Teaching Children About Recycling


Easy items to recycle include metal cans, most plastics such as yogurt cups, cardboard, aluminum cans, and glass.

My daughter has grown up watching her mother recycle, so it’s no big deal to her.  However, she is still learning about recyclable materials and she is also still working on remembering to recycle items.  Because she doesn’t have as much opportunity to learn about recycling outside of our home, I am her primary teacher when it comes to this subject.  She needs to be reminded sometimes to recycle, although other times she remembers on her own.

My goals are to teach her:

  1. Why it’s important to recycle
  2. What can be recycled
  3. What can’t be recycled
  4. Learning personal responsibility through recycling

I think all children, regardless of age, should at the very least be exposed to the concept of recycling and why it is so important.  If you feel you can’t find the right words, an internet search for “child-friendly recycling diagrams” is a good search.

Recycling is part of the bigger REDUCE REUSE RECYCLE phrase that is so well known but often overlooked.  These actions are listed in their order of importance.  First, reduce the amount of consumption.  Second, reuse items if possible.  Finally, recycle if the first two do not apply.

I also love that I can use recycling to not only teach my daughter about taking care of the earth, but about personal ownership and responsibility.  If she ate something from a plastic container, she is responsible for placing it in the recycling bag because she used it. Sometimes she asks whether an item can be recycled or not, and we talk about this as well.  In time, she will know enough about recycling to determine what items get recycled, which are reused, and which are thrown away.

We also talk about litter on the roadways, to which my daughter will inevitably reply, “That’s not good for the earth.  That person should have recycled.”  Which, needless to say, warms my heart!

Teaching these principles to children helps to ingrain an eco-friendly mindset, which will hopefully result in an eco-friendly, responsible, insightful adult.

Have you ever taught children about recycling?  What method of teaching worked for you?


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