Why teach preschoolers to recycle? Are they too young to ‘get it’? We don’t think so! At Rainforest Learning Centre, we build recycling and care for the environment into our curriculum. We believe it makes for responsible citizens of our future. But more than that, it teaches educational and life lessons too!
In this article, we’ll discuss reasons and ideas to teach preschoolers about recycling.
Teach kids sorting and categorizing with recycling bins
Just like this article shows, preschools and daycares can teach kids about recycling by sorting materials that go in different bins. This not only teaches them how to recycle properly at home, and as they grow up. It also teaches skills like categorizing. In a past article, we discussed sensory development in young children, and this can be thought of as one way to encourage that. And of course, it can certainly be a primer to keeping their rooms and play areas tidy and organized!
Get creative: show preschoolers how to reuse, reduce and recycle!
Taking care of the environment can be quite a creative endeavour. It can force kids to see new uses for objects that they may not have noticed before. It can also show them how to maximize their materials, or lengthen their lifespan and value. This can be a great way to save money for parents too! Who needs expensive toys when you can make them out of homemade materials?
Some ideas for using environmental creativity at preschool with the ‘reuse, reduce and recycle’ motto are:
- Make vases or organizers out of plastic bottles (from shampoo bottles, drink bottles, etc.)
- Make a crazy robot out of anything in the recycling bin!
- Make a cereal box and toilet paper roll toy car garage! Or, use the same idea to make a castle!
- Make a recycled paper basket
- Make pretty recycled stationery organizers and boxes for mother or father’s day!
- Make bottle cap letter games
- Melt old crayons into colouring discs (with a parent!)
- Turn old t-shirts into bags, pillows or other crafts!
- Make a comic book bowl
And the list goes on! We searched Pinterest for ideas, and we’re sure there are more you can try! On Buzzfeed, here are several more crafts to make from materials that usually go in the recycle bin.
Another neat place to find repurposed and up-cycling projects suitable for preschoolers is the Nifty section at Buzzfeed. They come with useful tutorial videos too.
Help the environment with planting and other preschool biology lessons
Part of ‘going green’ with preschoolers can involve plants! Climate change lessons can include lessons on biology, and especially how plants turn carbon into air for us to breathe. You can also extend this into a lesson on seeds and reproduction, or a lesson on where our food comes from.
Here are ideas to help teach preschoolers biology lessons related to environmental preservation:
- Make an egg carton planter
- Use old jars or cans as planters and seed starters
- Use old vegetable scraps to start new plants
- Adopt a duck pond, like we do!
- Clean up a garden, park or community area (with lessons on safety and what not to touch first!)
- Start a classroom compost
- Save reusable water in the preschool centre for plants and other resource saving needs
Continuously educate preschoolers on recycling and the environment
Teaching our preschool-aged kids to be stewards of our environment means more than a one-time lesson on Earth Day each year. The recycling, up-cycling, reusing and reducing mentality needs to be spoken of as conversation all the time. From using less water to wash hands, to not throwing away perfectly good food, these need to become habits.
One way to continuously send the message to young kids is with posters like this, which you can brainstorm with your class. You also give backstory lessons on what happens to products, like bottles, before and after they leave our sight! Here is a poster about what happens to recycled bottles, for instance.
And what about ‘environmentally friendly’ consumer products? What are they made of? Why are they better? You can discuss topics like this with your class.
And, a good book is always a pleasure! Try incorporating children’s books about recycling into your story time routine, such as this one (not sponsored).
To conclude: teach preschoolers about recycling to keep them educated about our planet
As you can see above, recycling is not just for the environmentally conscious. The activities involved in recycling can teach kids about science, and how to be resourceful with materials. It can also teach them more about the world they live in, insofar as manufacturing goes! After all, we’re not all living on cottage farms and making our own fabrics, cheeses or baskets anymore. It’s good to show kids these things don’t happen by ‘magic’!