Who says you need Earth Day to teach young children about recycling?
It is super important to start teaching young children (and seriously I mean toddlers) about recycling and reusing. Unfortunately, we live in a world where only a small percentage of the population truly cares about the environment and the impact our daily actions have on the world around us. And depending on what country you are reading this from, you may not be able to count on the education system to accurately educate your child(ren) on climate change, let alone teach steps to reduce ones environmental impact.
That was a sad sentence to write.
But the never the less, it is true.
So where to begin?
At 2 years old (or younger if you want!) you can start with the basics using simple language in a play based activity. You can teach your child about different materials by doing a simple sorting activity. Bonus is that it only takes 2 minutes to set up and clean up!
Place wooden blocks, small sticks from outdoors, metal spoons (or other safe metal objects), and small plastic toys in a large container and let your child sort the items into smaller containers according to the materials. Talk to your child about the materials, pointing out where there are similarities and differences. And ask them questions based off of experience, like what does it sound like when you bang the spoons together? Does it sound different than banging the blocks together? Encourage your child to think critically by exploring the various textures and forms that plastic takes.
Books, Books, Books!
When you’re confident your child knows the difference between wood/papers, plastic and metals then you can start talking to them about recycling! Yay! I found books were the perfect place to help me get started with the right language and dialogue for talking to my kids about green living. I mean, why reinvent the wheel am I right? Below are a few books we love to read (affiliate links):
Let the recycle bin become your craft bin.
Using your recycle bin as a starting point for your crafts is a great way to introduce recycling concepts. Recycling is a pretty large concept for small children but turning a milk carton into a bird feeder or plastic bags into a jellyfish craft? There they have no problem making the connection of one thing being repurposed to create something new.
Teach that trash is last.
In our household, we work hard to encourage our kids to think of the trash can as the last possible option for an item that needs to be disposed. Encourage your child to ask first before automatically throwing an item in a waste bin. The hope is that these will become lasting habits and become the foundation for eco-conscious children, teenagers and eventually, adults.
Have a cool recycling craft? Share the link with my readers in the comments!