China, one of the most polluting countries in the world (UNHCR, 2017), is facing tremendous challenges in dealing with environmental problems. Although the government has implemented various regulations and introduced strong enforcement to reduce toxic emissions and encourage recycling, little is known about how parents in China socialise their children into environmentally responsible individuals. This article reports on what 267 Chinese parents do, as agents of environmental protection, to raise their children’s awareness of environmental issues, and how their environmental literacy affects these children’s attitudes and behaviours. A survey was developed to measure how parents engage their children in environmental literacy, how confident parents feel in their own environmental awareness, and whether this has an effect on their engagement with children. The participants were found to play an agentive socialisation role in their engagement with children on pro-environmentalism in terms of shaping their behaviours and attitudes and developing their knowledge and skills. Further, the correlational analysis results reveal that engagement in some aspects of environmental literacy is related to parents’ socio-economic status (SES) and their age, namely the lower the SES or age, the higher the engagement. The study serves as a baseline for parents’ engagement with environmental literacy in China and has important implications for a concerted action by schools, the government and environmental organisations to empower parents to be true agents of environmental literacy.