3 Ways to Raise Your Kids to be Recyclers

By Emily Morrice (bio)

With the Holidays around the corner, it might feel counterintuitive to be talking about having and consuming less, but we feel it’s the perfect time. Far more than listening to our commands, our children learn from watching our behaviour and at this time of year particularly, most of us are demonstrating habits of consumerism whether we like to admit it or not. How can we turn the tide and teach our children about giving without consuming this year? If we raise our children with a mindset on recycling and reusing, the Holidays become a natural outlet to practice what we preach.

1. Model Recycling and Reusing

It’s no secret that raising a family requires a fair amount of stuff. Even as an environmentally-conscious mother of three, I admit our garbage and recycling bins are much larger than those of our neighbours on garbage and recycle day, and our home has far more possessions than that of a childless couple. But what if we taught and modeled a lifestyle of recycling and reusing in our homes? For general waste, using the three bin approach of garbage, recycling, and compost. It’s a simple and great way to help divert recyclable and compostable items away from the landfill.

2. Involve your Kids when donating clothing and toys

Where do outgrown clothing and unused toys go when your children are finished with them? How do you go about acquiring new versions of these things as need arises? Choosing eco-friendly options like donating, giving to friends, and buying second-hand are excellent, but don’t miss the opportunity to involve your children. For years I would collect toys and books I knew my kids wouldn’t use when they were napping to avoid the tricky conversation with them if they weren’t ready to part with those things, but I realized I was missing an opportunity to teach them and model their character. Now we gather the kids around every few months and explain that we’ve come to own far too many things – most of which we don’t use on a daily basis – and ask them to choose a few things from each category (books, toys, clothing) that they’d like to pass on to either a friend or a charity. Surprisingly our kids love this exercise! It helps to have a number goal in mind if you have a child is resistant to parting with his things, say, five books, or two t-shirts.

3. Give Experiences rather than material things

In the same vein of recycling and reusing material goods, aim to bring fewer things into your home this year. Instead of giving presents for the Holidays, consider giving experiences. Swimming lessons, zoo memberships, museum passes, movie tickets, or art classes will build great family memories without cluttering up your home and hurting the environment. Ask your children something they’d love to do with you over their upcoming break and make it one of your gifts to them. Encourage them to do the same for you and anyone else on their list. It took a few years for me to embrace this gift-giving philosophy fully, but when I look back to my own childhood the truth is, I remember almost none of the gifts I received but I remember almost all of the experiences – my first trip to the movie theatre, taking a pottery class with my mom, going skiing with my dad, special lunches out with grandma that made me feel so grown up, and so on. Giving experiences keeps the long game in mind – you’re not spending for the new toy that will excite for a week and lose it’s lustre in a month, you’re spending for the memories made and time together.

In the next couple of months it’s quite possible that your child’s possessions will significantly increase. As their parent, how will you use this as a teaching moment to both shape their character and serve the environment? Giving experiences instead of more stuff, fostering an attitude of giving and recycling, and embracing minimalism this Holiday season are all ways to take a step towards that end.

Happy holidays!

‌‌‌‌About Emily

Emily MorriceEmily is a freelance writer, blogger, and mom of three little ones. When she’s not traveling the world with her family, Montreal is home, where you can find her exploring the local markets, making a mess in her kitchen, and brewing a cup of tea. Find her on Instagram (@emmorrice) and check out her lifestyle blog, Our Nest In The City, where she documents it all.