The first step in teaching your children about recycling is explaining to them why we should recycle. Teach your children that the earth is their home, and that it therefore deserves their care and respect. Also, teach your child that there is a strong interconnectedness and interdependence between humans and the environment and that their daily actions can affect the earth in either a positive or negative way.
Starting with the basics is a great way to teach your child fun recycling projects. It is important to identify the three R’s for your child so that he can distinguish three key ways to reduce his ecological footprint, that is, his impact on the environment:
- reduce: this means cutting back on the amount of waste used in everyday life. For example, reduce waste by teaching kids to use canvas bags at the grocery store instead of plastic bags.
- reuse: reuse an existing item in your household in order to minimize waste. For example, reuse gift bags to cut down on paper waste or decorate cans or jars with stickers or glitter to create a unique pencil holder.
- recycle: recycling means when an object can be shredded, melted, or processed in order to create new raw materials; for instance, an aluminum can is used to create more cans while paper and cardboard can be recycled in order to generate more paper products
A great way to get across the message of "reuse" and "recycle" is to take kids on a trip to your local thrift store, recycling center, or church. If your children have old clothing, toys, shoes, or other items in reusable condition, make a family trip down to the donation center so they can see how their trash is someone else's treasure. Teach kids how items can be reused for different purposes--for example old towels, blankets, and comforters can often be donated to local animal shelters for bedding. These real-life examples will teach kids that many items they would normally throw away can actually have a second life.
Kids have to love the world to want to protect it. So take nature walks and look at the trees, flowers and sky. When you’re away on vacation, don’t forget to enjoy the local natural environment, not just the tourist sites. Encourage them to take pictures, draw pictures, read books and write stories about the world and its beauty.
Kids love to help and they're much more exposed to all things green than many of us are, so let them help you encourage the neighbors to recycle. Kids have big mouths and big hearts, so they'll gladly tell your neighbors that they should recycle and then help them stomp on all their cans and boxes.
Use the internet to make children aware of different recycling ideas and fun crafts to promote recycling. There are a variety of websites on the web aimed at helping children understand recycling and ideas to save our planet. Sites like The Imagination Factory offer wonderful art projects for children. Be sure and check out their section "Trashasaurus Rex". The dinosaur is covered with hundreds, perhaps thousands, of solid waste pieces.