Published On: December 14th, 2022

Christmas is always a time of excess, and if we’re not careful, this can mean a lot of waste. Our spending goes up by 29% in December and, naturally, so does our waste.

In the UK alone, it‘s estimated that five million tonnes of plastic are used every year, nearly half of which is packaging. Plastic waste doesn’t decompose and can last centuries in landfill, or end up as litter in the natural environment.

It’s vital that children understand the importance of our environment, how fragile it is and the need to look after it. Here are some ways to get the whole family involved in reducing your environmental impact, while learning more about protecting our world.

Get crafty

Christmas is the perfect time to get creative. There are loads of ways you can incorporate arts & crafts into your Christmas decorations and use up materials that might otherwise be thrown in the bin.

Cardboard gingerbread men

Simply cut brown cardboard boxes into shapes and decorate them with white paint or a white pen to make ‘gingerbread decorations’. The whole family can get together and make their own festive designs, and if you want to use them again next year, you can recycle the old ones!

Monkey Puzzle Homemade cardboard gingerbread decorations

Salt dough Christmas decorations

This is great messy fun for the children…

Mix two parts plain flour with two parts table salt and one part water to make a dough. Roll out and cut this into shapes like cookies and bake on the lowest oven setting. Just remember to poke holes in them so you can hang them up afterwards.

Once they’re baked, invite your children to decorate them with paints or felt-tip pens. Then hang them up on the tree or around the house.

Disclaimer: salt dough is not edible.

Monkey Puzzle Salt Dough Tutorial

Wrapping paper decorations

A lot of wrapping paper can be recycled, but if you scrunch it up and it bounces back, then it can’t be recycled. If you have paper like this lying around, then you can reuse it on gifts or turn it into paper chains/bunting.

Rethink gifting

Don’t let your creativity stop at the decorations – try making your own gifts. Homemade cookies boxed up nicely? DIY snowglobes? Pot pourri pots with festive scents like cinnamon and orange? There are countless ways to create your own unique gifts. Family members will love receiving presents made by little hands.

There’s also a greener way to wrap gifts. Try recyclable paper or fabric that can be used again and again. Children, especially, care much more about what’s inside the wrapping paper!

Or don’t wrap at all: gift people experiences. A study from the University of Illinois found children get more enjoyment from experiences as they grow up and start to remember more. So why not see if there are any free experiences coming up in your local area?

Shop less and shop local

Instead of buying all your gifts online, take your children to a local shop to pick out an item they love. That way you know they’ll enjoy the present, rather than gambling on lots of multiple presents you think they might like: we all know how unpredictable children can be! 

Shopping locally also gives you the chance to explain how it cuts down on pollution and helps local businesses out.

Check out the charity shops

Plan a clear-out of old decorations and toys in anticipation of new ones, so that the old ones don’t end up going to landfill. Instead of throwing away toys when your children outgrow them, encourage them to bag them up for donation. You can make this a fun holiday tradition and explain how it could make another kid’s Christmas. 

Charity shops can also be goldmines for toys for your own children. As well as barely used or entirely new toys, games and books, they’re full of items that can be creatively upcycled. Children will love the novel idea of making their own toys.

Sustainable Santa

Some of the items may technically come from Santa, which can add gloss to a toy that children might not otherwise be interested in. A reusable, wooden toy or eco-friendly art supplies might seem a bit more special if they come from Father Christmas. Just try not to show your envy when Santa proves to be more popular than you…

Lessons in leftovers

UK households throw away around 9.5 million tonnes of food waste in a single year, so greater efforts to reuse leftovers and reduce waste are definitely needed.

Producing, transporting and cooking food uses energy, fuel and water, which all goes to waste if the finished dishes are just thrown away.

Take your Christmas dinner, for example. You can easily make soups, curries or sauces from the leftovers. Involve your children in the cooking process to teach your little ones about food waste.

Even if you just try one or two of these ideas, you’ll be setting your children a great green example. The more you can involve them, the better the sustainability message will stick with them. And here’s the real bonus: as you’re bringing the ideas to life, you’ll have plenty of fun quality time together, which is what Christmas is all about.

Lisa Nichols

Lisa Nichols

Early Years Quality Manager – Monkey Puzzle Day Nurseries

Lisa is a highly experienced childcare expert with nearly 25 years worth of experience, spending many years as an active practitioner and nursery manager. Lisa specialises in monitoring and supporting nurseries with a strong emphasis on organisation and strategic planning, using her years of knowledge to help our network of nurseries to continue to deliver the outstanding childcare that they do. Alongside her work in childcare, Lisa is also a mother to her teenage son Alfie and you can regularly find her supporting her local football club.


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