The word ‘recycling’ does’n’t exactly have many fun connotations – there’s nothing particularly colorful about it and it doesn’t come before a treat or a game. This can make it quite difficult to get kids involved in the recycling process, as on the face of it there’s very little in it for them. However, just like any mundane task that kids don’t like to do – such as brushing teeth or tidying up their toys – there are ways to make it more appealing. In the words of the original super nanny Mary Poppins “in every task that must be done there is an element of fun..” Here are a few ideas on how to get your message across:
Give them some responsibility
This doesn’t mean putting them in charge of liaising with the council to arrange recycling collection but you can ensure your children feel involved in this process by giving them a role in it. Perhaps you make them the ‘recycling monitor’ responsible for going around and making sure everyone in the house is putting their recycling in the right bins. Maybe your children would like to do a mini home project on the items you use in your household and where those items go when they’re recycled. Alternatively, you can do something as simple as getting them to help you sort items for recycling, or make hand drawn signs for the different recycling bins.
Set an example
Kids are extremely observant and few will follow the maxim ‘do as I say and not as I do.’ If you don’t take the trouble to recycling the packaging and containers you use then you can guarantee that your child will notice. As children tend to copy their parents behaviour, if you’re not recycling then you’re likely to create another non-recycler. The upside of this copying is that it’s very easy to get children to copy your ‘good’ behaviour. Make it very obvious when you’re recycling so that it is noted and you will probably find that your little ones will follow suit.
Show them the consequences
This is quite a powerful way to teach kids how important it is not to be wasteful as – young children especially – are often rather fond of all the creatures that tend to suffer when our environment becomes damaged by those who don’t take the time to do something as simple as recycling. Take them out into the garden and show them the birds and animals that will lose their homes if we continue cutting down trees and don’t recycle paper; pay a visit to the local aquarium to introduce them to the fish and mammals whose environments are affected by waste dumped into the seas; or schedule a trip to the zoo to see the polar animals who will lose their homes if the polar ice caps continue to melt.
Show them how to do something practical
This is the part of recycling that can easily be made into a game, whilst at the same time getting an important message across. If your kids like to make things (and lets face it most kids do love this) then try demonstrating the recycling process by turning old packaging and cartons into something new. You can use egg boxes to make toy castles, newspapers to fashion origami boxes to hold small toys and washed out clean jam jars as holders for pens and crayons. The other aspect of this is turning the recycling itself into a game, which can make it fun for all the family. If you’re musical then why not invent a song you can all sing whilst doing the recycling together, get your kids to compete to see who can sort their pile of recycling fastest or, for older children, try household quizzes on easy recycling facts and award prizes for the knowledgeable winners.
Go to the recycling centre
Whilst throwing your old bottles, newspapers, cans etc through a slot in a recycling center might not be your idea of a good time, it’s amazing how entertained kids can be by something as simple as this. Take them along with you and let them physically do the recycling and get the satisfaction of hearing the bottle smash on the other side of the slot. If you’re receiving money for recycling something (for example clothes) then let your child keep some of the money and spend it on whatever they want – it’s amazing how motivating this can be!
Although on the face of it recycling probably isn’t as exciting as a computer game, playing with friends or watching X Factor, there are lots of ways to turn it into an activity that is much more fun than it first seems. Who knows, the more imaginative your ideas, the more chance you might get really into it as a family and it could even be a new way to spend quality time together.
This article was written by Amy Sawyer from Anyjunk, a house clearance and recycling company in London, England.
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