Recycling for Kids – A Fun and Simple Earth Day Activity

In my opinion, every day should be Earth Day – a day when we celebrate nature and try our best to minimize our environmental footprint. But since I don’t get to call the shots and our planet only gets one “official” holiday, we might as well make the most of it! Today I’m sharing a fun and simple Earth Day activity for kids that will get them thinking about trash and recycling. And really – it can be done any time of the year, so don’t limit it to April 22!

I’m excited to once again be partnering with some of my favorite fellow “woodsy mama” bloggers who will also share their Earth Day activities for kids. Make sure to click on the links at the end to see what they’ve been up to!

Recycling for Kids: A Fun and Simple Earth Day Activity. Rain or Shine Mamma

I’ve been an avid recycler for years and I rule our trash can with despotic zeal. My kids know that we have different bins for different recyclables, but sometimes they get the materials confused. So I decided to do a little trash sorting game in order to get everybody on the same page. The girls were thrilled!

What you need:

Hold on to some of the materials that you would normally take to the recycling station and put them in a big box. Every town seems to do recycling differently, but this is what I had in the box:

  • Milk cartonsRecycling for Kids - A Fun and Simple Earth Day Activity. Rain or Shine Mamma
  • Various plastic containers
  • Newspapers
  • Glass jars
  • Tin cans
  • Aluminum cans
  • Phone book
  • Magazines
  • Plastic bottles
  • Pizza carton
  • Office paper
  • Cereal/macaroni boxes
  • Plastic wrapping
  • Egg cartons
  • Coffee containers

To make it a little trickier you can also include some things that are not recyclable in your area. For example, I threw in some styrofoam.

How to do it:

This is an activity you’ll probably want to do at home, since other people probably won’t appreciate you dumping out trash in public. A driveway or yard is fine, just make sure the kids are careful while handling glass on concrete.

  • If you’re in a driveway, write out the different recycling categories (paper, cardboard, glass etc) on the concrete, leaving enough space for a pile of recyclables by each word.
  • If you’re on grass or another surface that can’t be written on, make signs out of paper or cardboard to mark where each type of recyclable should go. Even better, use your regular recycling bins to put the materials in.
  • Go over the different categories together and show some examples.
  • Dump out the trash and let the kids work their sorting magic!
  • Lend them a guided hand as you go, or wait until they’re done before checking if everything is in the right place.

Recycling for Kids - A Fun and Simple Earth Day Activity. Rain or Shine Mamma

This game can be done with just one child or many, and you can modify it depending on how many children are participating. If you plan to do it in a classroom with a big group, it might be fun to divide them into two teams and have them do a friendly “recycling race.” Take the opportunity to talk about the three Rs – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle – while you’re sorting. For example, ask the kids where the trash goes when we throw it away (think about it, there is no place called “away!”), what you can make from it when you recycle it instead, and what you can do to produce less trash.

This simple Earth Day activity took virtually no planning and was done entirely with materials that we already had on hand. Since my girls LOVE sorting, it was an immediate hit. In fact, they’re already asking for more things to sort!

For more Earth Day fun, make sure to check out these posts as well:

Earth Day Nature Walk Ideas for Kids from How Wee Learn

Earth Day Activities for Everyone from Natural Beach Living

Celebrate Earth Day by Picking Up Litter from My Nearest and Dearest

Make a Difference on Earth Day from Mommy Loves Trees

Backyard Chores for Kids from Fireflies and Mud Pies

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  1. I loved reading your ideas for teaching kids about recycling!

  2. We don’t have recycling in our town. But I recently found a center we can drop them off at. I am going to have to do this with my kids. Thanks.

    • I’m sorry to hear that your town doesn’t offer recycling, Mae. You’d think in this day and age it would be standard practice but the services really vary from place to place. Glad to hear you found a place to take your recyclables, though:o)

  3. This is a fun activity and great practical learning experience at the same time. Thanks for sharing at the After School Linky Party!

  4. I love this! We used to sort and drop off off our recyclables at community bins, but now we can throw everything in the blue bin and it gets picked up on garbage day! (We still separate beverage containers so we can get $ for those and put small pieces of paper in a plastic bag; same for plastic bags.) The sad thing is – easy as it is, people still don’t recycle. Why?!?! Doesn’t get any easier than curbside recycling!

    • Aaaahhhh, curbside recycling – jealous! Yeah, I don’t understand why more people don’t recycle…It drives me nuts to see all the recyclables stuffed in people’s overflowing trash cans every week. So much stuff going to the landfill unnecessarily.

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