It is no surprise that children hold the key to the future; their generation consists of our future leaders, teachers, parents, and so much more. Learning to take care of the earth is a significant part of development and educating little ones about their personal responsibility to reduce, reuse and recycle. It puts them in the mindset to minimize their carbon footprint for the rest of their lives. Starting early by teaching children how to be environmentally friendly can have a very positive affect on their habits, and sustainability can become a natural and unconscious part of their decision making.
Creating a better environment starts with our youth, and it starts in the classroom. There are lots of tips and lessons that can be taught to encourage and educate children of the importance of going green, and fun interactive activities that can make learning easy and memorable!
How to Reduce, Reuse and Recycle:
Purchase eco-friendly toys. PlanToys offers incredibly high-quality eco-friendly toys made of wood that offers a natural feel. These toys enhance development and allow children to experience play in a unique way that are not only adorable and fun, but also sustainable. The Dentist Set is a creative way to teach children about tooth care while simultaneously being made of super eco-friendly and sustainable material. There are so many different unique play experiences Plan Toy’s products have to offer, like the Bread Loaf Set where children get to pretend to be a baker, or the Tool Belt Set where children can practice fixing and creating things at the touch of their attached belt featuring a hammer, wrench, screwdriver, and level.
Do I really NEED it? Remind children that before they make a purchase, ask themselves if this item is a necessity, or something that can be left on the shelf. Use what you have at home first and think about ways to repurpose what you already own before purchasing new things. Don’t fall for “Buy One Get One Free” bargains if you don’t plan on using the second item. Taking a moment to really evaluate if the item is something you need can help save money and time – and help save items from becoming lost in landfills without a purpose.
Limit waste. Food waste specifically is an incredibly common problem, not only for the food itself being wasted, but also the additional packing it comes with, such as extra and unnecessary plastic bags. Have an important conversation about brainstorming different ways we can all limit waste – at home, at school, and on the go.
Here are some tips and ideas to mention for saving and reusing:
- Use reusable bags and lunch containers.
- Buy refillable cleaning products like hand sanitizer and soap.
- Freeze products that go bad quickly like bread and avocados.
- Make banana bread out of browning bananas!
Reusable bags. Going to the grocery store and constantly taking disposable bags that are immediately thrown out is never good for the environment. Bring reusable ones. This is a habit to teach your class about – remind them that their backpacks are a perfect example of a way to use a bag repeatedly.
Repurposing clothes. Their clothes can also be reused and repurposed, cut into cleaning cloths, blankets or any other various cloth household item. They can continue to make new memories with their favourite clothes – just in new forms.
Encourage donations. Teaching kids about reusing clothing, not only about thrift shopping for themselves, but also the importance of donating or handing down clothes when they no longer fit or desire them anymore. Chances are that most kids have grown out of some of their toys and clothing from their younger days. This is the perfect chance to give back! Explain the cycle of reusing and how shopping second hand at thrift stores can help benefit the community.
Composting. Composting is the natural process of organic material like food scraps or old plants breaking down and turning a nutrient rich soil that has plenty of uses. It cuts down significantly on trash in landfills and creates a healthy soil that can be used as fertilizer (and does not require pesticides). The See-Through Compost Container is a neat way to witness the entire decomposition process from the comfort of your own classroom. With three aerated compartments, you can see different materials as they decompose individually and make comparisons.
How to Educate the Importance of Going Green:
Global warming and climate change can be an intimidating topic for children, so it is important to approach it with sensitivity and awareness. Nonetheless, they are important conversations to have, especially since children hold the key to the future and have years of habit and decision making in front of them. Here are some tips on how to educate children on the importance of making eco-friendly choices.
Inspire environmental curiosity. Little ones usually do not understand more complex concepts like greenhouse gases, so it makes the most sense to start simple. Teach children to plant seeds and take note of their environment, pointing out the flowers, animals, and insects. This makes them appreciate nature – and leave them wanting to protect it in the future. Make sure children spend some valuable time outside playing in nature to help them feel connected to the reason our earth is so important to protect. The All About Plants Series is fantastic way to learn more about plants, leaves, flowers, and more beautiful things that exist in our ecosystem.
Recognize and encourage small actions. Remind children of the impact they have. Teach them about how picking up litter, preventing litter by always putting their appropriate items in the garbage or recycling, and packing lunches with reusable containers are all vital steps in protecting our earth – and no step is too small. Do not let them think they cannot make a difference – they can!
