Having a No Waste Kitchen can seem like a daunting task, but try adding children into the mix! When you have kids in the kitchen, they can create more of a challenge. But, there are also many ways to get your kids involved in your No Waste efforts.
Originally Published On: April 16, 2019
Updated On: September 15, 2021
Teach Kids About Waste and It’s Impact
The first place to start is teaching your children why it is important to lower the amount of waste produced in the kitchen. This goes for everyone, not just children. If we don’t know why we are doing something, then it’s easy to forget.
Kids Books about Waste
Here are a few good books that you can use to teach your children about waste:
- Compost Stew (ages 3-7)
- The Adventures of a Plastic Bottle (ages 4-6)
- Why Should I Recycle? (ages 4-8)
- The Tree Lady (ages 5-10)
- From Garbage to Compost (ages 5-9)
- Kids Can Compost (ages 6-8)
- The Magic School Bus and the Climate Challenge (ages 7-10)
- Kids who are Changing the World (ages 9-12)
There are also some movies and documentaries that may help kids:
Lead by Example
The best way to teach children is to lead by example. Kids pick up on the things we do, the habits we have, whether they are good or bad habits. If you are working on reducing waste, and refuse items in plastic, your kids see it. They see your efforts in composting, and want to follow along.
We don’t use paper plates any more because they are wasteful. We can just wash these and reuse them again and again.My son, Tyler, age 5
Preparing Meals with Kids
Let Your Kids Help Cook
My boys love to help cook and prepare meals. My oldest will tell you it’s because they earn “chore money” for helping in the kitchen. But really, they’ve been doing it long before it became something they could be paid for.
When kids help prepare a meal, they feel a sense of ownership. If you are working on cutting out processed foods, it can be a big change, especially for kids when their favorite snack is gone. Find healthy alternatives with less packaging that you can make together. For example, we like to make homemade granola bars that can be made with ingredients from a bulk bin.
Take Kids to the Library
The library is a vast resource for preparing meals. You can find books full of recipes, and books about cooking methods. Go together and find a few books to borrow and make a meal plan from it. Let your kids go through the book with you and pick out a few recipes to try together.
By using the library, you are cutting down on waste from purchasing new books, and teaching kids about the library at the same time. If you have a few recipes you really want, take a photo on your phone or type them into a word document or evernote to save for later.
Pack Waste-Free Lunches
There are many lunch box options that are made from stainless steel and are perfect for a kids lunch. Let them help pack their lunch for school and direct them to waste-free options. My youngest son, Ryan, loves cheese. He asks for string cheese all the time. For a long time, he didn’t know that I buy a large block of mozzarella cheese and cut a bit off for him every day until he helped make lunch one morning. Yes, the big block still had packaging, but it’s a lot less than if I was to buy individually wrapped cheese.
Create Meal Plans Together
Use those cookbooks that you borrowed from the library and create a meal plan. When kids help pick out the meals for the week, they are more likely to eat them. Bonus: try for at least one vegetarian or vegan meal per week.
Related: 12 Best Apps for a No Waste Kitchen
Grocery Shopping with Kids
Reusable Bags for the Kids
Let your kids carry their own reusable grocery bag. I will often give a bag to the boys, and let them carry some of the (more durable) foods that we are purchasing. They feel important carrying their bag, and will proudly tell anyone that we don’t like plastic bags.
Visit the Farmer’s Market
If you are lucky enough to have a good farmer’s market near you, bring the kids. Even if you aren’t planning on buying anything, check it out. Let them talk to the farmers and ask their questions. It really helps kids understand where food comes from when they talk to those who are growing it.
Grow Your Own Food
Start a Garden
The most obvious way to grow your own food is to start a garden. Kids love being outside and love helping in the garden. My boys like to dig when we are planting new plants, and really enjoy watering. They both get so excited when plants start to sprout, and get upset when they die.
Having a garden teaches children how much work it takes to grow food, and will also give them a better respect for those who do it. If you have the room, let your kids have their own garden area and see what they can grow. It’s a science lesson as well as a lesson in food growth.
Start a compost bin together. There are so many ways that kids can help with the compost. And trust me, if you do it right, it doesn’t smell and is fairly easy to maintain. You also don’t have to have a lot of room for a compost.
A few of the ways my kids like to help with the compost include:
- Tearing cardboard to add more “browns” to the compost
- Dumping the small indoor compost bin into the large one outside
- Spinning the compost (we have one with tumblers)
- Learn what they can and cannot put in the compost
Mommy, can this go in the compost? Can it be recycled?Tyler, age 5, about everything he has before he reluctantly throws anything in the trash