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One Bag of Trash

Age: 3 to 8+ Time: 1 hour+
Materials: trash bag, small bag or bucket
Skills: Naturalist, Fine Motor, Empathy, Teamwork

One of our teammates, and an all around superb human, asked her friends for a simple birthday present. Pick up one bag of trash from a local green space. That simple call to action sent her network off to care for the earth, and the photos that have started to flow back have inspired others. This chain of empathy for our planet inspired us so much, that we want this whole community to answer Ashley’s call. This weekend, or whenever you can, grab a bag and head out in your neighborhood or local park to gather one bag of trash. Share your photo and call on others to do that same!

This activity is part of our April Calendar of outdoor play activities designed to promote empathy and care for the Earth. Need your copy? Go to tinkergarten.com/calendar!

The Guide

Picking up trash is truly pretty simple, but there are a few things we’ve learned about doing it with kiddos that can help.

  1. Bring a big bag and something for kids to carry, too—Kids like to be involved, and a big trash bag can become unwieldy for little arms to carry. So, bring a small bag, bucket or container for kids to use. They can dump it out in the big bag as you go!
  2. Use healthy caution—We can’t control what kind of trash and hazards you’ll find in a public green space. Here are some easy ways to make trash pick-up safe for wee ones:
    • Collect trash using your eyes first. When you spot something, talk with a grown up about whether it’s safe to pick up, then pick it up.
    • Avoid “sharp or shiny” things. In most cases, it’s shiny things made of metal and glass that are most dangerous in parks, and it’s great to help teach kids how to spot and avoid that kind of hazard whenever they play in green spaces. As we go, we point out metal and glass and repeat the words “sharp or shiny” to help attune kids to the risks.
    • We like to encourage kids not to pick up the leftovers from a picnic or feast when we are cleaning up our local green space. We let them know that that kind of trash may have germs from the people or animals who were eating. And, we show kids how we carefully pick up food trash, and remind them that only adults can do that on your clean up.
    • Wear gloves. There are garden gloves in kids’ sizes, so if you plan ahead, you can get those. Kids can also put socks on or use winter gloves for an extra layer of protection.
  3. Share your impact—When you are done, take a photo or video of your bag of trash and share it! Inspire others to pick up just one bag of trash. Tag @tinkergarten and #TGMoments or share in our OutdoorsAll4 Facebook Group to inspire others in our community to do the same!
  4. Reuse, recycle or dispose—Show kids how to properly dispose of or recycle whatever you've picked up. If you did find anything you can safely reuse, make something new out of what you've picked up. We love the bird feeder one boy made from a soda can—so creative!
  5. Check for ticks—If you live in an area with ticks, make time to run a good tick check on everyone in your collecting team when you get home. Learn more about how here.

Happy Birthday, Ashley! And, Happy Birthday, Earth!

Why is this activity great for kids?

When you give kids (and yourself) a simple but powerful goal—one bag of trash—you can make an impact together! Combine that with thousands of other Tinkergarten families and friends, and your little effort becomes massive! Kids today can't help but feel the concern we all share for our planet, so helping them to take action and to feel like they are part of a world in which others care and are taking action too can really help counter balance their worries. Plus, it teaches kids to exercise compassionate empathy—that ever important ability to put empathy into action!

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