Teaching Preschoolers About Littering

By Carissa Lawrence
Involve your child in taking out the trash at home.
Involve your child in taking out the trash at home.

Every human being is responsible for keeping the earth clean, including preschool-aged children. It's never too early to start talking to children about the environment and topics such as pollution, recycling and littering. Especially in cities, children are too used to seeing garbage on the side of the road, in the grass and on the sidewalk. It's important to get kids to understand that litter wasn't always, and shouldn't be, around.

Explain Litter

The first step in teaching preschoolers about littering is introducing them to the term. If kids don't understand what litter is, they can't help in preventing it. Introduce litter as trash that has not been thrown away properly. Discuss with your preschooler where litter comes from and the idea that people are the ones who create litter. Invite your child to think of places she has seen or might find litter. Encourage your child to come up with different solutions to the problem of litter, such as making trash cans more available and volunteering to pick up trash.

Read Books about Littering

Children's literature is an effective tool in teaching preschoolers about new topics. There are a number of kids books that discuss the issues of trash, littering and keeping the planet clean. For example, "Too Much Garbage" by Fulvio Testa tells the story of two boys who are sent to take out the trash and discover that there is garbage everywhere. This book and other stories like it provide preschoolers with exaggerated views of the problem of litter and what will happen if they aren't proactive in preventing it. After reading books about littering with your child, ask him questions related to the story, including how the characters felt about the litter, what solutions to the problem of littering the characters came up with, and what he would do in a similar situation.

Clean Up The Neighborhood

Young children learn by doing. One way to teach preschoolers about littering and why it's important for everyone to throw their trash away is to engage them in a clean-up project. There are a number of organizations that take volunteers out to clean up different areas of the city, or you can organize a clean-up crew yourself. Invite friends and family members to help you and your child clean up a local park or creek bed. Before the clean-up, an adult should visit the site and remove any drug-related or dangerous litter. To ensure safety, everyone involved should wear closed-toe shoes and protective gloves.

Lead By Example

One of the most effective ways to teach preschoolers not to litter is to show them a good example. Young children most often emulate what they see adults doing. You should always be conscious about the environment and make an effort not to litter, but this should hold especially true when you are with your child. In today's society, there is often an attitude that it's okay to litter because there is someone who's been designated to pick it up at some point. Raising environmentally conscious kids starts with being environmentally conscious yourself.

About the Author

Based in Gainesville, Carissa Lawrence is an experienced teacher who has been writing education related articles since 2013. Lawrence holds a master's degree in early childhood education from the University of Florida.