Recycling – How to Build Good Habits Early


As a parent, you will be keen to ensure that the world your child inherits will be in good shape environmentally. Sadly, however, the human race seems to generate ever more packaging waste each year and then leave it to decompose in landfills, too slowly. Responsible waste disposal is a global imperative that needs far more attention. You can help your kids to understand and appreciate how important recycling is by practicing green habits in your home.

Try some of these ideas for starters.

Get creative

There are some wonderful ways to encourage children to make the most of used paper, plastic, cardboard and other recyclable materials. For instance, you can cut plastic bottles or milk containers in half and then cover them with tape to make a fun drum set for kids. If you add a few beans or small pebbles to your containers, including empty coffee tins, they can become maracas or rhythm shakers.

Make cardboard box cars with your children. There are 8 easy steps to take to transform an old cardboard box into a stylish car that they will play with all day long! Here are the steps:

  1. Seal a large box with packing tape
  2. Have an adult use a box cutter to cut out a semicircle on each side to make doors
  3. Fold the top of the box to create a windshield
  4. Have a grownup kid out the windshield
  5. Glue on paper plate wheels
  6. Attach plastic cups for head lights
  7. Paint a custom paint job using finer and tempera paints
  8. Add upholstery by gluing fabric or construction paper to the inside of the car

The environment plays an important role in nurturing a child, a fact embraced at the Early Years Village of the Stamford American International School (SAIS) in Singapore, so make sure your little one appreciates that recycling is a way of ‘giving back’ to nature and the environment.

As a representative of the Foundation for Environment Education (FEE), The World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Singapore is co-ordinating the Eco-Schools Programme here in Singapore, and Stamford is eager to be a part of it.

Help others

Children have a great capacity to latch on to worthy causes. Recycling is no exception, especially once they understand that some of the things we ‘throw away’ can be useful to other people or raise funds for those who are less fortunate than them. Charitable initiatives are often successful motivating factors for the young, so if your child wants to recycle clothes to help homeless people or raise money for charities by collecting empty ink cartridges, then encourage them to do it.

Also, explain that their old toys can be donated to charities so that pre-loved items can find a new home. You may just discover that other kids are inspired by your family’s innovative recycling efforts in aid of charitable causes, and will join in.

Love learning

Unbelievably, there appear to be no standards in schools relating to environmental education. For instance, there is growing concern worldwide about water conservation and parents and teachers alike want environmental education in our schools.

However, at the international schools in Singapore, where US standards are integrated with the International Baccalaureate (IB) Programme, the aim is to produce citizens who are ecologically literate, while developing their social and academic skills too. The program - developed in consultation with experiential education market-leaders JUMP! - aims to develop ecologically literate, compassionate and engaged leaders. Grouped before field trips to prepare and lead their own experience, the students learn to build capacity to innovate, create and lead in a real-life environment, all the while linked to their academics.

Home activities

If you want to make the most of the opportunities available to help you educate your children about the environment, here are three fun things you can do:

  • Bedtime stories
  • Home explorers
  • Sort it out


What child doesn’t love a good tale at bedtime? Turn to some of the best titles from the classic The Lorax by Dr. Seuss, to the wonderful Simon and Schuster Little Green Books, such as I Can Save the Ocean!, The Adventures of an Aluminum Can and My First Garden.

This is a family game that encourages your kids to be inventive about recycling opportunities. Tell your little explorer to walk into a room and spot the things that can be recycled. It might be bottles in a bathroom, stuffed animals in a bedroom or paint in a garage, for instance. You can also have fun researching items together if you’re not sure.

Some recyclables will be obvious. But encourage children to think creatively. What about that old dresser in the garage? The old clothes that no longer fit? Upcycling offers truly innovative and limitless recycling options.

You may be surprised to learn that kids actually enjoy sorting stuff. If you have a few empty containers, they can turn them into ‘recycling bins’ by decorating them with pictures. Perhaps you might encourage them to choose one for paper, another for cans and a third for plastic, for example. You can adapt these categories to reflect recycling programs in your area. Simply give your children some items so they can practice sorting them, and explain why it’s important to sort things in the right way as you go.

That’s recycling sorted then!

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