Taking care of the planet is a big responsibility, but even the youngest kids can get involved. Before they ever learn to pick smart appliances and reduce their reliance on water, children can improve the environment with a bit of at-home education. Use these tips to get your kids to recycle and start sustainable habits they’ll keep for life.

1. Try a Recycling Craft

Young kids learn new words with assistance from flashcards, textbooks, and even TV shows. It’s easier to understand their meaning when there’s visual assistance. Introducing the concept of recycling is no different. Even if your child grasps the idea of turning materials into something new, they don’t get to see it because it doesn’t happen at home.

Change things up by getting everyone involved in a recycling craft. Turn tin cans into painted flower pots or soda bottles into bird feeders. Anything that gives your recyclable trash into something usable will demonstrate the importance of recycling in real-time.

2. Hang a Poster

Parents have years of experience in separating trash from recyclable materials, but kids don’t. Hang a post in your home that clearly shows what they should throw out and what they can put in your recycling bin.

You can also point out when everyone needs to look for unrecyclable products by checking for that familiar triangle made with three arrows. Newspaper can go in your green bin, but some paper doesn’t have recyclable ingredients. Reinforcing this habit is helpful while kids learn how to separate their trash.

3. Show How Easy It Is

Many people don’t live in places where professional teams can take your bags or bins from your front porch. Traveling to a recycling plant every weekend might make your kids think the effort isn’t worth your time. Whenever possible, point out commercial recycling bins to show them how easy it is to do. Parks and businesses often set up bins at transition points like doorways or bridges. Your children will always know how to responsibly get rid of waste even while they’re out and about.

4. Get Young Kids Involved

Toddlers may be too young to understand what recycling means, but they can still get involved. Let them drop their water bottle or paper plate into your recycling bin and cheer when they do. Positive reinforcement gets your kids to recycle by establishing the habit at an early age. They’ll love feeling supported when you clap or cheer and eventually love helping the earth just as much.

5. Read Fun Book

You likely already read many books to your kids before they take a nap or go to sleep at night. Use that time to educate them about sustainability. Pick out children’s books that teach about the benefits of recycling by including it as the main storyline. The characters will replicate what you already do at home, making it easier for kids to understand that recycling is something everyone should do.

6. Play Interactive Games

If your children love to play video games, use that interest to teach them about recycling. Encourage them to play specific games that introduce skills like picking up recyclables on the streets or sorting things at a plant. As they play these games more often, recycling will become second nature in real life. They’ll also form a positive emotional bond with the activity if they love the characters and storylines involved in each video game.

7. Talk About Carbon Footprints

Older kids can get more heavily involved with the ethics behind recycling. Talk with them about creating individual carbon footprints with activities like showering, driving, and using electricity. When your older elementary school or teenage kids aren’t busy with homework or friends, calculate their carbon footprint, so they understand how their actions affect the planet.

Comparing that number with how much your child will reduce their footprint by recycling gives them a more specific impression of why it matters. They’ll never look at their habits the same way again. Recycling then becomes a powerful tool at their disposal instead of just a chore that’s important to you.

8. Set the Example

Even if you do all of these things, they won’t matter if you don’t set the example. Practice what you teach by recycling whenever possible. It becomes a normal family activity if parents engage and enforce the habit. Leaving the responsibility to your kids might make them feel alone. If taking care of the planet is something they should do, it’s something the entire family needs to support as well.

Encourage Your Kids to Recycle

These are just a few tips to get your kids to recycle through encouragement, education, and a little bit of fun. Use their current interests to inform them about why recycling is essential, like books or video games. Point out how it’s easy to do and where they can drop off used materials. They’ll carry the habit into adulthood and eventually teach the next generation.