Recycling Activities & Games for Kids

Instructor: Nicky Davis
It's never too early to start taking care of the environment. Read on to learn some creative, kid-friendly ways to get engaged and excited about recycling, and find resources where you can learn more about how recycling helps the planet.

Recycling Games and Activities

There are a number of ways to get kids interested in recycling, whether in learning about the process of recycling and its benefits, or engaging in the process of recycling themselves by reusing old materials in fun new ways.

Educational Recycling Activities

Below are some games and activities that will help kids have fun as they learn how to recycle.

Sort & Recycle Hunt

Create a scavenger hunt, hiding cards representing various waste, recyclable, compostable, and donation items, around the room. Then divide into groups, with each group looking for as many cards as they can find and properly sorting them into the appropriate bins. At the end, review which items were correctly sorted, and why each thing belongs in each bin.

  • What You'll Need:
    • Cards labeled with different recyclable and reusable items
    • Bins labeled for Trash, Paper, Plastic, Glass, Metal, Compost, and Donations

Model Landfill

Building a model landfill can help you understand the limitations of landfills and see the importance of composting and recycling. Start by lining the sides of your cardboard box with clay, which will prevent 'leaking' from the landfill. Once the box is lined, put down a layer of dirt. Then add a layer of trash, and another layer of dirt, and continue this process until the landfill is full. Notice how quickly it fills up, with relatively small amounts of trash, and consider that once the landfill is 'sealed', all the trash will just sit until it finally decomposes.

  • What You'll Need:
    • A cardboard box
    • Sand/dirt
    • Small pieces of trash
    • Clay
    • Toy dump trucks (optional)

Recycling Go Fish

The game works much like traditional Go Fish, where players seek to make matches and get rid of all the cards in their hand first. However, instead of simply matching cards, students will need to match all item cards with an appropriate waste disposal method in order to create a pair.

  • What You'll Need:
    • Deck of cards labeled with various waste, recyclable, compostable, and donation items, as well as cards labeled with paper, plastic, glass, metal, trash, compost and donation.
    • For every item card there should be a card with the appropriate waste disposal method that item.

Recycled Arts & Crafts

The activities below will help involve kids in the process of recycling, by getting them to reuse materials to turn them into new pieces of art.


Cut out and paste together images you find in newspapers and magazines to create new collage art. You can also create found poetry, cutting out words and rearranging them into new ideas and sentences.

  • What You'll Need:
    • Old magazines and newspapers
    • Glue
    • Construction paper
    • Scissors

Recycled Vases

Transform old glass jars and bottles into reusable vases or cups, using glass paints and other decorations.

  • What You'll Need:
    • Empty glass bottles or jars
    • Glass Paints
    • Stickers
    • Hot glue gun (optional)
    • Glue-on decorations, such as rhinestones, ribbons, etc. (optional)

New Toys, Reused Materials

Below find ways for kids to engage with recycling by building new toys and games out of old reusable materials.

Water Twister

Create your own tornado in a bottle with this crafty recycling activity. Fill one of the 2-liter bottles with water until it's about ¾ of the way full. Use the bottle connector to attach the two bottles together at the mouth. Make sure everything is screwed together tightly, then turn it upside down so the full bottle is upside down. Spin the bottle in a circular motion, and watch as a swirling tornado of water develops inside the top bottle as it transfers into the bottom bottle.

  • What You'll Need:
    • Two 2-Liter bottles
    • A Bottle connector
    • Water
    • Food coloring (optional)

Recycled Bowling

Make your very own bowling alley! The empty bottles can be arranged in a triangle to be your bowling pins, and then all you need is a ball. Get creative and decorate the bottles to look more like pins, using paints or stickers.

  • What You'll Need:
    • Six empty 2-liter bottles
    • A ball
    • Paints and stickers (optional)

Recycled Instruments

You can create all the instruments for your own band using recycled materials!

To make a recycled guitar, take an empty tissue box and stretch the rubber bands around the length of the box. Attach an empty paper towel tube to one end of the box to make the neck of the guitar. Then decorate it however you like.

To make a recycled flute, use a rubber band to secure a piece of wax paper over the end of an empty toilet paper or paper towel tube. To play, simply hum into the open end. Decorate the tube with markers to make your flute unique.

To make a recycled maraca, fill an old juice box or soda can with seeds, can tabs, or bottle caps. Seal off the hole, and shake it to play it. Then decorate your new shaker!

  • What You'll Need:
    • Tissue box
    • Rubber bands of varying widths
    • Paper towel tube
    • Toilet paper tube
    • Wax paper
    • Empty juice boxes or soda cans
    • Seeds or bottle tabs
    • Tape
    • Crayons, markers, stickers and other decorating materials

Recycling Resources

For kids interested in studying more about waste management, recycling and the environment, offers course chapters on solid and hazardous waste as well as an environmental science chapter that teaches about pollution, sustainability and conservation.

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