How To Teach Your Preschooler to "Go Green"

Mother and daughter looking at grass
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Think your preschooler is too young to understand the concepts of going green and recycling? By teaching your preschooler the important lesson of taking care of the earth you will instill good habits in your little one that they will be sure to carry with them for a long time. Here's how.

Difficulty: Easy

Time Required: Over a lifetime!

Here's How:

  1. Set a good example. In a 2008 Harris Poll 91% of Americans said that they have recycled. By being good to the earth in your daily actions and deeds, you are already teaching your preschooler. You are the person your preschooler most wants to emulate and using the principle, "monkey see, monkey do" your little one is learning simply by observing your actions.
  1. When taking out or sorting through the trash, separate out any recyclables like cans, bottles, plastic containers, newspapers, magazines and pieces of cardboard. Make a point of doing this task in front of your preschooler and asking him to help. Point out when the garbage truck comes and when the recycling truck comes (if they are different). When bringing the cans to the curb, show how each item is separated out.

  2. When you are at the supermarket, buy big bags of your preschooler's favorite snack as opposed to the smaller, snack-sized packages. When packing a snack for a day out or for preschool, use reuseable containers instead of plastic bags. By setting a good example, your preschooler is likely to follow your lead in the future.
  3. When you are outside, point out nature's beauty to your preschooler. Show him the different types of trees, flowers and plants that exist in your neighborhood. Try to find a local nature trail and when the weather is nice, take a hike together. You'll have an enjoyable afternoon and your preschooler will develop a love of being outdoors.
  1. When possible, walk instead of drive. You'll both enjoy the exercise and will get a nice boost of energy from it. Explain to your preschooler how walking is not only good for her body, but for the earth too as we don't use as much gas and energy.

  2. Whether they are battery-operated or plugged in, teach your preschooler to turn off any lights, video games or other electronic toys once they are finished playing or when the leave the room.

  1. Make good use of scrap paper like old envelopes or grocery store lists by having your preschooler use them to create works of art. Encourage her to color on both sides of the paper. Keep a stack in easy reach so your preschooler knows where it is and can get to it whenever she is inspired to draw.
  2. Going out for the day? Instead of bringing pre-packaged juice boxes or water bottles purchased from the store, pick up a couple of BPA-free reusable plastic bottles and fill them with water from the tap or juice from the bottle in the fridge.


  1. Don't feel you need to teach your preschooler everything all at once. This is a lifelong learning process. If she forgets to put a can in the recycle bin, it's OK -- correct her and move on.
  2. If you haven't been great about recycling until now, don't fret. Any time you start is a good time.
  3. Make sure you check with your local community or town the guidelines for what they recycle and when. Some towns have home pickups, others ask that you drop off your recyclables.
  1. Keep up on any new guidelines or laws that are passed in your area so you stay up-to-date.

What You Need:

  • Containers to separate recyclables
  • Reusable plastic bottles for water and drinks
  • Reusable containers for snacks
  • Scrap papers for art projects
  • A sunny day for walking or biking instead of using the car
  • The address for your local recycling plant
  • Rules and guidelines for recycling in your community

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