Recycling and leading sustainable lives are responsibilities that we all share, our children included. For many parents, it’s therefore important that their kids learn about the importance of recycling from a young age. There are a number of ways in which you can help children catch the recycling bug and start them on a lifetime of environmental consciousness. From education to fun activities, here are a few tips that will help you encourage your kids to recycle.
Provide early exposure
It’s far easier to get your kids to recycle if you expose them to it at a young age. The sooner you introduce the concept of recycling to your children, the more seamless it will become for them to separate their recyclables from their trash. Make it easy to do so by leaving recycling bins in a location that your children can easily see and access. Each time you recycle, you should involve them in the process and talk about which piece of waste goes in which bin. If your children are young, you can even make up a song about what waste goes where.
Allow them to get creative
When you first introduce recycling to your children, encourage them to get involved by using their creativity. One of the best ways to engage your children in the recycling process is to turn it into an art project. Give your kids free reign to decorate your plastic, paper, and glass bins with paint or other decorations. You can also encourage them to embellish the bins with drawings of the items that go inside each one. By letting their creativity run free, you’ll enable them to have some control and ownership over the activity—something many kids crave. As a result, they will be more motivated to use the bins every day.
With children, education is an excellent way to pique their interest and engage them in recycling. Start by giving them general information about the environment and the impact that humans have on it. This will reinforce how important it is for both adults and children to do their part to help the earth. After establishing this foundation, go over the three R’s—Reduce, Reuse, Recycle—and show your children how they can do each in their daily lives. If you need more educational resources, check out books from your local library or visit helpful websites.
Another excellent way to teach your kids about recycling is to take them on a tour of your local recycling center. During your visit, your kids will be able to ask all the questions they may have about the process and see what happens to the items they recycle.
Be the example
Children love to watch the adults in their lives and copy what they do. As such, it’s important to set an example in your household and recycle often if you want to involve your kids in the practice. To encourage your children to follow your lead, make it a regular habit to sort your waste into the proper bin and compost or reuse those items that you cannot recycle. More importantly, make sure that your children watch you take these steps toward a more sustainable lifestyle. By observing what you do, your kids are more likely to adopt the same practices in their own lives.
Some children need a little extra push to start recycling. When that’s the case, consider an incentive of some sort. If you live in a state that offers a refund for beverage containers, allow your kids to collect the family’s used cans and bottles, and keep the refund they’ll receive when they turn in the containers. This can be a great way for kids to learn about money, too. If your state doesn’t offer a refund value for recyclables, you can give your kids a little cash for collecting items and turning them in. Or, you can offer rewards like extra play time. With attractive incentives laid out before them, your kids will be more eager to recycle.
Add recycling to their chores
Most children have a weekly chore list that includes tasks like helping set the table at dinnertime or putting away their toys. You can supplement these usual activities with recycling if you want everyone in the family to pitch in. Depending on your child’s age, assign them to different tasks. Younger kids can help sort items into different bins, and older children can rinse bottles and help move bins out to the street.
Make it fun
Recycling doesn’t always have to be a chore, however. You can encourage your children to live sustainably by making it fun—games and activities are some of the best ways to foster your family’s excitement about recycling. Young kids in particular will enjoy making crafts out of recycled materials. For example, you can create a caterpillar out of old egg cartons or use an old milk jug to make a bird feeder. In addition, you can make recycling fun by creating games out of repurposed materials. Try stacking plastic bottles on top of one another to create a fun carnival-style throwing game.