Sustainability is a big word and an even bigger concept for children to understand. But it’s important to teach them what it means and how to contribute to helping the environment and the planet. Start by modeling the basics, such as minimizing your trash (the first “R” in the “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” sustainability mantra!) and maybe planting and watering your own vegetables. Take it a step further with these fun, educational sustainability activities for kids.
1. Make recycling a game.
If you already have separate bins for trash and recycling, turn recycling into a sorting game. Designate different boxes for paper products, plastic, cans, and glass — you can even print off or create your own signs to put on the boxes, with pictures of common items that would go in each one. Then, get sorting!
Composting isn’t just environmentally friendly; it’s also a cool science project. Keep the bin outside and follow this quick how-to
- Line the bottom of the bin with twigs, top them with leaves, and add some water
- Add food scraps, such as carrot and potato peels, apple cores, coffee grounds, egg shells, and bread crust on top of the leaves, and again, add some water
- Alternate leaves and food scraps a few times
- Once the bin is full, mix everything around each week
- Observe how everything changes and starts to break down
- After 3 – 12 months, use your compost in the garden or potted plants
3. Use recycled materials for art projects.
The day before trash and recycling day, go on a recycling treasure hunt. Carefully look through the bin together and set aside empty paper towel or toilet paper rolls, plastic containers, food boxes, other cardboard, magazines and catalogs, egg cartons, and anything else of interest. Lay everything out, along with some tape, glue, paint, crayons, and markers, and start creating.
4. Make your own cleaning products at home.
Turn cleaning day into a science experiment and mix up some non-toxic sprays and solutions to use around the house with your child. Combine baking soda with warm water to create a deodorizer or simple kitchen cleaner, and use it to wipe down the inside of your microwave or refrigerator. Or, mix dish soap with warm water to clean the countertops.
5. Decorate your own tote bags.
Who says tote bags have to be boring? Use fabric markers, puffy paint, and iron-on patches to decorate your bags. And if your grocery store allows, use them the next time you go shopping.
6. Challenge your family to walk instead of drive.
Not only is walking better for the environment, it’ll give you all good exercise, too. If circumstances allow, walk instead of drive to the grocery store or pharmacy. Bring a bag and along the way, hunt for rocks. When you get home, talk about how the rocks feel and try stacking, painting, or counting them.
Encouraging an Environmentally Conscious Mindset
Help your child understand sustainability and environmentally-friendly practices at an early age. And remember, your impact might feel small, but a little goes a long way.