By Julie Knapp
Mother Nature Network
If you want your little ones to grow up to be eco-conscious adults, start teaching them to take care of the planet right from the start. After all, learning the 3 R's should be just as important as learning your ABC's and 1-2-3s, right? Help your child be an ace on the environment with the best books and DVDs to instill eco-messages.
"Michael Recycle" (Worthwhile Books, $15.99)
What happens when a town leaves its garbage to grow rotten and slimy? A green-caped crusader, Michael Recycle, comes to the rescue. He inspires the town to recycle, grow vegetables and collect rain for reuse in this rhyming storybook. Kids can become environmental superheroes, too, by trying Michael Recycle's "Go Green Tips."
"I Know the River Loves Me" (Children's Book Press, $16.95)
Award-winning artist Maya Christina Gonzalez brings a broad concept down to an easy-to-understand level in this bilingual tale of love and respect for nature. The river takes care of Maya and Maya takes care of the river. It cools her in the summer, she watches it change with the seasons and she never pollutes her favorite place.
"The Lorax" (Random House Books for Young Readers, $14.95)
You can't forget this rhyming 1971 Dr. Seuss classic, which warns readers not to mess with Mother Nature. Long before green got trendy, Seuss saw a need to craft this cautionary tale of a greedy Once-ler who cuts down all the Truffla Trees, pushing the Lorax and his friends off their land.
"Green Start: In the Garden" (Innovative Kids, $6.99)
Kids walk through their garden spotting, picking and eating vegetables like red tomatoes and green beans in this simple story. Organic gardening tips and recipes are also included to help build excitement about starting a garden and eating produce from the backyard. And like the rest of Innovative Kids' new Green Start series, this board book is made from 98 percent recycled materials.
"Wall-E" (Disney/Pixar, $29.99)
Beyond the innocent love story of Wall-E and Eve, there's an important environmental message in this Pixar flick. The director says it was unintentional, but Wall-E is a trash-collecting robot after all. He's left to clean up the Earth, which has become a hopeless wasteland of garbage thanks to a highly consumerist society. Eventually, Wall-E returns the last plant to the Earth's soil to start a rebirth.
"365 Ways to Live Green for Kids: Saving the Environment at Home, School, or at Play -- Every Day!" (Adams Media, $7.95)
The next time your kid says, "I'm bored," hand over this book. It's jam-packed with facts and activities that teach kids how to live green and understand why every piece of our planet is so important. From making a list of herbivores to finding images in magazines or on the web to create an environmental collage, boredom will be beat.
"The Tree" (Illumination Arts Publishing Company, $19.95)
Based on an 800-year-old Douglas fir that author Dana Lyons spotted while camping in the Pacific rain forest, this gorgeously illustrated story (and accompanying CD) describes the life cycle of the fir while placing importance on nature's balance and pointing out human influence. From the sound of encroaching bulldozers to young owls learning to fly, each page will give kids a greater appreciation for trees and the entire planet. After the story, Lyons includes a fact page on the Pacific rain forest for a deeper understanding.
"Sesame Street: Being Green" (Sesame Street, $14.95)
Here's a fun way to introduce eco-conscious values to toddlers and preschoolers, especially if they're mad about Elmo and Abby Cadabby. Paul Rudd gives this DVD parent appeal -- he hosts this lesson of the three R's wearing a giant globe costume. Expect more lights to get turned off and extra help sorting recycling after a few viewings.
"Just a Dream" (Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, $18.95)
Author Chris Van Allsburg is a two-time Caldecott Medalist, and it shows in this beautifully written and illustrated dreamscape. Walter dreams of a future of personal robots and tiny airplanes for all, but he doesn't recycle and laughs at a friend when she gets a tree for her birthday. Then, he has a nightmare about a future of treeless forests, piles of trash and pollution, which inspires him to change his ways.
"Planet Earth" (Discovery, $79.98)
Clever bedtime stories and tips for being green are great, but the best way for kids to fall in love with the planet may be showing them every amazing creature and corner it has to offer. Discovery's instant hit, Planet Earth reveals locations and animal behaviors never seen before. In 11 episodes, kids can explore the whole Earth from Ice Worlds to Shallow Sea and everything in between.
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