Children are more likely to participate in recycling now and in the future if they understand its implications, and if it is part of their daily family life.
Learning how to reuse is a valuable life skill, and opens the door for a lifetime of reduced waste, innovation and money saving. It also helps to make it fun!
Here are some ideas you can implement to teach your children about recycling – how to do it, why it’s important, and how they can help.
1. Make it a game
Children enjoy tossing recyclables into the bins in your home. Try mounting your bins to the wall, or line them up where their tops are open. Have children toss in unbreakable recyclables such as cardboard or plastic from progressively farther away. Or you can lay out all the recycling and see who can sort and put the items in the right bin first.
If you have a lot of light-weight items such as cereal and tissue boxes or yogurt tubs, see how high your child can stack them before knocking the stack into the bin.
2. Arts, crafts, and other projects
Not all children enjoy crafts, but there is something for everyone in recycling creations. If your child is artistic and likes crafts, use recyclables to make artistic creations and gifts. Paint a glass or plastic bottle, for example, and use it as a vase; glue beads and other decorations to glass or plastic containers to make pencil holders, coasters (think plastic lids), or other items. Stiff paper and thin cardboard can be cut into squares and folded into little boxes.
If your child prefers engineering or machines, you can make gears by cutting up corrugated cardboard and mounting them to cardboard boxes with pins that allow the gears to turn.
3. Visit the recycling center
You can arrange ahead of time with those in charge of the center, or for a less in-depth visit, simply take your child with you when you deliver the recycling. Talk about how they take old items and make them into new ones. Point out items in the center’s bins that the child may recognize, and talk about how what we throw away and what we create are connected.
If you can get into the center, children can get a look at the machines and methods of actual recycling, and see what goes into it. It’s important that children do not think recycling is some kind of magic force! It takes real work and everyone’s participation.
4. Visit a landfill, dump, or tip
This can be rather unappetizing, but visuals really teach. Show your children the garbage, noting how high it is piled up and how much it smells. Keep it simple, but be frank and realistic.
For more ideas, check the Environmental Protection Agency’s website, www.epa.gov/kids/.