We have two blue bins in our house: One is a standard recycling bin and the other contains recyclables that my daughter collects for crafts. In this second bin, you’ll find toilet paper rolls, tissue boxes and egg cartons, which she happily transforms into tiny telescopes, sushi-making robots, bongo drums for our family band (final name still up for debate) and more.
And while I may not be a particularly crafty parent, I am all for my kid’s eco-friendly crafting. I adore watching her creativity unfold as she turns a shoebox into a rocket to send her stuffy off on a deep-space mission. I also love that this big blue bin of craft supplies has encouraged her to become more environmentally conscious.
Most kids are inherently curious and caring little creatures. And it doesn’t require a lot of effort from parents to engage their children in the outdoor world—especially when it comes to animals and nature. Ask any child what their favourite critter is and they can probably list at least five, including one rare species you’ve never even heard of! We can encourage this compassionate nature with eco-friendly activities and habits that help protect that new frog species they just learned about or that special tree at the park they love to climb. One of the most effective ways to do this is by modelling conscientious habits of our own first (for instance, do not get caught throwing that perfectly craft-worthy ice-pop stick into the garbage in front of their ever-watching eyes!). We can also encourage them by inviting them to reuse and recycle with us.
Recycling is a hands-on activity that even the youngest kids can get involved in, which is why it’s one of the easiest places to start your little one on their eco-journey. Recycling is also a great way to teach your kids about sustainability. We know the Earth is not made of infinite resources. And it’s our responsibility—not just as parents, but as human beings—to care for our home planet. Think of living sustainably as an essential life skill. Because it is!
Here are five easy ways to get your kids excited about caring for the Earth.
1. Get outside
Experts agree that spending time outdoors is the easiest and most effective way to encourage kids and adults alike to care about the environment. Simple walks around your neighbourhood, paying attention to the trees and flowers and itty-bitty bugs you see, can do the trick. The physical and mental health benefits are a bonus!
2. Make the connections
Show your kid how their reducing, reusing and recycling efforts have a positive impact on the things your child loves in the natural world. For example, when they use scrap paper for doodling, they create less waste and preserve trees in the forest.
3. Fill them with fun facts
The harsh reality of our planet’s climate crisis can be a lot to handle for some kids (and adults, too!). But providing them with thought-provoking info can get them pumped to do their part. Here’s something: Canadians produce over three million tonnes of plastic waste every year, which is roughly equal to the weight of more than 17,500 blue whales.
4. Start small
Ask your child to reuse or recycle one item a day. You can create a list of possible items together. Or maybe start by letting them paint or decorate the recycling bin. Older kids can be in charge of ensuring your family is properly using bins.
5. Transform that trash
Make recycling extra fun by getting crafty with “trash.” This is a surefire way to get your kids excited about repurposing recyclables or even items that may not be recyclable but make for pretty great crafts. Broken crayons? Melt them into new ones! Old socks or mittens? These are playful finger puppets just waiting to happen!
Stay in touch
Subscribe to Today's Parent's daily newsletter for our best parenting news, tips, essays and recipes.