There's a great blog post here about ways to encourage kids to live simply. I particularly like the idea about changing our language from "I want" or "I need" to "I like", which implies less attachment and less urgency.
Yesterday we took the kids to the mall - which happens about once or twice a year. We wanted to participate in an engineering program which was supposed to have been held in the mall but was unfortunately cancelled. While we were there we needed to look for a new kettle, get birthday presents for Gran and a cousin.
We traipsed from one end of the mall to the other in search of a simple stove top kettle that was 1) under $100 and 2) not made in China of cheap materials. No luck. But we did have plenty of time to talk about why malls are laid out like they are, the effect of advertising and image, and why there were so many people in a mall on a beautiful Saturday morning (the parking lot was full!).
I think my kids get it. I think they understand the role of advertising in their lives, the impact of a consumer culture in the lives of others and the choices we make. But I fully admit that they are still young and easily protected from the pull of those forces which are so ingrained in our culture. The hard work on those issues is still in front of us.
Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood