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How Do I Get My Kids To Recycle?

By Sebrina Zerkus Smith |
We all want our kids to grow up to be responsible adults, and recycling is a big part of that.  But how do you get your kids to take recycling seriously?

We all want our kids to grow up to be responsible adults, and recycling is a big part of that.  But how do you get your kids to take recycling seriously?

It’s important to teach our kids to do their part to protect the environment. But trying to convince kids to see the bigger picture can sometimes be an uphill battle.  So when you discuss recycling with your kids, remember that children are open minded and eager to learn, and take advantage it.

If you want to reach your kids with a good environmental message, first you do have to speak their language.  Charles Taft, of has lots of good advice on how to get your kids to recycle

Don’t baby your kids

Kids need to understand that what they do impacts the Earth.  So Taft encourages parents to speak frankly about recycling to their kids.  Be honest about why recycling is important.  But keep the emotional needs of your child in mind when talking about serious subjects.  Instead of stressing the doom and gloom we grown-ups sometimes ponder, engage your children with fun and amazing facts about recycling.  You can find some interesting curbside recycling facts at and 10 fun facts about recycling at  You might also check out Fun & Funny Facts About Recycling at

Lead by example

Your kids will do what they see you do.  So if you don’t already do so, start recycling at home.  Get your kids involved in the process, too.  Give your kids a sense of responsibility and accomplishment by letting them collect recyclables or take out the recycling bins each week.  Kids will generally live up to your expectations when they feel they are being given responsibility and being treated like like a grown-up.

Make it fun

Turn recycling chores into a fun game to help ease the “I don’t wanna’s” that kids can sometimes get into.  You can sing songs, make a contest out of who can collect the most of a certain item, or simply use collected material like magazines and newspapers to make art projects like paper mache or collages.  By making a boring chore fun, you also teach your kids the importance of getting through a difficult task with good humor.

Use the cha-ching factor

Another good option might be to let your kids take the recycling to the recycling center and pocket the proceeds.  This worked great with my neighbor’s 11 year old son.  Once he was allowed to use the money he earned from collecting and recycling cans to save up for a video game, he became more interested in participating in recycling.  Or you might also establish an allowance for recycling chores, just as you would for other household chores.  My 5 year old nephew, James, gets a quarter each time he takes recyclables out to the collection bin.  Of course he also has a habit of trying to make 10 trips a day, so you’ll probably have to do what my sister-in-law did and set limits on the number of trips that can be made in a day.

Good habits start early, so it’s important to help your kids understand the long term good they can do by protecting the environment.  Learning about -- and participating in -- a recycling program will not only teach your kids about environmentalism, it will start them on the road toward good stewardship, and that will last a lifetime.

Share with Your Friends & Family
  • Kathy H. 6 years ago
    We already do and we are glad to help maintain God's beautiful creation!
  • Johanna E. 6 years ago
    I am an advocate for teaching the younger generation to recycle. I's in my mid-twenties, but was brought up recycling. So much to the point that I cringe when something can't be recycled. This is a little off topic, but goes along with the topic of children - does anyone know if the plastic that is used in packaging toys is recyclable? I try to avoid any packaging that is not 100% recyclable, but sometimes it does in fact contain that plastic nonsense. And I would hate to throw that away if it can somehow be recycled. I've searched the internet, but I cannot find an answer...any advice would be greatly appreciated as I have a little mound of plastic from toy packaging that is just collecting dust, waiting to be recycled!
  • Aaron M. 6 years ago
    We let it be a game for our daughter. She tells us what the trash is made of (plastic, glass, etc) and then she decides if it can be recycled and gets to put it in the correct waste bin.

    She is so proud because she can do it, but her tougher brother isn't big enough to open the waste bin ... Yet!
  • Melody H. 6 years ago
    i will
  • bhaktvanti p. 6 years ago
    Make it fun
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