It can be difficult to get the kids on your side in this situation, but there are ways to make it easier. For starters it helps not to make it an order. This might sound contradictory but most kids probably won’t find recycling much fun – at least on the surface. Once you introduce them to the fun side of it they’ll be much more likely to get involved. If you do this you’ll help them develop good habits they can take forward in life. Recycling will be even more important during their lifetimes than it is in ours if we want to continue looking after our planet and making the most of re-using its resources.
Oh no, not another chore!
This is what you’re trying to avoid. Let’s face it no one particularly likes sorting out the rubbish, so you can hardly expect your kids to love the activity and welcome it with open arms. As adults we have a sense of responsibility and we know we should recycle everything we can. This is because of the wider sense of consequences that comes to mind if we don’t.
It’s different for kids. Depending on their ages they may not know too much about recycling, or may simply not be that interested in it. The sooner you can get them involved age-wise the better, so they can grow up with the whole process.
How to get them involved
You’ve probably got a recycling process already set up, but if not now is the time to do it. You can get a series of colour-coded recycling bins complete with stickers to properly label them. This gives the kids two ways of remembering what goes in which bin. When you have separate bins for glass, tins, paper, regular rubbish that can’t be recycled and so on, it’s challenging for them to get used to what goes where. This can easily lead to frustration and the refusal to even try getting it right in future.
By opting for colour-coded bins and stickers you make the whole thing a lot easier for everyone, kids included. If you don’t yet have these bins maybe you could involve the kids in choosing which ones you should buy. This works best with younger kids who like to feel involved and included. It also makes it easier to get recycling underway in your household in a big way.
Get them into recycling in other ways
The whole idea of recycling isn’t always to throw things away in groups to be recycled elsewhere, such as paper or plastics for example. It is more than possible to introduce recycling in other ways – ways that kids will really enjoy.
It’s good to get them into a frame of mind where they question everything they are about to throw away. Could those empty jam jars be used for storing anything else? Perhaps they would be good to store buttons, pennies and other small items in for example. And how about those old CDs? They may not think of this, but they are often hung up by gardeners to scare off the birds.
Encouraging them to come up with alternative uses for things that could still be used elsewhere and have not reached the end of their life is a good habit to instil in your children. After a while they may start keeping certain items to use in other ways, to do their own bit of recycling. Simple ways to start this include keeping lolly sticks for arts and crafts. Other similar items that can be used in this way include milk bottle tops, kitchen roll tubes and various other items of this ilk.
Another good option is to set up a competition. This can work well if you have more than one child, but it also works where you have just one. Perhaps you could challenge them to see who gets the most recycling in a week. You could put one in charge of recycling paper and another in charge of something else. Another option is to challenge an only child to see how many bags of recycling they can put together in a week. You could award a prize for each bag they can get together.
These are all just ideas to start things off. You may find they generate other ideas you know would work well in your home.
Recycling in the garden
Let’s not forget the garden either – somewhere most kids love to be when the weather is good. Understanding how recycling works in the garden is a very rewarding experience. This is the ideal opportunity to invest in a compost bin if you haven’t already done so. You can spend an hour or two showing your children how to collect dead plants to pop into the composter. You can also get them to collect grass clippings whenever you mow the lawn. It’s quite fascinating to see all this go into the top of the composter and a few months’ later to get fresh homemade compost from the bottom.
If you do start this process make sure you buy a small compost bin for the kitchen too. This will take all the kitchen scraps you have that are suitable for home composting. Get your kids to create another poster listing all the things that can be put in there. Fruit and vegetable peelings will be deposited in there (no cooked veggies though), along with teabags, coffee grounds and eggshells. Again it gets your kids to look at the issue of recycling in yet another way.
Let them see the results
Before you start recycling count how many black bags of rubbish your household generates in a week. You could get the kids to create a scrapbook of images and information starting from this point. Take some pictures of all the bin bags and get them to put it in the scrapbook.
When your new set of recycling bins arrives, they can unpack them, put them together and set them out in the right place. Taking ownership of them will help them get more involved in the long run. Start recycling at the beginning of a new week if you can, according to when your bins are emptied by your local council.
At the end of the week your kids can count how many black bags of rubbish you have now, and how many bags or containers of recyclables you have. They might be surprised at the answers – and again they can take pictures and write updates in their scrapbook. Over time they can look at your progress as a family and see how well you are doing with your drive to recycle more things.
Get them to create a poster
This is a great wet weather day activity they can do indoors. Just as kids can make a poster for compostable goods, they can also make one for items they can recycle indoors. If you don’t have wall space for a large poster you could get them to make a single A4 sheet for each type of recycling. So for instance paper recycling would include items such as cards, newspapers, scrap paper and so on.
Again this is a great activity they will enjoy that will also get them more involved in the whole recycling process.
Ask them to make a list of non-recyclable goods you use a lot
This is another aspect of recycling that isn’t often thought about. When we have rubbish to get rid of, we ask ourselves whether it can be recycled or not. If it can it goes in the right bin and if not it goes in the general rubbish. But perhaps we can take this a step further and encourage the kids to join in a brainstorming session.
As your household becomes more used to recycling things together, you will start to notice which things you get that cannot be recycled. Not all packaging can be recycled for example. Can your kids find alternatives whenever you come across something that has to go in the general rubbish? You won’t always find an alternative but it could improve your recycling habits whenever you can.
It may seem an impossible challenge to involve your kids in recycling to begin with. However once you get started and draw them in with enthusiasm and real knowledge, you’ll probably find they really enjoy it. Why not get started now and invite them to help you choose some brand new colour-coded bins for your home?
Our recycling guide for primary school children is perfect for helping to gets schools more involved in recycling. Once the kids have mastered it at home why not suggest it to the schools as well?