte has many years of experience in children development, educating children on the dangers of ocean plastic pollution through storytelling, lesson plans and play.
Refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle – minimize your plastic footprint
Don’t waste water – turn it off while brushing teeth
Reduce your energy consumption – turn off lights when you leave the room
Take walks – go outside and explore nature and your surroundings
Have you ever wondered how kids pick up languages so much quicker than adults?
Learning a new language is easier for a young child than for adults. It is part of their brain chemistry. Kids are literally built to absorb information; and they do so in an unconscious state of mind at a tremendous pace. They are learning, and they don’t even know it. Adults and older kids, on the other hand, must consciously learn new information, which can be much harder for the brain to retain. This makes it much harder because information sometimes gets lost or disassociated. To make this easier to understand, think about it like how a song gets stuck in your head. When you listen to a song several times, you learn the rhythms and lyrics. This is unconscious learning. However, when you are studying for a test or working on a new skill, not all the information gets absorbed because you are making a conscious effort to learn. This makes it harder for your brain to gather information.
But learning a language at a young age is not only easier, it also significantly benefits kids throughout their lives. Certain things, like a language, you will never ever forget once learned.
So how can this approach be applied to other things like sustainability?
How kids learn values
It’s true that simply telling kids to be more conscious about the environment doesn’t work any better than telling adults to be. However, if such values are impossible to teach, they are also too important to leave to chance.
Schools have a tough time teaching the values of sustainability. Sometimes kids are introduced when they are already too old to embrace them, coupled with the fact that the values are often at odds with what the child is learning at home. While kids are learning and processing information and values every minute of their lives, the question isn’t whether to teach them the importance of sustainability but how and when to teach them.
Kids learn by observing what is going on around them and observing others. They then draw conclusions about what they think is important in life. Regardless of what we consciously teach them, these kids will emerge from childhood with clear views on what their parents and peers really value, and with a well-developed value system and world view of their own.
Let sustainability become kids’ second language
How kids will meet the challenges of the future will be fundamentally different from how they meet the challenges of today, and toys can play a major role in helping to reinforce the lessons they’ve learned. As many teachers and homeschoolers will confirm, incorporating toys into learning can result in a much faster learning curve. Just as many of us learned about the human body by playing the game “Operation” rather than from reading a book, the same idea can be applied to sustainability.
With kids benefiting from educational toys as early as one-month-old through play that helps stimulate the senses and develop motoric skills and developing critical habits and values that will last a lifetime between ages 3 to 9, families are encouraged to take advantage of the early years in instilling sustainable values.
Educational toys that teach about climate change and plastic pollution are shaping the future of our planet for the better and helping raise kids that will make more environmentally educated decisions growing up. These toys can range from emotional connectors such as a kid’s favorite plush sea turtle that is struggling with plastic straws in its coral reef to STEM wind turbine building kits.
Sustainability is about understanding and reducing the sources that go into the products we use, what happens to their discarded packaging, and where they end up in the end. While sustainable toys are playing a major role toward more eco-consciousness child education, they will also quickly impact the toy industry - affecting both manufacturers and consumers. Sustainable supply chains and eco-friendly packaging are already major consumer concerns that will only further increase in the future - by a more educated audience.