We all know little kids love to mimic a parent’s actions. This can be a good thing, like emulating your actions while you clean up your house (guaranteed to be a mess made by the little demon darling). It can also be a bad thing, like reciting your favorite adult words at the most inappropriate times (but doing it in the right context making impossible to get mad and just laugh).

The parental struggle is real.

Same thing goes for recycling, so show your kids the importance of the three R’s until it becomes second nature to them. It’s up to us as (mostly) responsible adults to pass the sustainability torch onto the next generation.

Here are some great ways to make reducing, reusing, and recycling fun for the wee ones in your life.

Put Recycling Bins All Over the House


Recycling bins come in all shapes and sizes. Putting a bin in their room, in their playroom or the bathroom is an excellent way to get them into the habit of recycling early on. Making them feel like they’re doing their part gives positive reinforcement making it more likely for them to carry those traits into adulthood.

Use caution with a bin in the bathroom, it could become a makeshift potty when you aren’t looking.

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Make Recycling a Game

Little girl collecting plastic for recycling with her mother

This is an excellent way to get your kids to understand the different material streams and where they should go. Check with your local waste management department to make sure you know what material goes where. Never assume what is and isn’t recyclable. Your heart might be in the right place but that doesn’t always mean your recycling will end up in the right place.

Another great way to turn recycling into a game is by mixing a pile of recyclable materials together on the floor and have your child match the right item to the proper bin. Put a piece of tape on the ground and get them to work on their throw, even placing your container under a basketball net to make it fun. Games like these are sure to turn them into environmentally conscious eco-warriors in no time!

Kids are obsessed with technology today so if the “hands-on approach” isn’t up their alley, National Geographic Kids has an online game called Recycling Roundup where you have to help Gus the Gorilla speed clean a park, putting waste in its proper place. The EPA also has Recycle City, an interactive look at how different areas of a community handle their recycling and waste.

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Teach Reuse with Upcycled Crafts

Pinturas infantiles de colores con pincel para manualidades en c

Show kids that sustainability goes beyond recycling by using various recyclable materials to create upcycled crafts. Here are some ideas to get you started.

There are a plethora of craft ideas out there on the internet, and Pinterest is a great source of upcycled craft inspiration and tutorials. Don’t worry if the final product doesn’t turn out “Pinterest Perfect,” just be thankful you and your little one got to spend some quality time together.

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Create Experiments with Recycled Items

Tornado Sequence

You can use recyclable material and waste items to create science experiments for your kids. Some examples include:

Science experiments with recyclable materials are an excellent way to get kids to use their hands while learning about science and reusing materials to boot.

Note that these types of experiments should only be done under adult supervision and with the appropriate safety precautions

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Bring Your Kids to a Recycling Facility


Let them see what happens to their recycling after it’s picked up from the curb, it’s a great way for kids to see the bigger picture and the importance of sorting your materials correctly, and it’s also made for a fantastic family outing.

Getting youngsters excited about recycling and the environment isn’t that difficult, and it can help you improve your recycling habits as well. By following these tips, sustainability will become second nature to little Joe, Suzy, or Avocado (my pick for the most popular baby name of 2018).

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