Sustainability in Messy Play - Earth Day 2023


It can be easy to feel overwhelmed by sustainability and doing your part for the environment. Especially when there are problems closer to home. But, small changes can make big impacts! Find out how our franchisees incorporate sustainable practices into their classes.

Earth Day is a chance for use to reflect on our daily actions and how we can improve our practices, both as consumers and producers. Many follow the mantra; Reduce, Reuse and Recycle – simple words to live by that can make all the difference when it comes to securing a safe future for our own Little Learners.


An Earth Day Tuff Tray
An amazing Earth Day Tuff Tray by Little Learners Brighton and Lewes

Quite often, the easiest answer to a problem is to remove the problem before it happens. By reducing the single use items we consume during messy play, we create a more eco friendly session.

Anita, from Little Learners South Colchester, tries to meticulously plan her material shopping trips – combining them with other activities to save fuel (and time!). She says…

‘I try to do one MASSIVE shop before the start of a new term, on my way home from a class if possible. It helps with saving petrol and some pennies too. The system works well and it really helps cut out unnecessary trips in the car. Though occasionally I do leave something at home and have to stop off on my way to class. Usually I end up with surplus peas!’

Reuse Materials

Reusing materials is the easy part – with careful planning and some innovation, old materials can create new activities! Uncooked rice and pasta is a firm favourite in our messy play sessions. It’s wonderful for creating Tuff Trays, and has a long shelf life. Kate, from Little Learners Brighton and Lewes explains…

‘I try to re-use dry tray contents like coloured rice a few times before I throw them away. Rice is generally not consumed/mouthed by the kids. Things like cereals, that will be eaten, go straight in my food waste bin or on the compost heap. If I use things like peas or oats I chuck them out on the grass for the wildlife.

Reusing materials is part of the job of a Little Learners Franchisee! Kate says…

‘I use as many recycled materials as I can, especially for fine motor activities. Chocolate boxes for the children to put pom-poms in or cardboard boxes to post items into. Everything can be useful with enough creativity!

A child sorts coloured items into a chocolate box as part of an Earth Day activity
Sorting activities using a recycled chocolate box at Little Learners Brighton and Lewes

Similarly Helen, who runs Little Learners Longfield and Sevenoaks, passes her unused or extra items on to the local pre-school…

‘Cardboard boxes are always popular with children and the pre-school gladly takes them! I once made too much coloured spaghetti (another messy play fave!) and they took that too. It’s great to pass the fun onto other children.’

Pass It On!

Helen, as well as Lene from Little Learners Basingstoke, both encourage parents to reuse items too. Helen operates a ‘trade in’ scheme for Little Learners T-shirts, and sells preloved ones on to other parents.

A recycling scheme graphic for Earth Day, showing reused T Shirts
Helen’s recycling scheme – perfect for Earth Day!

Lene created a ‘Freebies’ table, with some of her own children’s unused toys and clothing.

‘Last term I set up a table with ‘stuff’ I was getting rid of from my own kids, so books, baby bowls & cutlery, baby hangers etc. I left a note: Freebies just help yourself. Parents were really grateful and it was exciting to see everything reused!’


Earth Day is also a great opportunity to rethink your own recycling habits. Take the time to properly sort your recycling. You can also check with you local authority to see if they have a recycling scheme for bigger items.

With younger children, you can even make recycling a game – ask them to help with sorting. Or challenge them to break up cereal and cardboard boxes as part of messy play.

Every little helps on Earth Day! Find out more here!

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