Think of all the paper and other recyclable materials your class uses every day! Setting up a recycling program teaches children lifelong lessons about working together, sorting, reusing materials, and taking care of the environment.


1. Discuss with children the importance of recycling. Talk together about how paper comes from trees and metal comes from under the ground. Explain that when we reuse things, we don't need to cut down as many trees or dig up as much earth.

2. Set up a classroom recycling system. Children can decorate cardboard boxes to use as sorting bins. Each bin should indicate the material it's for: plastic, paper, metal cans, Styrofoam. Supply gloves for children to wear while they're recycling to protect their hands from sharp materials.

3. Designate a container for art materials. Children can save paper scraps and cardboard containers and boxes to use in their art creations. When children have used only one side of a sheet of paper — and don't want to save their work encourage them to put it into the container to be used by another child in the future.

4. Collect reusable items from the school's kitchen. This is another great source for empty containers, boxes, Styrofoam trays, and other art supplies and props for dramatic play.

5. Have children bring in recyclable items from home. Ask parents to send in specific materials you can reuse in upcoming art and science projects. (For safety reasons, discourage children from bringing in glass.)

6. Explain the importance of washing hands after recycling materials. Make sure children clean their hands thoroughly after they recycle!

7. Take a field trip to your local recycling center. Deliver your recyclable items and talk with the people who work there about how those items will be made into new materials.