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Planting the seed: here’s how to teach recycling through play

Lise Bosch

Lise Bosch

Lise is a South African born and Aussie raised writer who recently upgraded from the fairy-tales she wrote when she was little to stuff with a little more “oomph.” With a journalism degree and experience in the beauty industry, she has a passion for family and lifestyle content. On her days off, she’s finding the latest and greatest brunch spots and trying to work...
Created on Jan 22, 2024 · 5 mins read

Let’s face it, knowing which crumpled piece of rubbish goes in which bin colour is tricky, even for adults. Most of us can use the golden copout of “still learning,” thanks to many years of winging it when recycling was still fresh on the scene.


But we want our kids to feel confident from the get-go. Because the world that they’re growing up in is going to look pretty different from ours, so we want to give them the skills and understanding to lead the charge.

As they learn about the world, we should nurture them to learn how to care for it too. Sustainability doesn’t have to be a last-minute sentiment. If we start weaving it into our child’s learning from a young age, it can grow into a foundational understanding about how we can positively affect the environment. One recycling bin at a time.

This doesn’t have to look like a boring, thumb-twiddling chat.

With kids, even recycling can have a flair of fun. And we’re bringing you just a few ways to do that.

1. Give your rubbish a fresh start


At its core, recycling is about repurposing. Making something new and fresh out of something pre-existing. We give it new life, thereby extending its usefulness and staying low on wastage.

Kids have been creating stories with household objects since the dawn of time. So let them do what they do best!

Get out those bin-bound cardboard boxes and show that they have ongoing potential. Your little one could make their own cardboard house, shop front, or furniture. They could even build up a robot (a nice one though, you don’t want the annoyance of a robot taking over). Newspaper can become a cape, a glass jar can become a flower vase, and yoghurt containers can organise their crayons.

By showing some second-hand love to our recycling rubbish, you can sow in the idea of materials being reused to reduce our human footprint on the earth.


2. Toy with it


Mirroring everyday activities like recycling through playtime can help your child see these as normal and commonplace. It can be a training ground where you can guide your little one through the process and help them sprout confidence in the activity.

With the LEGO® DUPLO® Recycling Truck set, your kid can start putting two and two together by sorting the rubbish with their coordinated colours. The green bin welcomes compost and veggie scraps, while the blue bin takes in those crumpled up balls of paper and junk mail for the paper and cardboard recycling. As for tomato sauce bottles and empty containers, that can head straight to the orange bin.

By sorting through these colours and assigning them to the matching bin, your kid’s started to get the hang of this whole recycling gig. Flicking the lids of the bins up and down helps sharpen their fine motor skills, and the drivable lorry has a fun tipping function for them to experiment with.

Plus, there’s a cute LEGO DUPLO dog. Dogs just automatically make things more fun.

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3. Get your goodies through op-shops


Taking your little one for a shop isn’t always straightforward, not when they insist on touching everything, but when you do go,  you could consider opting for an op-shop instead.

Stroll through the aisles and explain to your child that actually, other people have already loved these products. But they can’t look after them anymore, so they’re giving them away for someone else to love. Let them pick out some picture books or toys (we’d say movies, but does anyone still have a DVD player these days?) so they can experience giving another generation of memories to these goodies.

By seeing this practice of breathing new life into used products, your kid’s being introduced to recycling in a practical and natural way that folds right into everyday life.

4. Create an artbox


From posters to collage to spontaneous abstract art projects, your kid’s always ready to get creative. Encourage your kid to collect copy paper, construction paper, magazines or even paper bags, and pop them in a nifty art box. That way, they’ve got a whole stash of reusable creations to reinvent in their next art project.

Picasso style artwork made from pizza flyers? Very contemporary.

Patterns from artsy magazines pasted on paper? How chic.

There’s no end to what they can create, that’s the magic of recycling.

5. Jazz up your recycling station


Whether you’ve already got a seamless sorting system or need to start fresh, getting crafty with a recycling station is a great idea for making this process fun for your little one.

Grab some cardboard boxes and let your kid go to town decorating them. Splash it with paint, flourish with flowers, and swipe it with stripes – as long as you clearly mark which recyclable items go in each one. Not only does your little one enjoy making these boxes, they also start to connect the dots with each bit of recycling.

And everytime they pop something into one of the boxes, they can feel that swell of pride that they made it. How good is that?

Connecting play with learning is always a winning combo, and that totally holds true for sustainability. By breathing new life into “trash”, you show your kid the ongoing value of products being reused, and fizzle out single-use habits. Give that idea deep roots by allowing your kid to recreate recycling behaviours in play, like in the LEGO DUPLO Recycling Truck set.

However you choose to do it, planting those seeds at a young age empowers your kid with the knowledge and skills to work towards a more sustainable future.

LEGO, LEGO DUPLO and the Minifigure are trademarks of The LEGO Group. ©2023 The LEGO Group.

This is a paid partnership between Kiindred and the LEGO® DUPLO® Brand

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