This weekend September 20-22 is Clean Up the World weekend. Visit www.cleanuptheworld.org to become a member and register your event – which could be as little as an hour of rubbish clearing. Whatever you can achieve, it makes a difference!
A friend was quietly horrified when I let my three-and-a-half-year-old pick up rubbish as we walked to the park recently. True, one of the items was a beer bottle, but it was empty. That’s okay, isn’t it?
It had never occurred to me that teaching my kids to pick up after other people was a bad idea. Yes, I’m aware that germs are an issue and you’ve got to wonder about the kind of person that drinks in kids’ playgrounds, but so long as you teach little people to pick up rubbish safely, I can only think of benefits.
We live on a windy peninsula, close to a storm-channel that runs directly to the bay. Every loose piece of paper or chip packet ends up in a marine reserve, so it makes sense to me that we should divert as much of this litter from the sea as possible.
I have never said to Alfie, “go get that piece of rubbish”. Rather, I led by example, collecting litter in a poo-bag when out walking. Now that he’s out of the pram and whizzing ahead on his scooter, my son is captain of the Pollution Police and it can be difficult to go past the tiniest chewing-gum wrapper without having to stop. Which can be immensely frustrating, but it gives me a chance to analyse the reasons I sometimes don’t want to collect litter: “I’m in a hurry”, “I don’t want to touch that”, “I simply cannot be bothered right now”.
Teaching kids to safely pick up litter
Obviously the health and safety of your child comes first, but encouraging them to pick up rubbish teaches them to think about waste and means they will never litter because it simply won’t occur to them to throw something on the ground. Here are some ideas to make it safe:
- Always carry a bag when walking, be it a reused single-use plastic bag or washable cloth bag.
- Teach kids to look first, then pick up the rubbish with two fingers or a stick, before placing it in the bag or nearest bin; explain that trash it not to be played with or handled any more than necessary.
- Remind kids not to touch their mouth or eat until you’ve all washed your hands.
- Carry a natural hand-sanitiser (Perfect Potion, Burts Bees, or make your own).
- Take recyclables home, and don’t allow little kids to handle broken glass.
- Never let kids pick up rubbish in an area where there is drug use.
- Don’t let kids pick up fag butts.
If your local park or an area you know and love is often blighted by litter, make a special mission to clean it up, even if you just tackle one square metre. Take gardening gloves and stainless steel tongs, one bag for recyclables and one for rubbish each and see who can fill a bag fastest.
Make it fun with this cool app
I mentioned before that Alfie is captain of the Pollution Police, this is largely a result of his obsession with The Yuckies, a storybook-style app for iPad and iPhone. The Yuckies are troll-like creatures that thrive on waste. Using language that really appeals to young children, ie poo, slime, mucky, goo etc, the narrator talks about the places the Yuckies like to hang out and asks kids how to stop them in their tracks. Find it on the AppStore.
Do you let your kids pick up rubbish? Tell me all about it in the comments…