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4 Tips for Teaching Young Children About Recycling

Humans are generating more trash than ever, and little of it is finding its way into recycling centers. A 2017 study revealed that less than ten percent of the world’s plastic is recycled and that much of it ends up in landfills or in the world’s oceans. While these numbers seem insurmountable, you can still do your part by recycling plastics and other materials at your home. Everyone in the family can participate, and if you have young children, there are several ways you can help them understand the importance of recycling that are both fun and educational.

1.      Have Them Decorate Recycling Bins

One way to make your young children aware of recycling is to involve them at every level. If you collect plastic bottles, metal cans, and other recyclable material during the week for your neighborhood’s weekly pickup, have your kids decorate boxes or crates to teach them how to separate it all. Ask them to create labels or pictures or create a simple color coding system for separating what you collect. Make the boxes and bins accessible to your kids so they can add items during the week.

2.      Keep It Simple

If you want to start teaching your younger children about recycling, it is important that you keep the concept simple. Small children are unlikely to grasp the larger ideas of the global impact garbage has on the environment, so you may want to break it down to how it affects your family.

For example, if you are teaching your Kindergartener to sort plastics from paper, explain how each might be made into something your child can relate to. Recycled paper can be made into a new picture book, while plastic bottles might be made into a new sleeping bag for his or her blanket fort. Being able to relate to how recycled materials are used may help younger kids understand the concept more easily.

3.      Make Games and Crafts From Recyclables

Many of the toys you buy for your children are probably composed of plastic, but what you may not know is that many of them cannot be recycled. Most plastic toys are created to be disposable and are filling up America’s landfills at an alarming rate. However, you can teach your children that not all toys need to come from a store and that they can make their own games and crafts from the recyclables in your home.

Two simple games you can play with your kids involve large plastic liter bottles. You can set them up carnival style or bowling style and hand out small prizes, such as stickers or fruit snacks, when the kids knock them all down. When the game is over, have the kids put the bottles in the right recycling bin. Egg cartons, paper towel rolls, and cereal boxes can all be turned into fun papercraft projects with a box of crayons and some glue sticks. The choices are almost endless and affordable as well.

4.      Use Animals as a Teaching Guide

If you want to introduce the concept of how trash impacts the earth’s oceans and other bodies of water, consider using your child’s favorite animal as a teaching guide. For example, if you live in California and are interested in clean drinking water initiatives, use this as an opportunity to explain how such programs might help the wildlife in your area such as fish, insects, and small mammals. Explore Cadiz Water’s Twitter for more information on water conservation projects in California.

Recycling as a way to protect the earth and its future can be a difficult concept for a child to grasp. However, by breaking down ideas and making the recycling process fun, your kids can learn about the importance of keeping the earth safe, no matter their age.

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