I am a big believer in living a sustainable lifestyle. However, does anyone else feel like since having children it gets harder and harder to be sustainable?! They just need so much stuff… of course, I do try to buy second hand where I can but our consumption as a family has definitely gone up. Plus, the food waste! It drives me mad!!

Still, now we’re past the baby stage and into the pre-school age, I’ve found I can actually talk to my son about sustainability – and he is often keen to get on board with our household efforts.

Here are some ways you can teach your children about sustainability:

Teach your child to recycle

Talk to your child about recycling and why it’s important. Then, lead by example. Do you recycle as much as possible in your own home?

Make sure your recycling bins are easy to access for your children (if they are of an appropriate age for this to be safe, of course). Talk to them about the different bins and the correct way to sort the recycling. If your child isn’t reading yet, stick pictures on the bins to show what goes where. Encourage your child to sort their rubbish into the correct bins themself. 

Make sure you also talk about what happens to the rubbish and recycling after it leaves your house, so they can understand the purpose. You can find books on this topic at the library, or watch a video together such as this one below. There are lots of videos and other free resources out there, so search for something age-approriate for your kids.

Play games

To open up conversations about recycling and practise the idea, there are lots of cute online games you can play. For example, this website had two cute recycling games: Sort The Trash and Twin The Bin. Both are very simple and suitable for young children, with Sort The Trash being slightly easier. My preschool-aged son got on very well with it. 

In Sort the Trash you learn which items are recyclable and which aren’t. You use the mouse to drag the bin left and right to catch the recyclables as they fall, and ignore the non-recyclables. You’re out when you miss too many recyclables or catch too many non-recyclables. You get a ‘recycling tip’ each time telling you where you went wrong. This is great to teach young children which items they can place in the recycling bin.

Screenshot of ‘Sort The Trash’ game

Twin The Bin is roughly the same concept with items falling down the screen to be caught but this time, each round focuses on one category of rubbish/recycling (e.g. organic waste, paper) and you have to identify which items belong to the category! So a slight step up, but suitable for primary aged children.

Oh, and both games are free, of course!

Fix things together

One step better than recycling is to reduce the amount that we throw away. The core of sustainable living is the idea that we should buy less and make what we’ve got last longer. So the next time something breaks in your home, rather than rushing out to replace it, see if you can fix it. 

There are lots of ways to involve your children in this process, from watching YouTube videos together on how to make the repair, to shopping together for the necessary supplies. Most children will be fascinated by this process and they will feel a huge sense of pride if they take part in fixing something! 

If the fix is beyond your capabilities, look into ‘repair cafes’ near you. Our local one is a pop up in a church hall once a month. You can take your broken items along and sit with an expert while they talk you through the repairs. They are excellent learning opportunities for little ones.

Reuse and repurpose

Another way to reduce the amount we throw away is to reuse and repurpose items headed for the recycling. Young children are naturals at this, as you will know if you are drowning in cardboard boxes that have been repurposed as castles or rockets! 

There are loads of good craft ideas online that use everyday items such as packaging or jars. Here are a few quick ideas:

  • Paint jam jars or cut-down plastic bottles to use as pen pots or vases
  • Bubble wrap and other textured packaging is great for printing
  • Old magazines, junk mail etc can be cut up to make collages
  • Cardboard egg boxes make cute caterpillars!

What do you do to teach your kids about sustainability? Any more recycling craft ideas? Please do share, and let’s make a greener world together!