5 Recycling Games & Activities Kids Will Love

You're never too young to learn how to care for the environment - and these activities can make it fun.

Updated March 29, 2023
Boys carrying recyclable cardboard box

Scientific studies and distressing images of ice caps melting or swaths of forests being destroyed by forest fires aren't the right ways to approach our environmental problem with young kids. Rather, reach them in the ways they learn best - through playing. While they might not come away from these recycling games with every vocab word relating to sustainability, they'll have a newfound sensitivity towards the things they can do to help our environment.

Recycling Center

Decorating box to recycle

Preschoolers (and adults who haven't lost their touch) love to play make believe. In this activity, you can help guide children to learn about what recycling looks like in practice and how they can use it in their everyday life.

Materials You Need

For this activity, you're going to need:

  • Cardboard boxes
  • Art supplies to decorate the boxes
  • Various recyclable materials (plastic bottles, paper, etc.)

How to Play

Teach your kids all about recycling in real-life with this simple activity:

  1. Dole out the cardboard boxes (one for a single child, multiple for a whole classroom) to students and let them go wild with their art supplies. Help them trace out the recycling symbol, but otherwise let them customize how they'd like to.
  2. Using the recyclable materials you collected, pantomime how to put the materials in the boxes rather than in the trash can.
  3. Give each kid different items and let them to decide what goes in the recycle bin vs. the trash can. For example, you could give them some empty bottles, paper, and a pair of safety scissors.

Recycled Cans Ping-Pong Toss

Tin can toss

Make the most out of the tin cans you use for lunch and dinner with this super simple youngster-friendly sustainable version of beer pong. The takeaway for kids is that they recognize that you can recycle everyday materials and use them for new (and fun!) purposes instead of throwing everything away.

Materials You Need

For this little game, all you need is a pack of ping-pong balls and a variety of washed-out tin cans. These can be any height and size.

How to Play

Show kids that part of the recycling process is making used things new again with this fun game.

  1. Give every kid a can to decorate using paint, glitter, googly eyes, puff balls, etc.
  2. Once their masterpieces are complete, set up two or three of them a few feet away.
  3. Establish a barrier line they can't cross, and have every kid try to toss their ping-pong ball into the cup.
  4. Continue eliminating kids until only one's left standing.

Feed the Recycling Monster

If there's one precious thing that humans are born with the ability to do, it's anthropomorphize any inanimate object. A rock turns into a special rock, and a recycling bin turns into a class pet monster that needs recyclables to survive.

set of color paints on black desk

Materials You Need

For this activity, you need an assortment of craft supplies:

  • Art supplies (paint, ribbon, construction paper, paintbrushes, etc. - recycled supplies are even better!)
  • Bottle caps (for making the eyes)
  • Scissors
  • Tape
  • Drawing paper
  • Colored pencils/crayons

How to Play

This activity is part arts and crafts part environmental lesson. Throughout the month, you can encourage kids to bring in recyclables to keep your recycling monster well-fed.

  1. Pass out the drawing paper and let the kids design a monster. If you have multiple children, you can have them design a monster and vote on the best one.
  2. Using the design, art supplies, tape and scissors, decorate your recycling bin like the monster.
  3. Find or collect recyclable materials like bottles, jars, etc. and have your kids feed the monster by putting the recyclables in the decorated bin.
  4. Continue the activity throughout the month, semester, or year to reinforce recycling as a practice.

The Sustainability Challenge

Boy making robot for school project

Fashion competition shows are constantly incorporating recycling challenges into their lineup, and you can get inspiration from them by creating your own sustainability activity. This beauty of this activity is that it also works for all ages; younger kids can create simpler projects, while older kids might create something more intricate.

Materials You Need:

Since this is a creative-based activity, the more supplies you can compile, the better.

  • Paper
  • Pencils
  • Masking Tape
  • Glue
  • Old Magazines
  • Newspaper
  • Tin Cans
  • Plastic Bottles
  • Fabric Scraps

How to Play

This art activity centers on the idea that art can be created using recyclable goods. Your supplies don't have to cost hundreds of dollars to create an incredible art piece. Let them experiment with form, function, and design. After everyone's done, you can set up a mini exhibit for everyone to explore and admire.

The Earth Is Music to Our Ears

Another great way to challenge young minds and teach them the joys of reusing materials in new ways is by giving them the task of creating a musical instrument out of recyclable materials.

Materials You Need

Collect as many recyclable materials as you can think of and set them out for kids to rifle through as they please. In addition, you'll want to have adhesives, tape, and scissors for them to construct their creation.

How to Play

The rules are really limited with this one. Basically, let your kids have free rein of the materials you set out and give them a short time limit (30 minutes to 1 hour) to create a musical instrument. The key direction is that it has to make a noise in some way. After they're finished, let them present their musical instrument to you or the class.

Creating a Better Earth Starts With Education

Teaching your kids about recycling and ways to reduce the trash on the planet is incredibly important. And kids are never too young to start learning about what ways they can practice sustainable consumption in their everyday lives. These recycling activities are perfect for kids because they marry fun with learning, and will be something they'll remember for years.

5 Recycling Games & Activities Kids Will Love