Recycling Activities for Kids

Jennifer L. Betts
Two boys carrying recycling container

Learning about recycling through activities is not only fun but essential to reduce trash on earth. While some activities are more extensive, there are several ways to teach kids about recycling and reusing.

Recycling Center

Preschoolers like to play make believe. In this activity, you can help them to learn about recycling and have fun too.

Supplies

  • Cardboard box
  • Art supplies to decorate the boxes
  • Various recyclable materials (plastic bottles, paper, etc.)

Creating a Recycling Center

  1. Allow students to use the art supplies to decorate the boxes. Help them to create a recycling symbol.
  2. Using the recyclable materials, show them how to put the materials in the boxes rather than in the trash.
  3. Give each kid different items and allow them to decide what goes in the recycle bin. For example, you could give them some empty bottles, paper and a pencil sharpener. Allow the kids decide what to put in the recycling bins.
  4. Allow them to play make believe as a recycling center.

Feed the Monster

This activity allows students to decorate a recycling bin like a monster. The kids will then learn to feed the monster recyclable materials. This activity can work for kids grades kindergarten through two.

Materials

  • Art supplies (paint, ribbon, construction paper, paint brushes, etc. - recycled supplies are even better!)
  • Bottle caps (for making the eyes)
  • Scissors
  • Tape
  • Drawing paper
  • Colored pencils/crayons

Making Your Monster

  1. Pass out the drawing paper and allow the kids to design a monster. If you have multiple children, you can have them design a monster and vote on the best one.
  2. Using the design, art supplies, tape and scissors, decorate your recycling bin like the monster.
  3. Find or collect recyclable materials like bottles, jars, etc.
  4. Have your kid feed the monster by putting the recyclables in the decorated bin.

Exploring Decomposition

This activity will work best for older kids - typically third through fifth grade students. It can help them to understand why recycling is important because some things take longer to decompose.

Supplies

  • Various kinds of trash (plastic bag, paper, banana peels, etc.)
  • Board (about 1 to 2 feet long)
  • Shovel
  • Nails
  • Paper
  • Pencil
  • Area to dig hole
  • Hammer

Buried Trash

  1. Give kids the board and various pieces of trash of different kinds (about 4 to 6 pieces).
  2. Have kids nail (with help from an adult) the trash to their board.
  3. Allow kids to make a diagram of the trash on the board with the paper and pencils.
  4. With help, have kids dig a shallow hole.
  5. Place the board in the hole and bury it.
  6. After a specific amount of time (2 weeks to a month) allow kids to dig up their board and look at the different rates of decomposition. They will notice that things like plastic haven't changed while the banana peel has.

Reusing Trash

This is a fun activity that allows students to get creative. They can either use real trash or paper and pencil to figure out different ways to reuse materials like bottles and containers. This is a fun activity for fifth through eighth grades. However, you can modify it to work for younger ages.

Supply List

  • Paper
  • Pencils
  • Internet access
  • Optional: Supplies to allow them to make their creations

Making Usable Objects

  1. Discuss how recyclable material can be reused rather than thrown away.
  2. Hand out the paper to the kids.
  3. Tell them they have a laundry detergent jug, plastic bottle, and newspaper.
  4. Brainstorm three ways that each of these items can be reused rather than thrown away.
  5. On a new sheet of paper, pick one idea and explore it further.
  6. The solutions should include a diagram and information on how it can be used. This should be functional, like turning a lotion bottle into a cell phone holder.
  7. If you have the materials available, allow your kids to create their creation.

Calculate Your Waste

Most times kids don't even realize how much recyclable materials they end up throwing away throughout the day. This activity for sixth through ninth grades can help them see the trash adds up.

Necessities

  • Trash journal
  • Paper
  • Colored pencils

Documenting Your Waste

  1. Give the kid/kids a journal to keep with them for 2 to 3 days.
  2. Document everything they throw away. They should only include things they throw in the trash.
  3. After the allotted time, analyze all the recyclable material that they have thrown away.
  4. Calculate how much trash was thrown away that could have been recycled.
  5. Brainstorm ways that each piece of trash could have been recycled, reused, or re-purposed.
  6. Create a plan for reducing your trash output using one of their brainstormed ideas.
  7. Use the paper and colored pencils to have kids make a poster based on their idea for reducing trash.

Waste-Free Eating

Design a way to eat lunch without producing any waste. This works better for sixth through ninth grades.

Supply List

  • Lunch journal
  • Paper

Getting It Done

  1. For 3 to 5 days, have kids document the trash that is thrown away during lunch. They should note food waste, plastics, etc. For example, the wrapper from a snack cake.
  2. Analyze the journal, noting the things that produce the most waste.
  3. Brainstorm ways to reduce that waste (i.e. using Tupperware or glass jars rather than prepackaged food).
  4. Using the paper, plan a waste free lunch plan. They should note all the foods that are in the lunch and how everything will be carried and disposed of. (i.e. using reuseable water bottles for drinks, reusable containers, reusable straws, etc.).

A Better Earth

Teaching your kids about recycling and ways to reduce the trash on the planet is important. Not only should they learn how to recycle but ways to reduce trash in general. These activities can work great with just one kid or a whole classroom.

Recycling Activities for Kids