Recycling in Child Care

How much money have you spent on sorting activities for the children in your care? Over the years, I am sure we have spent hundreds of dollars on materials to help our children learn to discriminate items by size, shape, color, etc. What about a free sorting activity that helps to conserve natural resources? Recycling.

The key to recycling is knowing how to identify and sort recyclable materials. Since young children love to sort items by various characteristics, this is the perfect time to teach them about recycling. The first task is to teach them what is recyclable. The recycling symbol is a big key. Once they know that symbol, it's like a treasure hunt.

The next task is to teach them how to recycle. This is where the fun sorting work begins. Depending upon where you live and what services are available, your sorting will vary. Do you have mixed recycling where all recyclables can go in one bin and garbage in another? Or do you sort plastic, glass and paper separately? What about green (food) waste? Does your waste management company provide pick-up service, do you start a compost bin for your garden or flower bed, or both? Regardless of the specifics, children will love getting each item in the correct bin. By directly teaching children what items go in what bin, posting pictures or actual objects of what goes in each bin, practicing with the children, and making sure that they understand what to do when they don't know which bin is correct will help make your recycling program successful. As a caution, remember, food waste must be in a container with a tightly-sealing lid for health purposes.

Make sure you send a note to parents about your recycling program. You can almost guarantee that the children will want to practice their recycling skills at home, so parents who are not already recyclers need to be warned that their children will probably be insisting that the family start recycling.