Little Justice Leaders Blog

5 recycling activities to get kids passionate about reducing waste

By Gabby Cushman

How to give your little ones personal agency in the fight to slow climate change

Climate change can often be a distressing topic to discuss for both kids and adults. When large corporations contribute to the majority of carbon emissions in the world, it can feel like the individual action we take to protect our environment doesn’t make enough of an impact. However, this isn’t the case. Any step taken to reduce our carbon footprint does make an impact and helps the Earth little by little. This is a great concept to teach our children to get them involved in environmental activism so they feel like they can make a difference through their actions, however small. These five different recycling activities, which you can do with the family or at school, are good starting points for teaching kids how to reduce their carbon footprint.

#1- Collect litter at a local park or playground

Unfortunately, litter can be seen almost everywhere we go. This is especially saddening to see at community parks, nature trails, and school playgrounds. But you can turn cleaning up these areas into a fun family or class activity to teach your little ones the importance of taking care of trash. All you need are some gloves and bags to collect the garbage. It’s a bonus if you separate recyclable items from non-recyclable trash. Just be sure to monitor your little ones while they collect trash so they don’t encounter anything that could be harmful to them, like anything sharp.

#2- Turn plain recycling bins into a fun craft night

Sorting recyclable items can be made fun in many different ways. For example, you can take plain recycling bins and turn them into a craft project. Provide your children with materials to decorate and differentiate a couple of containers, such as one for plastics, one for paper, one for cans, etc. Be sure to look into how recyclable items are sorted in your area before deciding on the types of bins you want. You can follow up this activity by providing your children with recyclables and having them sort them into the correct bins as a fun game where they learn more about the different types of recyclables. 

#3- Donate pre-loved clothes and toys

Do your little ones have some clothes that have gone unworn for a while? Any toys they’ve grown out of and are okay with parting with? Instead of letting them sit and collect dust, go through any unused items with your child and pick out what can be donated to local thrift stores or shelters. You can even bring your little ones to drop off your donations or let them help you decide what organization to donate to so they can be a part of the whole experience. At school, a donation drive is a great way to encourage students to go through their unused belongings and see what they can pass on to another child.

#4- Create collage art with old magazines and newspapers

Another craft idea! Reuse old materials to create a new piece of art. Collages are a great way to take random magazine and newspaper clippings and make something meaningful. Your learners can create collages out of images they find cool, use text to create poetry or include meaningful quotes, or focus on making a “dream board” (a collage of things that represent goals they want to achieve and passions they have). While crafting, take the time to talk to your little ones about how they’re giving new life to items that are often seen as trash that end up sitting in landfills.

#5- Teach your little ones how to compost

Composting is the decomposition and recycling of organic material into a soil amendment known as compost. Composting helps food waste decompose faster and more naturally than it would in a landfill and also gives it use in gardening. Plants grow exceptionally well in compost. Through composting, kids can also learn biology and watch a live science experiment occur right in front of them. To start, get a bin and fill it with wet greens (dead houseplants, grass clippings, vegetable scraps, etc.) and dry browns (leaves, pine needles, dried garden debris, etc.). Then water your compost pile to ensure it’s moist but not soaked. Lastly, turn your compost mixture every few days to keep air going into it and be sure the materials on the edges get broken down. Once your compost is ready, it can be used in flower beds, houseplants, garden soil, and even spread on your lawn a few times a year. If your school has a garden, you can even start a composting initiative to eliminate food waste there too!

Any of these activities will help your little ones get involved with environmental activism and show them the importance of recycling in their individual lives. Not only that, but they may find recycling fun as well! Consider taking some family or classroom time to reduce your carbon footprint together.

For more ways to bring social justice to the little ones in your life, sign up for the LJL newsletter here