As we all know, recycling is crucial when it comes to caring for our planet — and instilling this responsibility in children when they are young is a surefire way to encourage them to do it for years to come. But how can we do this without it being reduced to an unpleasant “chore”? As a former preschool teacher, I’ve found that one of the easiest ways to get children excited about cleanup is to turn it into a game.
As luck would have it, there are plenty of ways to transform something seemingly mundane like recycling into a fun pastime.
To get kids started in the world of recycling, you first have to teach them how to sort. Allison McDonald of No Time for Flash Cards created a wonderful little game for her son to do just that. With nothing more than cardstock, magazines, berry containers, scissors and double-stick tape, you can create a delightful game that allows your little ones to use their problem-solving skills and develop a love for sorting recyclables at the same time. Check out the tutorial here.
Online Sorting Game
It’s no secret that today’s children are incredibly tech savvy. These tiny digital natives have taken to computers and tablets like ducklings to water. If your kids are in the mood for something a little more 21st century than cardstock, consider this awesome game from Turtle Diary. Players drag and drop items from a conveyor belt into one of three containers: compost, recycle or trash. I love the addition of compost, as it adds more dimension to the wonderful world of sustainability!
Nature Walk Recycling Game
Nature walks have always been my go-to trick to get kids moving and interacting with their environment. Collecting rocks, doing crayon rubbings of fallen leaves, and catching and releasing insects all work to get children excited about the beauty of our planet. Another thing nature walks are good for is an opportunity to do a little community service and recycling at the same time.
Choose a neighborhood, park or semi-busy street (if they’re not the kind to run into traffic) to explore with your little ones. Take along two bags — one for trash and one for recycling. Have the children keep an eye out for litter. When they find some, allow them to sort it into the proper bag. You can even turn it into a fun bingo game! Take some time to talk about why we shouldn’t litter and how it’s bad for our environment. When the walk is over, dispose of the trash and send the recycling on its way to the plant!
At one point or another, many of us have flirted with the idea of buying a metal detector in the hopes of finding valuable antiques or jewelry. Unfortunately, as most metal detectorists will tell you, you’re far more likely to find old beer cans than anything worthwhile. However, I’ve found that the key is to manage expectations — after all, one person’s trash is another person’s treasure!
Start by explaining that the goal is to find as many recyclable metal items as possible. Then, grab a child-sized metal detector and something to carry your finds in, and let your kids go exploring. Beaches, parks, fields, woodlands and ghost towns are all great places to probe with a metal detector. By turning trash into “treasure,” you’ll get your kids excited about cleaning up their environment — and if you happen to find something of value, that’s just a bonus!
A Few More Tips
Though so much of recycling can be transformed into a game, you’ll still need to explain the importance of recycling to your children. Pop over to your local library and look for children’s books regarding recycling. Read these books together and talk to your kids about why you recycle, and why you think it is important for every member of the family to do so as well.
Place recycling bins in multiple rooms of the house, and ensure they’re at a level that your children can access. You can even encourage them to create signs for the bins so they feel like they have a little more ownership in the project. The more involved they are, the more fun they have — and the more fun they have, the more likely they are to continue to recycle for the rest of their lives.
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