Encouraging children to recycle teaches them that the world they live in is important and they need to help take care of it. The earlier you start, the better. Parents can find ways to make it exciting, so it doesn’t seem like a chore. Begin by making your recycling bins convenient for kids to use in your home and lead by example, explaining what you are doing when placing things in the different containers.
Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle
Discuss what sustainability means and talk about the three parts:
- Reducing waste to minimize our impact on the environment
- Reusing useful objects and materials by giving them a second chance
- Recycling when items can’t be reduced or reused for another purpose
Recycling Fun for Kids
Teaching children how to recycle takes practice at home and school. Recycling activities can be developed for children of all ages to include games, songs, and crafts that make it easy and fun.
Drawing recycling containers
Small children can learn the difference between paper, glass, and plastic by drawing some household items on paper. They can identify the material they are made from, work with shapes and colors, and sort them.
Making toys out of recyclables
Children of any age are challenged by taking recyclable materials and imagining how to turn plastic containers into boats, make puppets out of socks and other fabric, create artwork and collages using pictures and words from magazines and newspapers, or build a house out of boxes. Old bottles become decorated vases, and a few empty cans and a ball make a bowling game.
Having contests, scavenger hunts, and relay races
Create games where kids can work together to see who has the most reusable items, worked faster, or sorted more accurately. In each of these games, be sure everyone receives a small reward.
- Have a contest for collecting a certain number of batteries, bottles, or plastic bags from home or in the neighborhood.
- Hide cards at the park that represent different types of reusable and recyclable items. Divide kids into groups to look for the cards and sort them into recycling bins—review which items were sorted correctly and why.
- Gather a pile of reusable, recyclable, and regular trash and place three labeled bins in a play area. The reuse box should be the closest, the recycling box a little further, and the landfill box the farthest away. Teams sort the items, then run and put them in the appropriate box.
Read recycling Stories
Children’s books like Michael Recycle (Ellie Bethel and Alexandra Colombo) or Why Should I Recycle (Jen Green) entertain and encourage recycling for younger kids. They learn to make less waste and take care of the environment.
Have children look for litter when on a walk. Take labeled or color-coded trash bags so they can sort what they find into the proper bag.
Let’s Go Outside Box provides monthly activity boxes, including games that help kids learn basic recycling skills. They can share what they’ve learned with their friends and develop good habits to help the environment. We talk more about this topic and others on our Facebook page to help you make learning more fun for your kids!
How to Teach Recycling for Kids, https://www.summitchildrenscenter.com/teaching-recycling-for-kids/
The game of recycling or how to make children aware, https://www.iberdrola.com/environment/recycling-for-kids