1. Get local
Kids are experts at living and playing in the present. So finding a familiar or nearby beach to visit and help clean may be more effective than discussing oceans half a world away. If you are landlocked, look for local efforts to clean rivers, lakes, or streams. Precious and valuable ecosystems exist in backyards and down the street. Observing, cleaning, and learning about them will help spark an appreciation for the wider, wetter world.
2. Open your kids’ eyes to life under the sea-in person and on the screen
Visit aquariums that support marine conservation and education. Staff are trained to be able to educate kids and adults on various species and info including dietary habits and habitats (which my son took advantage of by asking about a million questions about hammerhead sharks). Make a movie night with older kids and watch The Blue Planet or one of the Planet Earth episodes that focuses on the oceans. Even watching a more commercial movie such as Finding Nemo can lead to discussions about sustainability and climate change and how these terms affect the ocean and its inhabitants.
3. Appeal to their other senses too
Put on the eerily beautiful sounds of whales or dolphins “calling” while cooking dinner or doing homework. Give kids crunchy nori seaweed to smell and then munch. Let them explore the texture and weight of shells.
4. Make the ocean come alive-at home!
Kids love science experiments, and they are a great example of active and memorable experiential learning. So learn how waves work, simulate oil spills, or even make a recycled lava lamp with your kids in order to show them how oil and water do NOT mix.
5. Curb your seafood intake completely or at least make it responsible
Going without eating fishy friends can be delicious. Check out some of our wonderful, tasty, and diverse vegetarian and vegan recipes. If you still want to make seafood a part of your diet, do it sparingly and responsibly. The Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch site will help you make smarter decisions for your family.
6. Give ocean and water learning a celebrity face
Musician Jack Johnson is a huge advocate of the Surfrider Foundation. Matt Damon co-founded water.org, which works to provide clean water access and sanitation. Hayden Panettiere has spoken out for aquatic animals including dolphins and whales for years. In the world of celebrity excess, these trailblazers are great role models for kids.
7. Teach kids how to treat the environment right (aquatic and land)
One of the most important lessons in a child’s education should be how everything in the environment is interconnected. Explaining how littering the rings that come on a six-pack of sodas could result in the death of birds by the sea is one example of how what we do on land affects creatures in the water (and in the air!). Other examples: turtles dying as a result of eating floating plastic bags, and people getting sick from swimming in and fishing from polluted bodies of water.
8. Bring learning about the oceans into schools
Programs such as Project WET teach kids all about the importance of water in accessible and age appropriate ways. Organizing community events is also a part of this long-running program. Your child’s science teacher likely has numerous available resources that can help everyone in the class learn about ways to save the oceans. Of course, when it comes to learning about ways to save this planet, we say the more the merrier, so spread the word in any and every way possible.