Suggestions for Getting Kids Involved: How to Empower Children to Help Solve the Problem of Plastics in the Environment

Whether you are a teacher or parent, it is important to teach the next generation about the problem of plastic pollution and how they can help. I have created a list of different ways to show kids that they have the power to do something about plastic pollution. Some ideas on the list are better suited for older children, while others are geared toward younger children. I would suggest you consider the age of the child or children you are working with when choosing items off this list to try.

  1. Involve them in recycling: If you are a parent, consider making it your child's chore to help sort, collect or take out recycling. Explain to them the ways that this helps prevent plastic from getting into the environment and it protects plants and animals. If you are a teacher, assign this as a rotating classroom chore, so that each child gets a chance to focus on recycling in the classroom.
  2. Organize or participate in a clean up at a local park or wildlife area: This will give kids a chance to see first hand how plastic can pollute some of our most beloved natural areas. This can be an emotional experience, for children and adults, to spend time in a natural area and see the ways humans have harmed it. Giving kids a chance to clean it up will help them feel empowered.
  3. Find online and printable games and activities: The process of learning about environmental problems can be difficult and confusing. Finding fun activities that they can do will help them feel empowered in solving the problem.
  4. Let kids track their plastic consumption: It can be eye opening for a person of any age to keep track of how much plastic they consume in a week. Give kids this opportunity by creating a chart or list formatted paper and having them write down each time they used a consumable plastic product. At the end of the week, look over this list with them and let them decide if they think they are over consuming, and where they can cut back or use different products in place of their plastic consumables.
  5. Get them a reusable water bottle: If you are a parent, get your child, or let them choose a reusable water bottle. Talk about the overuse of consumable plastic water bottles. Offer a permanent pen or stickers that won't come off easily for the child to decorate their water bottle and encourage them to take it with them wherever they go. This option may be difficult as a teacher, however you can ask parents to send water bottles with their children and encourage kids to use them.
  6. Model conservation: Watching adults is one of the biggest ways that children learn. If we tell them not to do something, but then do it ourselves, we are sending mixed messages. If we want the children in our lives to help solve the problem of plastic pollution, we must be constantly modeling the same. Read books and articles about plastic pollution, watch documentaries, recycle, focus on not over consuming, participate in clean ups, stop using problematic products, all of these are ways that you can help, and the children in your life will see and model your behavior in their own life.

Here is a link to a site with good kids activities and games for learning about plastic pollution