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What Should I Know About Recycling for Children?

By Nychole Price
Updated May 16, 2024
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Children can be taught about recycling from a very young age. Kids are a lot more receptive to learning new things, such as how to do dishes and vacuum, when they are little, as they are trying to be like their parents. This is the time to get them in the habit of reusing trash and placing recyclables in the proper bins. Besides modeling their parents, children also learn from recycling activities.

Teach your children about the use of trees to make paper products. Besides attracting their interest, this will also teach them to respect the amount of work and resources used to make paper plates, napkins, paper, etc. To learn about the process of making paper products from trees visit borealforest.org.

The Environmental Protection Agency offers a recycling program online, referred to as the Environmental Kids Club. This program helps motivate children to recycle by offering games, crossword puzzles and interactive storybooks. Children can learn to be planet protectors by starting a recycling program in their community.

Kids are more likely to practice recycling if it becomes their responsibility to manage it. Designate your child to be in charge of making sure everyone recycles. He can label the bins, crush cans and separate paper. Making him feel a little more powerful in the household will go a long way.

Plant a garden with fruits and vegetables. When at the grocery store point out all the paper and plastic used to package the produce. Tell your child that you are helping to reduce the amount of trees harvested to produce these products by growing your own. Let him care for the garden and pick the fruits and vegetables. Besides teaching your child about conserving the environment, you will also be encouraging him to eat healthier.

Money is a motivating factor for adults and children alike. Encourage your child to collect all the bottles and cans in the house and place them in a recycling bin. Have him check the trash can regularly to ensure no one is throwing away recyclable products. After the bin is full, take your child to the recycle center to exchange them for cash. Allow him to keep the cash and spend it as he wants.

When encouraging your child to recycle, make sure to practice what you preach. Just like anything else in life, you can't tell your children to do something that you won't do. Children learn by example and parents are their greatest role models.

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Discussion Comments
By pleonasm — On Jan 24, 2012

I think the idea of practicing what you preach is very important. If your kids see you recycling every day as a matter of course they will instinctively do it themselves, the same as they learn anything else from you.

But if you tell them to do something you don't do yourself, they will get a very mixed message about it.

It's difficult, because this generation is really the first that's been aware of what needs to be done. So we never got to learn from our parents how to recycle properly.

But someone has to step up and make sure it's a natural thing to do for the next generation, or eventually they'll be wading around in rubbish.

By pastanaga — On Jan 24, 2012

@irontoenail - I think that's still a really good way to recycle with children, if you can find a suitable outlet.

A worm farm can be kept even in small suburban gardens as long as you maintain it properly and worms will take care of most organic refuse with ease.

Then you can use the castings to grow more food for your kids, and with your kids, so they can see a bit of the "circle of life" going on in your backyard.

I think it's easier for the young ones to understand than the idea of putting out glass bottles to be picked up and never seen again.

By irontoenail — On Jan 23, 2012

When I was a kid we didn't do much recycling in the usual way, but we did have what we called the "pig bucket".

We were on a small farm and had some lovely pigs that were more like pets than anything. And every time we had suitable scraps of food left over, it would go into the pig bucket.

No raw meat, obviously, but we had been told they could also be sensitive to raw potatoes so we only ever gave them cooked ones. We'd just microwave the potato peelings for a few minutes.

After I left home, it took me years before I could overcome the sense of wrongness when throwing out peelings and things instead of giving them to the pigs to eat. I guess I just got so used to it as a child.

I'm hoping to eventually get some land of my own so I can have another slop bucket, or maybe a compost bin or a worm farm to call my own.

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