Composting for Kids

Composting is a fun and easy project for families to do together. It’s a wonderful learning experience that reduces the amount of waste sent to landfills and helps your home garden. Composting for kids is an educational opportunity disguised as a fun project!

How To Begin Composting at Home

Composting may be one of the easiest gardening projects you can do, especially with kids. You don’t need many supplies to start, and you probably have some sitting around your house just begging to be used!

Choose Your Space

Selecting the optimal space for your compost pile is important for two big reasons. You probably want an accessible pile, and you need some help from nature. Discussing the options with your kids to decide on the best location is a great way to get them thinking about how composting works. 

Remember, your spot doesn’t have to be perfect; it just has to work for your family’s garden. If you need some help getting started, here are a few things to consider:

  • Start your compost pile near your garden to make it easier to travel between the two.
  • Your compost pile needs plenty of water for decomposition, so unless you get loads of rain, you probably want to be close enough to the garden hose.
  • Depending on where you live, you may need to consider shade. Warm, humid climates can benefit from some shade, but cooler regions may need more sun for heat.
  • Access to soil is crucial because it attracts the worms and bugs you need to encourage decomposition.   

Build Your Bin

There are some fancy compost bin tutorials floating around that involve wood, wire, and power tools. If you’re capable, feel free to give it a whirl, but there are cheaper, easier ways to create a bin for your compost. 

  • Try a heavy-duty cardboard box, like the kind used to transport fruit and vegetables.
  • Make a box with concrete blocks (also known as cinder blocks) or wooden pallets.
  • Use a 5-gallon bucket from a hardware store, a plastic tote, or a plastic garbage can.
  • Plastic milk crates work well if you can stack two together.

If you choose something with a solid bottom, like a bucket, you need to drill several holes in the bottom before setting it up. The holes allow worms to work their way up, and excess water can drain. It’s also a good idea to have a lid or some sort of cover on your compost pile to keep wild animals out.

Add the Base Layers

Believe it or not, you’re ready to compost! Composting piles start with a soil base, so you want as much connection with bare earth as you can manage. It may help to add some soil, especially if you chose a bin with a closed bottom.

Collect twigs, dead leaves, and straw to form the next base layer. You need a couple of inches of these materials, known as brown matter. 

Toss in your first compostable materials. Once you have a few inches of compostables, sometimes called green matter, toss in some more brown matter. Alternating every few inches helps encourage breakdown.

Make Composting Part of Your Family Routine

One of the best parts of composting for kids is that it’s not a one and done project. By making composting a part of your family’s daily routine, it reinforces your commitment to each other, your garden, and the environment. They also get to watch the process from beginning to end and see how it impacts the fruits and vegetables in your garden. 

Why Compost?

Composting is the natural breakdown of organic matter. The result is a nutrient-rich soil-like substance that makes an outstanding fertilizer. Further, composting reduces the amount of waste in landfills, which is better for our environment.

When you choose to compost at home, you reduce your household’s carbon footprint. Involving your kids in the process is a great way to connect as a family and teach them valuable habits in the future. Plus, that compost can do wonders for your family garden!

What to Compost, and What Not To Compost

Though it’s tempting to toss all food waste into the compost bin, you might not want to do that. While most food waste makes excellent green matter, not everything contributes to the health of your pile. 

To the Compost Pile

If your kids (and you) struggle remembering what to compost, post a list on the fridge to help you remember.

  • Fruits, vegetables, and their skins, seeds, leaves, and cores
  • Eggshells
  • Nut shells
  • Tea Bags
  • Coffee grounds and filters
  • Cardboard, paper, and newspaper (shredded)
  • Untreated yard trimmings and grass clippings
  • Houseplants
  • Wood chips and sawdust
  • Leaves
  • Lint from your dryer or vacuum cleaner
  • Hair and fur
  • Ashes from the fireplace (wood only)
  • Cotton or wool rags

To the Trash Bin

Some things sound like they would be perfect for the compost, but when you look closer, they could do more harm than good. The items on this list can’t go to compost piles for good reasons.

  • Twigs and leaves from Black Walnut trees release substances that can be toxic to plants.
  • Diseased or insect-infested plants could spread to your garden.
  • Pet waste should never go into a compost pile because it could be harmful to your garden and your family.
  • Yard trimmings and grass clippings that were treated with chemicals could contaminate your garden and kill helpful organisms.
  • Charcoal ash and coal can be toxic to your plants.
  • Meat, fish bones, scraps, dairy products, fats, greases, lards, and oils should not go into home compost piles because they attract pests. However, you may want to contact your local recycling center to see if they accept these items for a community composting program.

Helpful Tips to Make Composting Even Easier

As you can see, composting is so easy a kid can do it! Of course, it can be challenging to stick with it sometimes, especially when you’re busy or the weather is less than hospitable. Here are some small tips and tricks to make your composting experience more successful.

  • Add indoor composting to your routine. Using a container with a lid to store waste means you don’t constantly need to run outside to the compost pile. An old plastic coffee container, mason jar, or smaller plastic tote works well, and you can store them anywhere convenient.
  • Don’t forget to mix and match layers. Putting too much of one thing (like inches and inches of grass clippings) on the pile without mixing it up won’t work well. Try for a fifty-fifty ratio of brown and green matter.
  • Create a schedule with your kids to manage the compost pile. Making a weekly event reminds you to turn it over (mix it up to release air holes and speed up the process) and spend valuable time together.

Fun Composting Activities for Kids

Composting opens up a new world for kids because it’s fun, they can get dirty, and they even get to play with creepy crawlies. Sure, composting teaches kids about thinking green and protecting the environment, but it’s also a lot of fun for them. Here are some compost-friendly activities that can get kids of all ages into the swing of things!

Scavenge for Brown Matter

Kids love scavenger hunts, and sometimes you need help finding some good brown matter for your compost pile. Try creating a scavenger hunt in your yard to collect more goodies for your pile. 

Bonus tip: dead leaves make exceptional brown matter, so when they fall in autumn, why not have a little fun with them? Form piles to jump in before adding them to compost, or you can see who can collect more leaves.

Create a Worm Farm

Worms are awesome, especially when you’re a kid. They wriggle and slither everywhere; how cool is that? Worms also happen to help with composting. You can create a worm farm for your kids to handle. 

  • Try to choose a clear plastic container that’s at least twelve inches deep. Drill holes in the top, sides, and bottom.
  • Have your child make “beds” for the worms using newspaper. Rip the paper into strips, soak it in water, then wring it out. Fluff the damp paper and build a six-inch layer in the bottom of the container.
  • Add worms, preferably red wigglers, and feed them by adding scraps of fruits and veggies into the bedding. Start with a cup per week for a pound of worms. 

Creating a worm farm is fun and educational for kids, especially when they can use the worm compost to help your family garden. 

The Joys of Composting

Choosing to compost with your family is a great way to spend time together doing something good for yourselves and the environment. It’s not an expensive activity, but it can save you money on fertilizers. You will probably appreciate the benefits to your garden, but composting for kids is a wonderful way to connect with you and do something meaningful. 

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