It’s not easy being green. Preschool educators and parents with young children often find that explaining environmental ideas like long-term sustainability to a young child is difficult, since most preschoolers will find such complex concepts confusing.

Nevertheless, you can still encourage children to adopt “green” behaviors like recycling, reusing, and caring for nature in their immediate environment. Such early lessons will hopefully influence the way kids will approach environmental issues in the future, and inspire a lifelong attitude of caring for the world we live in.

To celebrate our newest sing along song for kids – an environmentally educational garbage truck song, we’ve come up with these 4 fun ways to introduce young kids to the concept of “going green”.

#1: Trash Talk

Many young boys and girls are fascinated with cars, and will gladly play with anything that has wheels – garbage trucks toys included. Parents can use this to teach children about recycling.

When you watch a garbage truck video for kids or play with a garbage truck toy, ask the kids where they think the garbage truck takes all the trash your family produces. Talk about different ways to get rid of garbage, and about different kinds of garbage. If you separate garbage at home, or do any recycling yourself, let the child take part in the “take out the trash” process, and explain what you are doing, and why. You can even try making it into a fun sorting game for the kids!

Understanding how consumption leads to trash, and encouraging kids to think about where all that trash magically disappears to (or not…) is an excellent way to build a foundation for environmental awareness in young children. An added bonus is that, as with any other subject, talking to your kids about how the world around them works is beneficial for their cognitive development, communication skills, and emotional skills.

#2: Recycled Materials Crafts

Enjoy a fun craft activity for kids AND help save the planet by using materials you already have lying around the house. When you reuse materials instead of buying new ones you are both being frugal, and educating your child about the idea of reusing items to make something useful instead of just throwing them away. Many great ideas for crafts using recycled materials can be found on the magical “mothers’ land” also known as Pinterest, and we’ve collected quite a few of them on our “Kids love Earth Day” board – check it out!

#3: “Trash Garden” Experiment

A fun way to demonstrate the idea that there are different kinds of trash is to conduct a “trash garden” science experiment with the kids. First, chose a few trash-worthy items, with some being biodegradable and some not: fruit skins, chocolate bar wrappers, paper, egg shells, empty soda cans, etc. You can have the kids look for such items around the house. Second, create “plots” in the garden where you’ll bury the items. Make sure to mark each “plot” clearly. Third, bury the items in different plots, and keep records of what was buried where, perhaps by drawing a map and letting the kids draw pictures next to the name of each item.

Ask the children to make predictions as to which items will be absorbed into the ground and which will not. Check back with your “trash garden” after a while, and talk to the kids about the properties of different materials, and how long it takes for them to disappear once they become “trash”. Ask kids to suggest solutions to the “trash problem”, and discuss reducing, reusing, and recycling as possible ways to mitigate the effects of consumption.

#4: Celebrate Earth Day with the Kids

Earth Day is an annual celebration of environmental protection held worldwide on April 22. This special day provides an excellent excuse to discuss the future of the planet with the little ones. Check out your local offerings for Earth Day events – many municipalities and museums host activities for kids on this occasion. Make and eat Earth Day yummy treats, or try visiting a local recycling center or joining a volunteer clean-up of a local park or hiking trail to incorporate an educational environmental activity into a fun family-day-out!

Are You “Keeping it Clean and Green”?

Share Your Own Ideas for Educational Kids’ Activities in the Comments!