Set a green example
Let’s face it – it’s going to be a waste of time teaching your kids to live a green lifestyle if you don’t act that way yourself. Just recycling here and there, whenever the urge takes you, isn’t going to do anyone any good – especially the planet. By going green – all the time – your children are much more likely to follow suit. Kids look up to their parents and often emulate their actions – the good and the bad. If you make a habit of sorting, recycling, reusing, composting, and the like, they are going to do the same which, hopefully, will one day encourage their children to do so too.
Look for teaching opportunities
When it comes to the three Rs – reducing, reusing and recycling – there are plenty of opportunities for parents to educate their children on how and why they should participate. A good starting point is to talk about where food comes from and show them how to sort through household waste to identify and save recyclables. There are also many children’s books that can help reinforce the message and stimulate their interest. Living Green Magazine lists the following 15 children’s books about recycling here.
Include recycling on ‘to do’ lists
In addition to tidying their rooms and generally helping out around the house, think about adding recycling duties to the list. Option for age-appropriate tasks – there are plenty to choose from. For example ask pre- school children to help you sort recyclables, take labels off cans – even picking up litter that is found in your garden. Older children can help by emptying food scraps into the compost heap, putting out wheelie bins for collection and rinsing out cans, bottles and cartons.
With early exposure, recycling becomes as habitual as putting garbage in the bin. Set up recycle bins in an area where your child sees you using them. Introduce the language early, and make a habit of regularly pointing out what you’re doing: “This plastic bottle gets recycled in the blue bin. The newspaper goes in the green bin.” Before you know it, your child will be coming to you with an item and asking whether it goes in the green or blue bin.
Take a tour
Growing children like to be informed; they want to know the ‘why’ of everything. Educate them with a tour of your local recycling facility. They can ask all their questions there and gain firsthand insight into why recycling is important. Find your local centre.
Make recycling convenient
Location is everything! If it’s easy for kids to recycle, they’re much more likely to do it. Place marked containers in the kitchen next to the bin. Put a box in your child’s bedroom for recycling paper. You might even consider putting a small container in the bathroom for collecting toilet-paper tubes. Accessibility is key.
Get their game on
For younger kids, recycling bins make for an easy and fun lesson based on colours and materials. Even when they’re very young they can play a game matching household items with the right bin colour. Make piles and have your child try to match the material with the proper bin.
Online at National Geographic Kids, your child can help Gus the Gorilla ‘speed clean’ the park by sorting trash — including challenging items like toothpaste tubes and tea bags — into their proper containers.
Older kids may enjoy playing the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Recycle City. Although not local, this site explains the roles that various places have in recycling, and it provides activities that get kids thinking critically. In the Dumptown Game, your child becomes the city manager and has to figure out how to encourage residents to recycle and reduce waste.
Kids tend to participate more when they identify with an activity. Allow them to decorate your household recycling bins in ways that please them, whether that involves taping on pictures of recyclable items or painting a bin glittery pink!
Ask your child to designate a stuffed animal as your household’s recycling mascot. Make the mascot a superhero cape or fashion an outfit for it from recycled materials, and give it a name like ‘Green Bin Gordon’. Children can put the mascots in charge of recycling the weekend newspapers or teaching younger brothers and sisters how to help.
Entertain and educate with books and online videos
Use books and videos to your advantage. Check out books from the library and read them together. Here are 15 children’s books that talk about recycling in a fun way.
Search YouTube for kid-friendly videos that talk about recycling concepts. Anything that makes your kids laugh will get watched over and over — and that’s a good thing! Start with our very own recycling video.