Taking care of our environment, conserving energy and water, and learning about pollution are all ongoing topics in my household.
In my opinion, kids are never too young to start to learn about the importance of recycling, turning off lights when they leave the room, or turning the faucet off when brushing their teeth.
My 3.5 year old son, Onetime has shown particular interest in learning about clean water and electricity and where they come from. I think a lot of his interest began last year when I created two different Earth Day sensory bins for him to explore – which I’m going to share with you today!
Amazon Affiliate links have been included. Please see our Disclosure page for details.
Both of these bins focus on sorting garbage into Trash, Recyclables, and Compost and provide so many opportunities to teach young children about the importance of reducing waste, recycling and taking care of Mother Earth!
The second bin even has a free printable sheet of pictures of waste that can be used for a variety of learning activities.
Earth Day Bin #1: Ice Cube Colour Sorting Bin
The first sensory bin focuses on the concepts of sorting and matching – fundamental mathematical concepts for toddlers and preschoolers!
- 3 different jars/pails/small containers – labeled “Trash”, “Recycling”, and “Compost” – Even better if the colours of the containers match what you use at home.
- Plastic ice cubes or wooden or plastic blocks in the 3 colours of the bins you choose
- A pair of tongs (great for helping kids to develop strength in their pincer grasp for later writing
I really didn’t need to do much to get my son involved with this bin – it’s fairly self-explanatory – which is perfect for toddlers!
In addition to labeling the 3 containers as Trash, Recycling, and Compost – I made sure that there was a picture symbol for each container. I printed the recycle symbol and compost symbol off the internet for free. My trash container luckily already had a picture.
Earth Day Bin #2: Ocean Garbage Sorting Bin: A Lesson on Recycling, Composting, and Waste
Our second sensory bin really focuses on sorting waste. I chose to have a “water” (shredded paper) filled bin because I wanted to be able to talk to Onetime about how our oceans are being polluted.
Have you heard of the great Pacific garbage patch? If not – you need to check this out.
To make this bin, you will need:
- Shredded blue paper (alternately you could use blue rice)
- Some marine type toy boats and animals (we used boats only, but it would have been fun to have the animals too!)
- 3 containers for waste with labels for trash, compost, and recycling
- 12 large metal paper clips
- Printout of 12 pieces of garbage (click here for your FREE copy)
- A “fishing pole” with magnet on the end (ours was homemade!)
- Print and cut out the 12 pictures of garbage items. You can laminate them if you want, or just print them on cardstock to make them more sturdy.
- Slide a large paper clip onto each picture.
Onetime really enjoyed and fully understood this activity. He LOVED using the magnetic fishing pole to fish for garbage out of the “ocean” and when I explained that his job was to put the waste where it belonged – he seemed to take this very seriously.
For each picture he fished out, I would label the picture and ask him where it went – reminding him of the bin names. E.g. “You caught a pop bottle. Does that belong in the recycling, the waste bin, or the compost bin?”In fact, I was astounded that he was able to look at each of the 12 pictures and decide where they should go! The lightbulb was the only picture that stumped him!
When Onetime was all done sorting, he had some fun playing with the boats! Looking back, I should have included some marine animals and fish to play with like this Get Ready Kids Ocean Animal Playset.
They would have been happy that the garbage was all gone from their habitat!
After all the sorting and ocean play, we didn’t stop there, but went on to create a Landfill and Recycling Factory to take the different kinds of waste to, but I figured that was too much to put in one post! Click on the link above or the picture below to check that out.
Looking for some great kids’ books related to this topic? I highly recommend these three:
To raising the future stewards of our beautiful planet,