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Ways to Teach Kids About Litter



Litter on the ground is one of the most noticeable forms of pollution. Even at a young age, kids can tell when an area is untidy or there is trash that does not belong. This is why making an effort to teach kids about litter is an excellent way to increase their environmental awareness.


According to Barry Commoner, creator of the four laws of ecology, "Everything is connected to everything else". This concept can be applied to the impact of litter on our environment! Litter is not only harmful to wildlife and the aesthetics of nature, but it also has negative impacts on our human lives as well.


In this post, we'll discuss 6 ways to teach kids about litter to help them build a greater understanding of its impacts and love for the environment!


6 Ways to Teach Kids About Litter:


1. Give an example of litter


One of the best ways to teach kids about litter is through examples!


What is litter?

Litter is trash out of place. Most often, litter is considered trash placed on the ground instead of in the trashcan.


When you're walking outside, hanging out at the beach, or driving in the car, point out litter to your child. If you see your child litter, use it as a teachable moment to point out the impacts of litter on the environment. At the end of this post, check out some great activities to teach children not to litter.


2. Discuss the consequences of littering


Littering is bad for the environment. Talking about the consequences of littering helps to bring perspective to the problem of littering and inspire positive change. To help with your discussion, here are some facts about litter:


Littering Facts for Kids

Here are some littering facts to help teach kids about litter:
  • There is more litter along waterways than roadways (Keep America Beautiful)

  • The most littered item in the United States is cigarette butts (Keep America Beautiful)

  • Litter left on the street ends up in the water (Litter in America)

  • Litter is can be mistaken by animals for food and is unsafe for their bodies

  • Litter makes our homes and neighborhoods less beautiful

  • In most states, there are laws against litter!

3. Do litter cleanups


Litter cleanups are a great way to teach kids about litter. Litter cleanups can be done where ever you are! They're fun and easy to do for kids of all ages! All you need for a litter cleanup is trash bags and gloves. Other items to consider for your litter cleanups include safety vests, litter grabbers, sunscreen, bug spray, and a reusable water bottle for water breaks.


Although you can do a litter clean up any day, here are some great environmental holidays to host a litter cleanup with your kids and your community:

  • Earth Day, April 22

  • Great American Cleanup, March - June

  • International Coastal Cleanup, September 17, 2022 (date varies by year)

  • World Cleanup Day, September 17, 2022 (date varies by year)

  • World Environment Day, June 5

  • World Ocean Day, June 8

4. Turn litter into art


Reuse the litter you collect and turn it into art! Allow your child to use their creativity to create art with their litter. This idea is inspired by an artist, Vik Muniz. Muniz journey's to his homeland of Brazil to visit the world's largest dump! He uses recyclable items from there to create portraits.


His story was turned into a documentary named Wasteland which is now widely shown in Brazil for recycling education. The documentary is best for older kids, but is a must-watch even for adults and parents! The stories of the pickers who work a the dump and the journey of turning trash into treasure is uplifting and eye-opening. It adds perspective to the concept of why it is so important to reduce our waste and make sure trash goes in the right place. It provides background and context to give you the confidence and inspiration to teach kids about litter. You can watch the documentary here.


5. Read books about the environment


Tell a short story about littering! Reading books is a great way to teach about the concept of littering. It helps them understand the concept and learn about the importance of loving the environment. While reading books about littering with my son, I stop to ask questions and point out important concepts. This helps to deepen the understanding.


Here are a few recommendations for books about littering for your kids:

  • Litterbug Doug

  • Michael Recycles

  • I Can Save the Earth

  • The Wartville Wizard

6. Activities about littering for kids


If you're ready to take your litter education to the next level, teach a litter lesson to your child with some fun activities.


Litter activities for children:
  • Trash Color Wheel: conduct a litter cleanup and group the litter collected by color. This lesson combines litter cleanups and learning/reinforcing colors

  • Make a Litter Bag: Decorate a large paper bag and place it in your car to collect litter. This will help keep litter from falling from the car or being thrown out of the windows.

  • Sort the Litter: Combine information about litter with the 3 R's - Reduce, reuse, recycle! After your litter cleanup, separate your litter into piles - trash and recycling. Discuss which items are recyclable and why. You can also have your child count each piece of litter to add math to this activity.

Which of the ways will you use to teach your kids about litter?


When an area is littered, it makes it less beautiful! It decreases the property value of communities and harms our natural environment. Remember to continue putting trash in its place to keep it out of our roads, beaches, and waterways!


This post was contributed by Lacie from TeachGoGreen.com.