Every spring, the kids and I try to come up with more ways that we can be more green as a family. In the past, we’ve started seeds indoors, we’ve started composting, and we’ve even learned how to turn squishy fruit into something new. As a general rule of thumb, we try to let our kids decide what new steps we should take. But with Earth Day fast approaching, I wanted to share some simple steps that your kids can take to be a bit more mindful about recycling and repurposing old things and turning them into something new.
These 5 simple tips are perfect for parents that want to have some new ideas about ways your kids can be more green. I encourage you to use them as talking points to see what ideas they can come up with!
5 EASY WAYS YOUR KIDS CAN BE MORE GREEN
1. Grow your own food.
This one is a biggie. We start seeds indoors every spring. Not only does it take our minds off of the freezing cold temps, but it gives us something to look forward to every day. We run downstairs to see if anything has sprouted and when it does, we track its progress. We also have scrap gardens growing constantly on our radiator covers. We have everything from scallions to onions to celery to romaine lettuce. For our children to know – and really understand – that they can grow their own food is a life skill that every child should have.
2. Don’t waste food, especially squishy fruit.
I hate wasting food. It’s one of my pet peeves. I don’t mind if our children try something new and don’t like it – that’s a part of trying new food. But I do mind watching fresh fruit and vegetables go to waste for no good reason. Unfortunately, my kids are super picky about their fruit and vegetables. The minute a squishy spot comes into sight, that fruit is deemed “no good”and they won’t touch it with a ten foot pole. This drives me (more than a little) bit bonkers.
I was determined to find a strength-based way to show them that squishy fruit does not mean that it’s bad. So a few years ago, I started making homemade jam with all of their squishy fruit. I didn’t make a big deal out of it. I actually kept it pretty simple. I simply asked the kids to place any fruit that they deemed “inedible” into the Mommy Pile. Then, I would go through it and gather up all of their berries, peaches and apples, and place them into a boiling pot on the stove. As the saying goes, curiosity killed the cat and they couldn’t wait to see what I was doing with their discards. Homemade jam has become a staple of ours and not only does it help us not waste food, but we also don’t have to buy jam anymore at the store. Double bonus! (You can also use squishy fruit in muffins and pancakes too!)
3. Save toilet paper and paper towel rolls for kids crafts.
Have you ever noticed how may rolls of toilet paper the average family goes through each week? It’s a lot – even with being mindful about how much paper is being used. Since we have young children, we save almost all of our empty rolls for crafts. Not only are the rolls recyclable, but they are a great way to make cheap crafts that encourage your children to use their imaginations.
To encourage our kids to recycle the toilet paper rolls in our own bathrooms, we placed a basket under the sink for them. Each time a roll becomes empty, they’re responsible for replacing it with a new roll and tossing the empty roll into the basket. Then, over the weekend, they take the full basket down to the basement and add the empty rolls to our craft bag. This way, they can easily access the empty rolls for their crafts whenever the mood strikes.
4. Start a compost bin.
When we moved to our current house, I envisioned lots of emerald green grass, overflowing vegetable gardens and large compost bins in our new back yard. What I got instead was a lot of weeds and grubs wrecking our lawn, powdery mildew and tomato blight destroying our gardens, and a compost pile that never seems to be ready. This doesn’t mean that we aren’t happy – it just means that we still have (a lot of) work to do.
But in terms of involving your kids in a greener lifestyle, starting a compost bin is a great way to get them involved. Our kids are in charge of running the kitchen scraps out to the tumbler and dumping them in. They get a big kick out of spinning the wheel and love peering inside to see what’s going on. I find that posting a chart on the back of our kitchen door is a great way to get them thinking about what can go in and what cannot go in the compost bin. You can read more about composting here.
5. Set up recycling bins.
Over the years, I have been able to encourage the kids to recycle or reuse any item that can deemed craft worthy. From toilet paper rolls to milk cartons, from yogurt containers to aluminum cans, if it can be used in a craft, they know to rinse it and bring it down to the craft bags in our basement. However, I haven’t been able to convince them to be more involved in actually bringing non-crafty worthy items outside to the recycling bins.
It’s been frustrating me for awhile now, so I decided to ask the kids why they didn’t want to help out. It turns out that our kids are rightfully skittish of the 3 very large raccoons that love to forage in our garbage pails. They are the size of 3 small children and like to pop out of the pails kamikaze-style whenever someone approaches at night. Needless to say, the kids flat out refuse to go out to the recyclable pails after dinner. To make life easier, I dedicated the second pail in our “garbage pail cabinet” towards recyclable goods. (It used to be a storage bin for recycled plastic and paper bags, but I will just find a new spot for these items.) Now, the kids and I can rinse out our recyclables and store them in the pail until morning, or whenever the pail is full. Then the kids can go out the side door and place each item in its appropriate recycling bin. This eliminates their fear of a surprise raccoon encounter and we all get to do our part in being more green!
What tips do you have for ways your kids can be more green? Share them with us – we would love to hear from you!
Want more recycling crafts for kids?
- Coconut Shell Bird Feeder
- Toilet Paper Roll Boats
- Toilet Paper Roll Seed Starters
- Name Art With Sticks