Recycling can be a tough job at the best of times, but it becomes an even tougher task when you have young children in the home. If everyone in a household isn’t following the same rules and routines, all your best efforts could be for nothing.
Thankfully, children are way more savvy than many adults give them credit for. If you can make recycling in the home fun and interesting, there’s no reason why your little ones can’t do their bit.
Here are a few tips for getting kids involved in household recycling
Start them young
The earlier you introduce the concept of recycling to children, the more likely they are to make the process part of their life. From the moment children are old enough to walk and talk, they’re old enough to know which bin plastics go into.
Set up a few recycling bins in accessible areas of your home, and explain every single aspect of the process. A lot of parents are surprised at just how quickly toddlers pick up the basics.
Don’t be afraid to discuss the reasons for recycling with your children. Explain the impact excess waste has on the environment, on the climate and on wildlife. Youngsters who know why they’re recycling are much more likely to stick to it.
Use online videos and children’s books to explain the issues, and to give them some context wherever possible. Of course, many of the images are a little too graphic to show to toddlers, but any audio-visual aids you can utilise will help to get the message across.
Make things easy
While children are usually prepared to play their part in recycling initiatives, they would much rather spend their time playing and having fun with friends. It’s therefore a good idea to look for ways to make the process as easy as possible. Place recycling bins in the areas your children spend most time in, such as their bedroom and your living room. To make things even simpler, create a colour-coding system for plastics, metals, paper etc.
Play recycling games
The best way to teach very young children is often through play, so try to think of some recycling games you can play as a family. For example, create a pile of plastics, paper, metals and other recyclable items. Give your children five minutes to put the right item in the right recycling bin — and offer rewards and incentives for effort and accuracy.
Let your children be artistic
Most children love arts and crafts, so try to incorporate them into your household’s recycling efforts. For instance, why not get your kids to create their own recycling labels for bins. If they’re creating a bin for paper, they could decorate the label with trees. If they’re working on a label for plastics, they could cut out bottles from magazines and stick real plastic straws to it.
This is your chance to allow your kids to express their own views on the environment and needless waste.
Visit your local refuse centre
Take an alternative family day out at your local council’s refuse centre. If it’s safe to do so, walk around the site, and point out where all of the recyclable items end up. But most importantly, point out the general waste area, which is probably filled with needless waste. End the visit by explaining that everything that can’t be recycled or reused will probably end up deep inside the earth — to rot over centuries.
The environment, waste and climate change are some of the great issues of the 21st century. But if you can make things easy, fun and accessible, there’s no reason why your children won’t embrace recycling and green issues with open arms.