1. Start Early
The best way to encourage kids to start recycling is to build a foundation; so begin teaching them at an early age. Introduce the verbiage and practices early, and make a habit of regularly pointing out what you’re doing.
Use phrases like "the 3 R's", “this plastic bottle gets recycled in the blue bin”, or “the newspaper goes in the green bin.”
Before you know it, your child will be coming to you with items and asking whether it goes in the green or blue bin. With early exposure, good recycling practices will become as habitual as putting garbage in the trashcan.
2. Make Recycling Convenient
Location, location, location …If it’s convenient for kids to recycle, they’re more likely to do it! Set up recycle bins in a common area where your child sees you using them. Try placing marked bins in the kitchen next to the trashcan, or put a box in your child’s bedroom for recycling paper. You could even try putting a small container in the bathroom for collecting toilet-paper tubes. The easier you make it for your child to recycle the more they will grow into avid recyclers.
Accessibility is key!
3. Encourage Creativity
Kids tend to participate more when they’re invested in an activity. Make recycling an activity and encourage your kids to decorate your household recycling bins in ways that please them. Make recycling bins for paper, glass, and plastic; whether that involves taping on pictures of recyclable items or painting a bin glittery pink. This can be a great reminder and will help the little ones not get too overwhelmed. For the older kids, you could try making a goal chart above each bin to try and see how much your family recycles in a week.
4. Make It a Game
You can Google tons of creative games and crafts to turn recycling into a bonding experience for you and your child. For younger kids, the colorful green and blue recycle bins make an easy, fun lesson in colors, matching, and materials. Even when they’re as young as two, they can play a game matching household items with the right bin color. Make piles and have your child try to match the material with the proper bin. Recycling can also be fun by repurposing old items in your home. One of my faves is to take empty water bottles and turn them into creative bowling pins! Turning old items into games is a great way to show kids that you don’t need to constantly buy new toys when we can make them at home. This is a great way to get the wheels in their head turning for new and creative options.
5. Entertain and Educate
Use books, blogs, podcast, and videos to your advantage. Check out books from the library or online and read them together. Listen to a podcast together in the car for a little inspiration. Search YouTube for kid-friendly videos that talk about recycling concepts. If you search for anything that makes your kids laugh I’m sure you can get your kids to want to watch over and over again, and that’s a great thing!
6. Visit a Recycling Center
Last, but certainly not least, take a family trip to the recycling center. Kids like to be informed; they want to know the “why” of everything. Let them meet the people that work at the recycling center and learn about where all the recycled material goes. They can ask all their questions there and gain firsthand insight into why recycling is important. You can also find out if there are ways you can volunteer as a family at the recycling center.
Whoever said teaching your kids to reduce their ecological footprint was a challenge…. lied! These quick tips will make learning about environmental waste exciting!