For preschoolers…recycling is an abstract idea until they see it in motion at home. I was looking for real life preschool recycling activities to use as teaching moments. Not just cute crafts using recycled materials…although those are fun and we love them!
The other day, we were walking home from the park eating some leftover Easter candy and my 4 year old tossed his empty package onto the sidewalk. He didn’t even think twice about it.
We stopped our walk and I told him he had to pick it up and put it in the stroller. Totally normal kid thing to do! I also remember tossing a wrapper out the car window when I was little and while I knew I shouldn’t…didn’t know WHY we don’t toss trash.
I saw a perfect teaching moment, and it got me thinking about practical preschool recycling activities that would expose them to where products come from, how much waste we create, and how they can be reused.
More preschool posts to enjoy
Watch a video with them of a recycling plant
The website “Kids Should See This” is pretty cool! Watch this video from Levar of Reading Rainbow on How Trash Is Recycled.
Here’s another one showing an inside tour of a recycling plant.
I think just the visual of where the recycling truck goes is awesome, and kids can see how things get sorted, washed, and recycled!
Learn how to make recycled paper
I made recycled paper once in grade school and it made such an impression!
It would be worth doing it one time even though it’s messy and you’ll need a special screen to press the paper pulp together.
Preschool recycling activities in every day life
Preschool recycling activities can be more than crafts, they can be small habits throughout the day and also just making old things new!
I’m aware recycling uses a ton of resources, and that it’s expensive as a society. But I also just LIKE knowing that the metal and plastic I recycle will hopefully get reused instead adding it to a landfill.
Here’s a few ideas to raise a preschooler that learns to reduce, reuse, and recycle.
- Donate used toys and clothes rather than tossing.
- Have a rain barrel to catch water for outside activities like their water table, rather than running the hose as much.
- Turn off the sink while they brush teeth.
- Open the curtains when possible instead of turning on the lights. And turn off lights in rooms you’re not using.
- Start a compost!
- Reuse paper bags as wrapping paper, and let kids color the package!
- Take reusable bags to the grocery store.
- Repurpose cardboard boxes for toys like play houses, cars, rockets, etc.
- Color on the inside of cereal boxes, or used envelopes.
- Buy used!
- Sew up small holes or rips in clothes if you can to give them a little more life.
- Reuse packaging as filler for sending mail.
Buying used saves me so much money…and it’s a subliminal teaching moment for kids to see used isn’t bad…for most things. Some things gross me out used and I just can’t.
We also love to shop on Mercari for anything from maternity clothes to baby bottles to homeschool games and more.
And toys pretty much only come into our home used. Its cheaper too, and so much easier for me to give away that way.
My kids help me put things in the recycling, which decreases my trash by about half!
They know we can recycle paper, cardboard, cans, milk jugs, and most plastic containers from the grocery store.
If there’s something I can buy as a can or glass bottle, I explain that we get the can so we don’t have to throw away the glass (our city doesn’t recycle glass). I hope it shows them that we have a choice in what we bring home.
If you have the desire and space to start a compost…what a cool hands on way to show kids plants break down to create nutritious garden soil!
Let them use compostable plates and cups
We discovered a neat company called Repurpose that sells compostable cups, straws, plates, and even 13 gallon compostable garbage bags! Amazon sells them, and you can find them at Whole Foods too.
We tried the cups, straws, and plates. They were sturdy and the clear plastic cups look like plastic but are compostable and plant based! My kids thought that was pretty cool.
Show them places where people don’t pick up their garbage
It’s a privilege to live in a clean country. I remember how shocking it was for me the first time I lived in a small poor village in the Dominican Republic where there was no system set up for garbage or recycling.
I saw trash everywhere. Food wrappers and plastic containers just scattered themselves on the sides of dirt roads and in people’s back yards. One local church built a giant hole on their property people could bring their trash.
So when my kids toss their food wrappers on the ground, I remind them, “Trash goes in the trash”. They don’t really have a visual for what I saw, but they have big imaginations.
YouTube can also help with this if you are selective.
Instagram accounts for recycled play inspiration
If you can be a tiny bit crafty, you’ll love these Instagram accounts that use recycled and natural materials.