Rachel Mills
July 6, 2023

Plastic-free July: How to get your children involved in marine life protection

The smallest changes can have the biggest impact and every little helps. The summer holiday is a great time to educate our children about nature and wildlife and to help them to appreciate the beauty of the world around them.…

The smallest changes can have the biggest impact and every little helps.

The summer holiday is a great time to educate our children about nature and wildlife and to help them to appreciate the beauty of the world around them. Sadly, discarded plastic items on the beach are a common sight. However, when children spot them, it can provide a perfect opportunity to instigate conversation about the human impact on wildlife and the part that they themselves can play in nature conservation, from litter-picking to plastic-free swaps.

Beach clean up. Illustration by Grace

Why is plastic pollution in the ocean a cause for concern?

  • Sea creatures may mistake plastic for food, which can cause health complications and/or death
  • Animals can get trapped inside bottles, cartons and other plastic waste
  • Plastic can get broken down over time into tiny fragments, which can end up inadvertently being ingested by humans, through the food chain, leading to health problems

“There are more than five trillion pieces of plastic in our oceans. This plastic ends up in the food chain as animals mistake plastic for food. Animals also get trapped in our plastic pollution.” (BBC)

British marine life. Illustration by Grace.

What type of marine life can be found around the UK coast?

An article from Keep Britain Tidy, states that:

“Most people don’t realise that we have an incredible array of wildlife on our doorstep in the UK, including seals, dolphins, turtles, whales and even sharks! There are over 30,000 species in UK waters and we have ecosystems that are as diverse as the Amazon Rainforest!”

They also comment that, “scientists recently found that 100% of animals washed up on British shores had plastic in their stomachs” and “every year, plastic kills 1 million sea birds and 100,000 sea mammals, turtles and fish”

It’s time to do something about the problem of plastic pollution, which is affecting wildlife and humans too, on a global scale.

How can we help our children, if they are upset or worried about plastic pollution?

  • Encourage them to talk about how they are feeling and explain that it upsets many adults too
  • Share real-life stories about people and projects that are having a positive impact on reducing plastic pollution
  • As well as trying out some of the activities and suggestions here in this post, ask them for their own ideas of how they might be able to help, both directly and in spreading the message to others.

What activities can we do outside, as a family, to help to reduce plastic pollution?

  • Find and join an organised beach clean event. There are many dotted around the UK.
  • Organise your own beach clean event, with friends and family, using litter-pickers and wearing garden gloves (make sure that all volunteers adhere to health and safety guidelines, for the protection of themselves and others)
  • Pick up litter in your own local area, using litter-pickers and garden gloves

What activities can we do at home, to increase our children’s awareness of plastic pollution and to make a positive difference?

  • Look around the kitchen with your child and help them to identify items made from plastic
  • Look in the recycle bin at home, to identify single-use plastic items, such as coffee cup lids, plastic spoons, straws and water bottles. Talk to your child about what you could have used instead and how, as a family, you may be able to reduce your plastic waste and help the environment
  • Watch video clips about plastic pollution and invite your child to make a poster, to inform other children about the impact on the environment. The BBC and the Marine Conservation Society offer videos and resources, see the links in the ‘References’ section below.
  • Organise a zero plastic party together, finding alternatives to plastic
  • Write to the local council and suggest any new ideas that you might have, to reduce plastic waste and to help the environment 
illustration of plastic products crossed out
Say no to plastic water bottles and bags

Some simple ideas for plastic-free swaps

Try swapping the most commonly used single-use plastic items, with other items that will do the job:

  • Swap plastic grocery bags for re-usable cloth bags or a paper alternative
  • Swap plastic straws for metal or paper ones
  • Swap takeaway plastic cups with your own re-usable cup that you take with you
  • Swap single-use plastic bottles with re-fillable bottles

Be creative and think of other plastic-free swaps too, that you can try out in July and adopt as part of your family life.

Indy has created a colouring in activity sheet and we hope you will have fun with it.

If you are keen to learn more about marine life, check out our marine life print and box:

Marine Life Print

Marine Life Downloadable

Marine Life Box


‘How to explain climate change and plastic pollution to children’ BBC teach

‘Plastic Pollution: An Introduction for teachers and youth leaders’ Greenpeace

‘Find a beach clean’ Marine Conservation society

‘Fun and learning’ Marine Conservation Society

‘Plastic’s impact on wildlife’ Keep Britain Tidy

’10 Easy Swaps for Plastic Free July’ Zero Waste for Beginners, from the website Going Zero Waste, by Kathryn Kellogg

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