How Wonder families encourage kids to recycle at home

Bread bag hand

Between playtime, homework and temper tantrums, how do you motivate your kids to recycle at home? Out Wonder community reveals their most effective tips and tricks.

Creating a better future and a cleaner environment for our kids starts at home. That’s why, when it comes to recycling, it’s best to start them young. But between playtime, homework and temper tantrums, how do you motivate them to separate juice boxes and sandwich wrappers before they go into the trash?

To answer this question, we asked the experts: you! Here are our Wonder families’ top tips for encouraging kids to recycle at home.


1. Teach them about the environment

@Jessie Buller

“We teach them about the environment and what it does – kids are more clever than we think. My six-year-old can’t stand adults who litter and doesn’t understand why they do it, knowing it kills animals and the environment. So, we pick up rubbish along the way to school or to the shops when we can.”

Teaching kids the impact of our behaviours on the environment shapes their perception growing up. Small things like picking up litter on their way to school or at the beach can help to develop their environmental awareness and instil green habits that last a lifetime.


2. Use positive words and phrases


“We just say ‘Darling, that goes into the special bin’, and he does it.”

Creating positive associations is key when teaching kids, and that includes recycling. Introducing special, positive words or phrases around the house when referring to tasks like recycling can help kickstart this process. Plus, it makes it easier for your little ones to remember your ask.


3. Up your organisational game

@Janine Basso

“We have four bins: soft plastic, recycling, compost and a normal bin. We also have a separate box for refundables. I used to also keep plastic bread tags and anything that could be used for crafts, like boxes and containers we used, to put aside and take to school.”

Starting the recycling process inside your home can save you a lot of time come bin day, but it also makes it easier for everyone in the family to participate – including your kids. Having a designated bin for different types of disposables introduces recycling as part of your daily routine, so sorting your trash becomes second nature.

Even better: try a recycling competition. Each week, everyone is assigned one type of recycling. Whoever did the best job at the end of the week wins a prize.


4. Get them into ‘return & earn’

@Ellen Carnahan

“I take my kids with me to the can and bottle depot near us, where we recycle together. I’ve been taking them from an early age, and it’s turned into a way to earn some pocket money. Sometimes, we even play ‘guess the amount’ and whoever is closest gets a reward.”

Little minds thrive on practical learning. Taking them to a recycling plant or bottle depot as part of your routine can help them grasp what actually happens to the recycled goods. Even better: keep them playfully engaged with guessing games. In time, the older ones can boost their pocket money by doing ‘return and earn’ runs on their own.


5. Save the returns for a family treat

@Paul Wildman Wilden

“We are from Adelaide, so can/bottle recycling has been around since the 1970s. I used to pick up [cans/bottles] from the footy oval as a kid. We still cash in the returns to use for our Summer holiday accommodation.”

Whether it’s taking the whole family on vacation, to the movies or to your kids’ favourite theme or water park, saving your recycling returns for a special family treat is a win-win for everyone.


6. Reuse reusables


“We keep our boxes to take back into the kindy to share with all the kids. They use them to make fun toys and creations.”

Bread bag clips, rubber bands and other packaging leftovers make for great art supplies. Large boxes suddenly become forts, and smaller ones turn into robots – for our kid’s minds, the possibilities are endless. With a little spray paint, you could even turn glass bottles into fun decor for special occasions together – think birthdays, Easter, Halloween or even Christmas.


7. Create a dress-up trunk

@Bernadette Dawson

“My mother keeps a dress-up trunk with old clothes for the kids. They absolutely love it, and no old garments go to waste!”

It’s no secret that most kids love playing dress-up. So, if you find certain wardrobe items don’t spark the joy they used to, don’t just let them go to waste. Instead start a dress-up collection for the kids.

What's more, broken textiles and old kids' clothes can be reused for arts and crafts or recycled at some retailers, like H&M or Zara – sometimes even in exchange for a discount voucher.


8. Join a community recycling program

@Matthew Redcliffe

“We have a local recycling program in our area. For every drop-off, we collect points, which eventually can be turned into rewards to benefit the entire community.”

A community recycling program helps support the local community while doing right by the environment.