Cognitive development activity for daycare


In preschool, children can learn the importance of recycling through an age-appropriate cognitive development activity.
It is never too early for children to learn to care for the Earth and about environmentally friendly activities such as recycling. Recycling is the process where recyclable materials like paper, plastic, glass, metal, are reconstituted into new products or materials.

Preschool teachers and daycare providers can present a simple recycling lesson plan which will introduce children to the importance of recycling the land’s valuable resources through an activity that enhances cognitive development.

What is cognitive development?

Cognitive development focuses on developing functions of the brain such as thinking, learning, awareness, judgment, and processing information. According to developmental psychologist Jean Piaget, children go through several stages of cognitive development and learning activities for toddlers and children should correspond to the appropriate developmental.

From ages of 2-7, children are in the Pre-Operational Stage. At this point, they are learning to use symbols such as language to represent objects and beginning to understand the concept of conservation. It is also the phase in which memory and imagination are developed.

This lesson plan includes the preparation instructions, procedure, and materials list for this activity along with age-appropriate learning objectives and a sample of the simple supporting verbal cues necessary to encourage participation and support learning.

Recycling lesson materials

  • Four large cardboard boxes for sorting;
  • Four pictures representing metal, paper, plastic, and glass objects;
  • Recyclable paper, plastic, metal and glass items;
  • Letter to parents.

Recycling lesson preparation

A week or two before the activity, send a note home with parents describing the activity and asking them to collect metal, paper, plastic, and glass items to send to school with their preschooler. Be sure to include recyclable item suggestions and remind the parents to wash or rinse recyclable items if needed. Create four pictures representing each category of recyclable and glue or tape it to the front of the box.

Recycling lesson procedure

Invite the children over to the recycling station. Describe how and why people recycle and the types of materials that are recycled. Explain to the children that they will be sorting recyclables into each box. Either give each child a few recyclable items and encourage them to deposit each item into the appropriate box, or cooperatively sort all items and then place them in the correct box. After they are all sorted, explain that you will be taking them for recycling.

Recycling lesson objectives

Objective 1To develop an understanding of classification by encouraging children to sort recyclables by the material.

  • Verbal Cue A: Can you sort the items into paper and plastic?
  • Verbal Cue B: Let’s put the metal items in one container and the glass items in another one.

Objective 2To teach about relationships using the terms light, heavy, heavier

  • Verbal Cue A: Let’s collect all of the heavy glass items and place them in this container.
  • Verbal Cue B: Which items are heavier, the plastics or the glass?

Objective 3To introduce the number concept of 1-10

  • Verbal Cue A: Let’s count the number of paper items.
  • Verbal Cue B: Let’s count the number of glass items.

Kids will have fun while learning important cognitive skills such as sorting, relationships, and classification. In addition, children will learn the importance of taking care of our earth and its precious resources through recycling; reducing and reusing items.

Author: Rosa Broughton, writer and editor

Rosa Broughton has been working with writing challenged clients for over two years. She provides writing and editing services. Her educational background in journalism has given her a broad base from which to approach many topics.


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