What are fun activities to teach the importance of sustainability?
- Recycling or Garbage? In this fun and simple sorting game, you can teach kids what goes in the recycling and what goes in the garbage with visual handmade cards! Cut out various recyclable and non-recyclable items from magazines and tape them onto card stock or thicker paper. Make some simple sorting boxes with signs on them and watch them place each item in either the recycling or garbage pile. After they choose each pile, you can discuss which items went in the right pile and which ones did not. It isa fantastic way to help children connect the dots and remember which items go in which bin when it is time to throw their things away.
- Recycle and paint! Making crafts is always a fun way to engage children in learning, and what better way to show an example of reusing things than painting. There are so many ways to use old items – old newspaper, single use plastic water bottles, corkscrews, egg cartons, the possibilities are endless! There are lots of fun eco-friendly crafts tools out there too, such as Wood Craft Rounds and the Natural Kraft Sheets.
- Have a competition. Make recycling competitive. Challenge your fellow classes to see which class can fill up the most recycling in a month and celebrate with a pizza party afterwards! This helps give an incentive to remember to recycle, and who doesn’t love a friendly little competition?
- Read a book about recycling together. There are lots of important reads that help children understand the importance of recycling – such as the Planet Protector series, a non-fiction kid-friendly series of books all about fighting pollution, saving energy, reusing items, and not littering. The adorable and charismatic illustrations help make learning fun.
- Invite children to share about a way the reduced, reused, and recycled at home. Just like show and tell, ask children to name an example of how they implemented sustainable and eco-friendly habits in their own home. This helps them actively think of how they are making a difference individually and reminds them of the way they can influence habits that happen at home. It also challenges them to bring new and exciting ideas to the classroom and inspire friends and peers to do the same.
- Learn about the plant life cycle. With the Life Cycle of a Green Bean set, children get to watch a green bean seed germinate, develop roots and sprout. It is great for children to watch firsthand the life cycle of plants. It is an engaging way to learn with manipulatives that children can tangibly see the cycle of plant life. The Sprout and Grow Window offers a worm’s eye view of root growth. This transparent “nature’s window” allows gardeners of all ages to watch seeds sprout and grow into plants. It stands upright on a tabletop or windowsill, special potting soil nurtures seeds for optimum growth and comes with packets of bean and pea seeds. It also features a step-by-step guide with instructions, suggested activities, and journal pages to fill in as you follow the process from seed planting to full-grown plants.
- Pick up litter together. Spend some time outside cleaning up the playground to throw away litter. This gives children the opportunity to see recycling in real life, and becomes interactive, a way to remember and have an experience to reflect on it. It also acts as a way to help clean the surrounding areas and helps children see just how real littering and pollution can be.
- Inspire eco-friendly dramatic play. Children mimic what they learn in real life during dramatic play, so encouraging eco and nature friendly scenarios can help their imagination flourish. New Sprouts Grow It! Offers a garden full of imaginative play. Children can plant and grow flowers and veggies right before your eyes with gardening essentials including a watering can, shovel and 3 pots. It offers colourful mix-and-match flowers and veggies, encouraging role play and early vocabulary development while nurturing an appreciation for nature and simultaneously engaging in dramatic play.
Tips for making recycling an important part of daily routine:
- Keep signs posted for directions and reminders to recycling cans and boxes. We could all use a reminder sometimes.
- Educate about hazardous materials. Items such as tires, paint, batteries, aerosol cans can be dangerous and should not be included with general waste products.
- Inspire conversation. Don’t stop talking about reducing, reusing, and recycling. Sharing new information, celebrating accomplishments in regards to picking up litter, using the right disposal method depending on the product, and being a strong leader in the fight against pollution all help put sustainability on your student’s radar.
- Keep plants around. Starting a garden outside can be a healthy environment for children to watch plants grow. A small greenhouse such as the Greenthumb Classroom Greenhouse is a fantastic place to start, since it features two sturdy wire shelves that keep potted plants off the ground, a clear vinyl cover that fits snugly over the metal frame and a large zippered opening to protect plants.
Reduce our consumption, reuse our items, and always recycle – we hear these things all the time, but it’s important to remember to apply them to our own lives and encourage and inspire them in younger ones as well. With fun activities, positive reminders and unique games, you can help create a helpful learning experience that will cement recycling as a fundamental part of daily life and in the future. When we all work together, we can accomplish great things. By helping to work together, we can build a better, safer, cleaner world.