Though the three Rs, reduce reuse recycle, are catchy, teaching kids what they actually mean can be a bit more challenging. Reusing and recycling are fairly easy concepts to learn, even for younger kids, but what about “reduce”? Hands-on activities that are both fun and educational are always a great way to illustrate challenging ideas. Here are a few activities that teach kids about reducing waste:
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), more food waste ends up in landfills than any other material. Teach kids how to minimize the waste your household produces with a mystery game investigating trash. No need to get gross digging through real garbage; instead, set aside some trash items over a few days and set up your own pre-made trash bin filled with all kinds of different items your family usually throws away, including some not-too-messy food scraps.
Let your kids put on their rubber gloves and start sorting through the mess. The object of the game is to discover items that could potentially be removed from the waste system, reducing the amount that ends up in landfills. When your child finds an item have her explain an alternative to throwing it away—either by recycling, composting, purchasing a less waste-producing alternative or another method.
Grocery Store Scavenger Hunt
The grocery store is the perfect setting to learn about products that create waste and how to avoid them. On your next trip to the store, plan a waste-reduction scavenger hunt: Challenge your kids to find five items that yield too much waste and five alternatives to those items that create the least amount of waste. Differences in snack and drink packaging, for example, are good hints. Don’t forget to put them back when you’re done!
Reducing waste is an entirely attainable goal. Get inspired by Tom’s of Maine’s impressive zero waste by 2020 pledge and challenge your kids with a no-waste family challenge. Let your kids come up with ways that they can minimize waste. Consider biking or walking to school (or work) in nice weather, making sure lights and water are turned off when not in use, and of course packing waste-free lunches.
Challenge everyone to follow the waste-free rules for a week. You can decide on a reward for the entire family if the week is a success, like a fun hike or excursion. When the week is up, reflect on how easy or difficult the changes were, and encourage one another to maintain your new habits.
More or Less?
When teaching younger kids about big ideas like reducing waste, it’s helpful to pare things down and focus on the foundations of the concept. Waste reduction, in its most basic terms, is about less versus more. Play a math-based counting game to teach your little ones the difference.
Using toys or any similar groups of objects you have around the house, put items together in two groups and have your kids pick the group with the most or least items. Use this game as a basis for their application of waste reduction in real-world situations. For example, if your child tends to leave food on his or her plate, count how many items are left over and make a plan to serve less the next time—so most of that dinner doesn’t get tossed.
What are some fun family activities you’ve tried to explore “reduce reuse recycle”? Share them in the comments!
Image source: Flickr