I have been wanting to share a story with you that happened last Thursday and just didn’t have a chance. My grandson was visiting and since his birthday this past month his “why” questions have developed a much deeper meaning than previously.
When the children are here they love to take things to the dumpsters. We pick up garbage on our walks regularly. The kids think it’s horrible and remark how some one was bad to throw garbage on the ground. Gotta love kids.
Before tossing anything away they ask me which dumpster, the “tiny” one which is for garbage or the “big” one which is for recyclables. It’s rare when the answer is the tiny one.
Well, Thursday, he wanted to know why I call the big one recyclables, I explained that things put in this dumpster were made into new things that people could use or buy. (He got a kick out of that and now wants everything to be recycled).
Then he asked the hard question. “What do they do with the tiny dumpster?”
I wasn’t sure how to answer this so I told him the truth. I told him the things couldn’t be made into new things and are considered trash. He wanted to know where they go. I told him it’s a place called a landfill, He wanted me to explain what a landfill is I said it’s a big hole in the ground that they put all the garbage in.
Not good enough. He wanted to know if I could show him a picture of what the hole looked like. I took a deep breath and said yes. I went to Google and typed in “landfill images”.
He was very upset. The questions were hard to hear: “But grandma, that’s bad.” “Why do they do that.” “But where’s the grass?” and so on. He wasn’t ready to leave and wanted me to scroll down so he could see how the garbage ended up getting in the “hole”. It was so sad. Then he spotted a picture that made him sad and angry. There was a baby doll lying in the open. One arm was missing, but otherwise it looked like it could have been a good toy yet. He wanted to know why someone didn’t fix it. He wanted to know why people throw toys in the ground.
Maybe I shouldn’t have let him see the pictures after all. He’s been upset for days now. He gets mad when he sees someone throwing something in the garbage at home, and even more upset when he sees garbage out on a walk. His first question is “If we put it in the tiny dumpster, will people make something new from this?”
As a result I think we need to add another “R” to Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and that is Repair.
How do you handle answering environmental questions from your pre-schoolers? Would you have shown them pictures of a landfill in the first place? And the one question that has been bugging me since has been “If a 4 year old can see the concept of a landfill as disgusting and wrong why don’t more adults think about their actions?’