Start Them Early: Seven Fun Ways to Teach Kids The Importance of Recycling
By Guest Contributor: Tim Brown
Recycling is extremely important. Not only does recycling help the planet, but it can even earn you some money in the process, as well. It is fairly well known that when kids learn a habit early on in life, they are more likely to continue that habit throughout their lives. Teaching your kids about recycling early on, then, can encourage environmental responsibility for life. But how do you go about teaching your child about which rubbish is which? Incorporating games and activities that teach them about recycling is a fun and easy way to teach your children how to protect the environment through recycling; a few ideas are below.
Read a Book
It seems rather simple, but books can help teach your children the “why” behind recycling. When the characters in a book learn why recycling is a good idea, your child learns, as well. Finding books that include characters with whom your child will relate is key to encouraging them to learn from their behaviour.
Go to the Zoo or Museum
Most kids love animals, and since recycling can actually help protect animals, taking your kids to the zoo or an animal or natural history museum can help them see these beautiful creatures. Explain that animals can get sick if rubbish isn’t disposed of correctly, and ask them to explain what they learned. Asking a child to repeat back what they’ve learned helps them cement it in their minds, and it also helps you ensure they’ve got the right message.
Colour-coded trash cans, like the kind you can find at ImRubbish, can help you set up a game where certain items of rubbish must be sorted into the correct container. For instance, you can set a pile of different types of rubbish on the ground in front of three cans. Have one can colour be for paper recycling, one for cans and bottles, one for general rubbish, and so on. Have your child sort the rubbish properly against the clock, and reward them for what they accomplish correctly.
A word search is a relaxed but effective way of teaching children about recycling, as well. Several sites have such activities available to be printed straight off the computer, and you and your child can search for the words together. Casually ask your child to explain to you the different things he or she has learned about recycling as certain words come up. Alternatively, you can ask your child for definitions of the words that are to be found. This rhetoric helps to ingrain the principles and verbiage associated with recycling in your child’s mind so they learn it at a deeper level than if they just read it once in a book.
Taking a field trip to the local recycling centre is another great way to involve your child in recycling, and teach them about recycling, as well. Most kids are really interested in how things work, and they’ll think it’s really great to have an opportunity to tour the recycling centre. However, they walk away with a hands-on learning experience and a deeper understanding of what can be recycled, why recycling is important, and what types of things can be made from recycled material.
Save Rubbish to Save Money
There’s nothing like some monetary incentive to encourage your child to participate in the family recycling efforts. Since most recycling centres will pay you for your recyclable rubbish, pick up a few coloured bins that are just for your children and tell them to sort the rubbish they create into the appropriate bins. Whatever they collect they get to keep the money from, but only if they come with you to deposit the recyclables. Not only do they learn about recycling, but they’ll learn about hard work and earning money, as well.
Another great way to involve your family, and even your entire community, in recycling is to join or create a recycling drive. Gather your family and get the community involved, and see how much recyclable rubbish your community can gather. You can add some fun elements to this activity, as well, like using the funds to pay for an auction item that can be raffled, or simply spreading the wealth among the members.
Letting your kids experience recycling is the best way for them to learn about why things should be recycled, how they’re recycled, and how it helps the environment. Show them the types of things that can be recycled, and how it can turn into a brand new item. Reward them with positive reinforcement when they demonstrate that they have learned what you have taught them. And remember, you have to set a good example for your children to follow, so be sure to keep up with your own recyclable rubbish, as well.
Tim Brown is a primary school teacher with a passion for the environment. He enjoys blogging about ways to engage children in caring for the earth in a responsible way.