One of the best gifts we can give our children is a greener Earth. However, there’s only so much that parents can do – when we’re gone, it will be up to the next generation to step up to the plate and protect the Earth.
In addition to leading by example – and by that, I mean taking those extra steps to reduce, reuse and recycle – it’s important to begin teaching your children at a younger age. After all, it’s a well-known fact that the earlier habits are picked up, the easier they will become a life-long routine.
Even toddlers can help out – chances are they’ll be pretty happy to lend a hand, especially if you make it into a fun game. Who says recycling has to be a bore or a chore?
Here are 7 ways you can encourage your kids to protect our natural resources and recycle. Get ready, set, recycle!
1. Set a Green Example
Let’s face it – it’s going to be a waste of time teaching your kids to participate in green behaviour if you aren’t exactly doing it yourself. Just recycling here and there, whenever the urge strikes, isn’t going to do anyone any good – especially the Earth. By leading a green lifestyle – all the time – your children are more likely to follow suit. Kids look up to their parents and often emulate their actions – the good and the bad. If you make a habit of sorting, recycling, reusing, composting, etc., they are going to pick up on it and then hopefully encourage their own children to do the same.
2. Look for Teachable Opportunities
When it comes to the three R’s – reducing, reusing and recycling – there are plenty of opportunities for parents to teach their children how and why they should participate. Simple lessons about where food comes from, showing them how to sort through garbage/recyclables and which items go where is a great starting point. There are also numerous children’s books that can help reinforce the message. Books are also a great tool to help peak their interest. Living Green Magazine lists the following 15 children’s books about recycling here.
3. Include Recycling on Chore Chart
In addition to tidying their rooms, helping clean/clear the table and whatever other chores your children are assigned, consider adding recycling duties to the list. Option for age-appropriate tasks – there are plenty to choose from. For example, have your preschool-age child assist with sorting recyclables, taking labels of cans – even picking up litter that lands in your yard or in your neighbourhood. Older children could help by emptying food scraps in to the compost pile/bag, taking garbage and recycle bins to the curb and rinsing out cans, bottles and cartons.
Matt Edgar, Flickr
4. Reward Their Actions
While your youngster may not be able to understand the impact of their actions in helping to create a sustainable future, most are a huge fan of instant gratification in the form of a reward. Something as simple as a sticker on their chore chart for a job well done or a little treat at the end of the week – even accolades for a job well done is likely to keep them motivated and on the path towards greener pastures – quite literally!
Scott Clark, Flickr
5. Plant the Seeds for a Greener Future
One of the best – and probably the most fun – ways to teach your child about going green is gardening. And really, what better way to ‘grow’ family memories and teach them about sustainability than in a garden? In addition to teaching them about where fresh food comes from, it’s a great way to teach respect and an appreciation for Mother Nature. Gardening can also foster communication, build strong relationships and offer an opportunity to work towards a common goal, according to Kids Gardening – a website that offers plenty of resources and tips for parents, including monthly activities and a ‘Parents’ Primer’ designed to help you get started.
6. Get Crafty With Recyclables
There’s no doubt about it that parenting is expensive. Fortunately, one doesn’t have to spend much at all when it comes to arts and crafts projects that the whole family can enjoy. Chances are you’ll find inspiration within recycle bins and throwaway boxes. Objects like discarded toilet paper rolls, empty milk cartons, paper plates and anything borrowed from Mother Nature, such as rocks, pinecones, acorns, leaves, etc. can be used to great something amazing. For some inspiring crafty ideas to get your family to reduce, reuse and recycle, check out this list of 674 ideas from Fave Crafts.
7. Have Fun!
Kids love playing games, so why not incorporate some friendly competition into their recycling duties? Play a game of recycle relay by having each member of the family race to sort and recycle their pile of garbage the fastest. Of course, you’ll have to make sure they know how to separate the piles and clean plastics beforehand. Whoever is the fastest wins the title of ‘Recycle Superstar.’
And there you have it – 7 simple ways to help your child prepare for a brighter and ‘greener’ future. Just remember – reducing, recycling and reusing don’t have to be a chore. Have fun making it a family affair.
Miles Timmis is the Principal of Disposal King Ltd. Since Disposal King’s inception in 2006, Miles has been dedicated to making the waste management process for any project an easy, safe and positive experience. You can connect with him on Google+.