How to Talk to Your Kids about Plastic Pollution: Cartoons, Books, and Activities to Involve the Whole Family

By Nancy Spektor

Ecologists and activists have been vocal about the problem of plastic pollution for years: plastic pollution invades our communities as "litter," harms wildlife, and 8.8 million tons of it end up in our waterways and oceans every year. 

Many people believe the current generation of children will solve the growing problems of plastic pollution and global warming. But how do we talk to kids about these global problems? Whether you are an educator, community leader, youth advocate, or parent, check out these resources to help kids have fun and learn about protecting our home: Planet Earth.  

National Geographic Kids

This is one of the best and most comprehensive resources on everything from endangered species to protecting the environment and battling plastic pollution. National Geographic for Kids is an interactive learning tool, which offers a lot of learning opportunities, from lessons and quizzes to games and educational videos.

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Activity Book: Be an Ocean Guardian

This is a book backed up by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The book is very comprehensive, containing the abundant information about the ocean and why it is so important to minimize plastic pollution. It tells kids stories about wonderful inhabitants of the sea and how humans should be more considerate and respectful towards them.

"This is a great resource we always recommend to teachers," says Anne Bock, an environmentalist and manager at Awriter. "It’s got everything your child needs to know about plastic pollution."

The book also offers a lot of fun educational activities for the whole family, including quizzes to check the knowledge of the previously learned information, pages with images for coloring and even the Ocean Guardian Pledge, which you can print, sign your kid’s name on it and hang it on the wall as a reminder that we all pledge to take care of the environment.

Is Plastic Fantastic? Booklet

With colorful illustrations by Alvaro Soler Arpa, a PPC Supporting Artist Ally, the booklet "Is Plastic Fantastic?" features facts on where plastic comes from and easy tips for refusing single-use plastic. Click here to view the booklet, optimized for viewing on a mobile device. 

  Drawings by Alvaro Soler Arpa, Written by Dianna Cohen & Alvaro Soler Arpa, Booklet Design by Wayne DeSelle/deselle.com

Drawings by Alvaro Soler Arpa, Written by Dianna Cohen & Alvaro Soler Arpa, Booklet Design by Wayne DeSelle/deselle.com

Educational Videos on YouTube

YouTube is a great resource with creative videos both from National Geographic and other influencers. They send a clear message about the harm of plastic pollution and where it can lead us if we don't take action.

This particular video called "Kids take action against ocean plastic" shows children from Hawaii, who diligently work to make the ocean cleaner, as it’s a home for many amazing creatures, without which the ocean will be dead. It’s a great example for your kids to follow.

Ted-Ed is another great channel offering many educational videos on various topics, including plastic pollution.

This particular video is dedicated particularly to how plastic actually ends up in our environment, how it poisons the atmosphere and the ocean, and how microplastic impacts the oceans and humans as well. It’s a short educational film, which will be very informative both for kids and adults.

Embark On an Adventure With Your Family

Engaging in a fun activity with the whole family can be even more beneficial, as you help each other and improve one another’s knowledge. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency offers a great source for kids and their families called "The Planet Protectors."

Your whole family can act as detectives, who need to solve riddles to protect the environment. The web page includes several printable colorful PDF documents with the tasks and hints you must follow to solve the case and protect the planet.

This is a great way to check and improve your knowledge of the environment, recycling, and reducing pollution. You can also use it on a smartphone or a tablet. It would be even better, considering how much paper you will use to print these documents!

All the Way to the Ocean Book and Film

The seed of the idea came to Joel Harper, a PPC Notable Member, when he was riding his bicycle one day and saw pollution in the storm drains in his community. He started by writing an illustrated children's book called 'All the Way to the Ocean' about the effects of storm drain pollution.

The story follows kids James and Isaac who learn that their plastic bottle and wrapper they dropped in the gutter end up in the ocean. The response to the book was so positive from adults and kids alike that Harper turned the book into a short film, narrated by another PPC Notable Member, Amy Smart. 

Like the book, the movie presents environmental lessons in a fun, illustrated format.

Plastic Pollution Coalition's Education Resources

Plastic Pollution Coalition has collected a range of materials from Coalition members to help teach kids about plastic pollution. Check out the resources divided by grade level and the art, music, and poetry projects. 

Teaching children about environmental protection and wise use of resources is crucial. Children will inherit the earth and the environmental problems humans have caused. With awareness and education, our children may be the ones to solve the great environmental issues facing our planet.

Nancy Spektor has sharpened her pencil at The Daily, a newspaper for the University of Washington. After graduating, she decided to combine her business degree with her passion for written communication at college-paper.org. Nancy is working on living a minimalist, zero waste lifestyle in her tiny house in New England with her dog, Bok Choy.