Teaching Children about Plastics in the Ocean

IMG_4426We love going away with our friends over New Years each year.  To make it more cost effective, we rent a large beach house in the winter.  This year I took four young children on a walk to the beach to collect shells one afternoon. 

The children looked for shells and discussed how they know if the clams are already dead or not and then looked for smaller shells to collect and bring home. I noticed that there was a lot of trash on the beach.  This beach is in a protected bay and surrounded by a residential neighborhood.  While it might get tourists in the summer, everything we were seeing was clearly washed up on the shore by waves and storms. 

As we walked along, we talked about all the bits of trash we saw and where they came from.  The children guessed, correctly, that the trash had washed up on the shore.  We talked about how the trash got in the water and they told me that littering was bad.  I described storm drains to them and asked if they’d seen the water go down those on the street and explained that that water flows right to the ocean.  They immediately understood that trash on the street would wash down those and out into the ocean, and then wash up on the shore. 

They talked abFullSizeRenderout littering. IMG_4421

“I don’t litter, littering is bad”

“Sometimes people litter by accident.”


“Sure, sometimes your hands are full, and you put a drink down on the curb, then open your car and put things in, and then you forget that you’ve put a drink down, and you drive away. That’s littering by accident.”
“I try not to do that.”

“Can you think of other times you litter by accident?”

“When things blow away and you can’t catch them.”

FullSizeRender-1I suggested to the kids that we could teach people about how much litter is in the ocean by organizing a beach clean up.  They thought it was a great idea. They thought we should give a prize for who could pick up the most trash. Prize ideas ranged from $2 to $10,000 to a shell necklace that they would make. Adorable!

Unfortunately, the weather turned bitter cold that night, so it really wasn’t possible to get our friends out for a beach cleanup, but we’ll hold onto that idea for next year!

Happy Greening,


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  1. I love the “when things blow away, you can’t catch them”. if only as adults we could realize that!

  2. Great idea. Very important. I think my kids would feel pretty far removed from this issue since we live SO far from any oceans, but the same holds true at our lake beaches, too.

  3. We certainty need to educate our young ones and old ones alike on the importance of keeping our oceans litter-free. The world would be a beautiful place if we just take care of it. Lovely post!

  4. This sounds like a wonderful and informative time with the kiddos! Sounds like a good bunch of kids!

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