As Whitney once sang, “I believe that children are our future. Teach them well and let them lead the way.” When it comes to recycling and waste reduction, never a truer word was spoken (or sung, for that matter). It is incredibly important for us to teach our children about recycling and sustainability from a young age. Helping them to grasp issues such as resource availability, recycling, and reducing waste could have a huge impact on the future of the planet.
By involving children in recycling practices, we can create a positive impact on the environment and also foster a sense of responsibility and empathy towards the world they inhabit. In this blog, we will explore the benefits of getting children involved in recycling, offer top tips for reducing waste, suggest fun ways to make recycling engaging, and share some recycling games and craft activities too.
Why is recycling important for kids?
There are a host of benefits to getting kids involved in recycling, including:
Teaching children about recycling helps them understand the impact of waste on the environment and the importance of preserving natural resources for future generations.
By involving kids in recycling, we cultivate a sense of responsibility and ownership, encouraging them to take care of the planet. This can help them to make environmentally-friendly choices throughout their lives.
Encouraging critical thinking
Sorting recyclables challenges children to think critically and understand the differences between materials – a great science topic!
Top tips for teaching children about reducing waste
Teaching kids the “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” mantra
The three Rs of waste management are relatively easy to explain to children. Reducing is simply cutting back on the amount of rubbish we produce; reusing is finding a new way to use our rubbish rather than throwing it away; recycling is processing rubbish to make new things that can be resold.
Educate kids about single-use plastics
This is one that can easily be built into everyday life, as there are sadly still so many examples of single-use packaging. Start by having a conversation about why it is important to use reusable water bottles, lunch containers, and shopping bags. This could also extend to involving children in making more eco-friendly shopping decisions, opting for products with minimal packaging and those made from eco-friendly materials, rather than those packaged in plastic.
Talk to kids about reuse, or upcycling
Explore the art of upcycling, where old or discarded items are transformed into new, useful objects, reducing waste and sparking creativity. As well as some of the crafty ideas below, a trip to your local charity shop could help them to grasp the importance of reuse.
Foster a sense of wonder in our planet
Kids who love nature and spending time in the great outdoors may have a stronger understanding of why protecting their environment is so important. Our recent Forest School blog highlights some of the benefits of outdoor activities for kids – explore our activities finder page for activities for kids near to you.
How to make recycling fun
Recycling games for kids:
Turn recycling into a game by setting up a sorting station and challenging kids to categorise items correctly (also great science activity for younger kids!)
Decorate plastic bottles to create “skittles” and enjoy a game of bowling in your own garden. It can help to weigh them down slightly with a bit of sand or soil.
Create a tin can alley in much the same way as the bowling game.
Recycling activities for kids:
Organise outdoor clean-up drives or litter-picking activities to make kids feel directly involved in keeping their surroundings clean.
Use old cardboard boxes to create imaginative playhouses, cars, or spaceships – great for fostering creativity, imagination and resourcefulness.
Repurpose plastic bottles into planters for small herbs or flowers, teaching kids about gardening and the value of reusing materials.
Turn old newspapers into collages, papier-mâché sculptures, or even handmade paper, combining recycling with artistic expression.
Create wind chimes using tin cans and other recycled materials, transforming waste into garden decoration (can also keep the pests off your plants)
Make a pen holder by decorating an empty tin can.
If your kids enjoy these craft activities, then have a browse through our arts and crafts activities finder to locate fun activities for kids close to home.
Recycling facts for kids
While the games and activities above are a great way to engage kids in learning about recycling, there are some pretty amazing facts out there which can capture children’s imagination! The Business Waste website and The Recycling Partnership have some great recycling facts for kids, including:
Recycling one aluminium can saves enough energy to power a TV for three hours!
Plastic takes hundreds of years to break down, and much of it ends up in our oceans, harming marine life.
The symbol with three arrows in a triangle indicates that an item is recyclable.
The glass we recycle in the UK each year saves enough energy to launch 10 space shuttle missions.
It can take just seven days for old magazines and newspapers to be recycled into new ones.
In the UK we throw away around 455,000 tonnes of plastic bottles every year – equivalent to around 9.1 billion bottles.
The benefits of teaching kids about recycling go beyond reducing waste; it helps to instil values of empathy, responsibility, and creativity in children – and is a great way to expand their knowledge of science and the environment.
With simple tips, fun activities, and craft ideas to repurpose recycling materials, we can make the learning process enjoyable and impactful for young minds.
If you’ve enjoyed this blog, or are looking for more top tips on introducing the topic of sustainability to your little eco-warriors, check out our Earth Day blog. Alternatively, pop your postcode into our activities page for a whole host of activities for kids in your local area.