Originally Published on June 9, 2020. Last Updated on July 11, 2023.
Recycling is important. As adults, we understand this. But how do we instill the notion in our children? Finding new and interesting ways to keep your children entertained (while secretly educating them) can sometimes be a challenge. But you can do it—and we’ve got a few tricks you can use to make it happen.
If you’re looking for ways to teach your children about recycling, try one (or a few) of the ideas on our compiled list below.
1. Tour a Recycling Center
If your children are old enough, give them a behind-the-scenes look at the recycling process. We’re sure there are recycling centers near you that offer tours, and would love to show you around. Find a recycling facility near you using Earth911’s handy search tool.
2. Get Creative with Sustainable Kids’ Crafts
Thanks to the internet, parents everywhere can access all sorts of awesome kids’ crafts. To start your online search, look for age-appropriate projects that fit your budget and preferred time frame.
No time to look online? Here are a couple of ideas straight from the POLYWOOD blog:
3. Make Recycling a Game or Competition
Turn recycling into a fun game with these ideas:
- Take your kids on a nature walk and see how many pieces of litter they can collect in an hour or how quickly they can fill a garbage bag. Set a timer and goal; if they reach it, take them out for ice cream.
- Turn sorting recyclables into a game. Hold up an item and have your kids guess the material and which bin it goes in.
4. Try Online Games
If your child is into online gaming, try these interactive games:
- National Geographic’s Recycle Roundup.
- United States Environmental Protection Agency’s Recycle City Challenge.
- RecycleSmart’s sorting game.
- PBS KIDS’ A.J.’s Recycle Rescue.
5. Add Recycling to Storytime
Kids love it when you read to them, so seek children’s books with recycling and sustainability themes and add them to your bedtime story rotation. It’s a great way to bond with your children and teach them a thing or two.
6. Teach Your Kids to Compost
Showing your little ones how to compost can be the foundation for many teaching moments:
- It’s an opportunity to get them in the kitchen for a cooking lesson.
- Recycling food and yard scraps teaches kids about waste reduction and self-sufficiency.
- Having them help you build or assemble a compost bin boosts their problem-solving skills.
- Letting them mix the compost allows them to see the biological changes in action.
- Having your kids help blend compost into soil hones their gardening skills.
7. Donate to Charity
Your kids will eventually outgrow their toys and clothes, and you can use this situation to teach them about sustainability and selflessness. So have them help you pick out things they no longer want, box them up, and carry them into the donation center.
Including them in the whole process and explaining why you’re doing it is essential because your little ones are bound to ask you why you’re giving away their stuff. They’re sure to get into the spirit once they discover that donating their old or unused items will help other kids. Plus, they’ll have a deeper appreciation for any new toys and clothes they receive.
8. Sing a Silly Song About Recycling
Kids are always singing, dancing, humming, and making funny noises. Let your creative side show by making up a rhyme that helps them remember what can be recycled. Here’s a little ditty you can borrow (sing to the tune of Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star):
It’s fun to keep our planet clean.
Toss your plastic in the bin,
Then add glass and cardboard in.
Metal fits and paper too,
I love to recycle with you.
9. Lead by Example
Kids will repeat their parents’ actions, so they’ll copy you if you show interest in recycling. They’ll eventually follow your lead after watching you repeatedly toss aluminum cans in the curbside bin, rinse plastic containers, and break down cardboard boxes.