Kids have a wonderful knack for being carefree – isn’t that what being a kid is all about? For that reason it’s extra important to make veganism FUN for kids. Yes, they can and should realize that the reasons behind the lifestyle are serious. But the lifestyle itself is something to celebrate! If you could be 10 again, what’s the first thing you would want to do (besides dumping your job for video games and candy)? Unfortunately, a hot tub time machine is only in the movies, but you can embrace your own “inner kid” by spending quality time with your own children/nieces and nephews/other young people in your life. Here are our top 10 cool ways to celebrate veganism as a kid:
- Get up close and personal. Plan a trip to a local animal sanctuary. Or, better yet, visit the Farm Sanctuary in New York or California – Time.com recently interviewed Gene Baur, the president of Farm Sanctuary. Nothing reinforces veganism positively quite like connecting with animals – the ones they’re not eating.
- Taste the adventure. Preserving the biodiversity and health of our planet is a facet of veganism, so show the child in your life the amazing world around them – zip line through a forest, kayak on the lake or ski down mountains. Chances are, once they’ve been exposed to beautiful natural areas they will want to help protect them.
- Just eat. Nurture a child’s passion for cooking and get cooking. Teaching them about good nutrition goes hand-in-hand with spending great one-on-one time in the kitchen, and it becomes fun rather than a chore. Prepare a variety of foods from appetizers all the way to desserts and then just sit and indulge in your finger lickin’ good creations. (And it doesn’t hurt to let them lick the bowl/spoon/beaters since there are no raw eggs in your yummy treats!)
- Shop ‘til you drop. Teenagers can be harder to please, but a trip to the mall might intrigue them enough to want to celebrate veganism with you. Treat them to vegan belts and shoes or eco-friendly electronics. Teach them where they can find cruelty-free and socially responsible goods, and judge an item by more than its shelf price or look. This is a lesson that will stick with them their whole lives – and again, if you make it fun, it can be a great bonding activity. Be careful not to lecture your kids when you are teaching them about veganism. Let them discover things on their own and “teach” you too!
- Enjoy vegan popcorn and a show. Although there isn’t necessarily a vegan kid movie genre just yet, there are some films that enforce compassionate ethics. Bambi or Babe is good for younger children, or you can watch several pro-vegan shorts. Most importantly, talk about whatever you watch with your children. Lots of great conversation can come out of their impressions of TV shows and movies.
- Be a worm. Well, a book worm. A love of reading is a gift you can give to your child that will serve them their whole lives. Get them a library card and let them choose some of their own books. Use reading as a reward, or fun time – never make it a punishment. Make it an activity that you love to do together – curl up and read – or take books to your favorite picnic spot and just hang out for the day. There is an ever-increasing number of great books on veganism for young children (like The Secret Life of Mitch Spinach), as well as for teens. Check this list out.
- Join forces. One of the biggest drawbacks to being a vegan kid is a lack of support from their peers and other parents. Go out of your way to find other kids who are vegan so that your child doesn’t feel alone. Some kids have started blogs to reach out to others, so use your online resources too. Consider getting involved and lobbying at your school for vegan school lunch options – you’ll be doing everyone a favor.
- Keep one foot in front of the other. Celebrating small achievements with even bigger goals can be a great experience too. Becoming vegan is just one step in the larger picture of it all. See if the child in your life would be interested in leafleting or raising funds for an animal sanctuary or environmental organization. Check out PETA Kids for resources.
- Be flexible. More than anything, it’s important to tread carefully and listen to your child. Give them the information they need when they need it. Don’t force veganism upon them, or they will likely rebel the first chance they get. Explain why your family is vegan, and help them to embrace veganism as something THEY care about. That will mean different things for different kids. Listen to them and they will tell you how they want to celebrate!
Are you the parent/family member/caregiver of a vegan child? Tell us how you celebrate veganism with your young person.