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Composting For Kids: Benefits And How To Teach

Composting For Kids

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We all have a responsibility to reduce our carbon footprint and make our planet green. And as parents, we must teach and encourage our children to adopt earth-friendly initiatives and protect the planet.

Introducing the concept of composting can be effective and fun to get children interested in eco-friendly activities. It is an opportunity to teach them how to reduce the waste that otherwise goes to the landfills. Composting can also become a productive family activity you can perform with your children.

Read on to know why you should introduce composting to kids and how to do it the right way.

6 Benefits Of Teaching Composting To Kids

Composting is a great way to keep your little garden flourishing while you do your bit towards a greener earth. And doing it with your family makes the task more efficient and ensures your little ones learn to take responsibility. Here are a few benefits of teaching composting to your children.

1. Makes for a constructive family activity

You must be looking for a fun activity for children that doesn’t involve watching the screen or staying indoors curled up on the couch. Composting fits the bill perfectly. It is a family activity that involves zero cost, and you don’t have to leave your home.

Even young children can be introduced to the basics. Give them a plastic pop bottle as a mini compost bin and involve them in something constructive and educational.

2. Teaches them about self-sufficiency and optimal utilization

Teach your children about optimal utilization by explaining to them that the food waste from your home that usually goes into stinky trash bags can instead help your garden bloom. You can also teach them about self-sufficiency by pointing out that you don’t need to buy fertilizer from outside to make the plants grow healthy. Composting demonstrates how you can be self-sufficient and put something that usually ends up in the trash receptacle to good use.

3. Fosters a love of nature and environmental responsibility

When you inculcate a love of nature and the Earth in children at an early age, they grow up to become environmentally conscious and socially responsible adults. Involving them in a composting activity can help you introduce them to the wonders of nature and teach them to respect and protect it.

Composting can be a great opportunity to teach kids how dumping massive amounts of waste in landfills harms the planet inadvertently. You can teach them how nature’s balance is affected and why even small steps, such as composting, can help in a big way.

4. Teaches the three Rs

Teaching your kids about the three Rs—reduce, recycle, and reuse—lets you promote the right values in them early in life. Composting teaches them how to reduce their household organic waste, recycle it, and channel it into productive use. It encourages them to come up with ideas to reuse inorganic waste. For instance, they can use plastic bins for composting instead of throwing them away and filling landfills.

5. Reduces food waste

Show your children how vegetable scraps, fruit scraps, and food waste need not be thrown away but can be used to produce nutrient-rich soil. By teaching them to utilize food waste as compost material, you are teaching them how to reduce the total food waste now and in the future.

6. Gives a quick science lesson

Teaching children about composting can be a fun science lesson on ecosystems too. Your child learns how the smallest insects and worms can impact and add value to critical processes. It can be a great opportunity to learn how different types of waste break down, how organic matter is different from inorganic matter, and much more.

And above all, composting gives them the satisfaction of doing their bit for the planet.

How To Teach Kids To Make Compost?

As soon as your child begins to show curiosity in things you do, you can explain what you are doing and why. Start by telling them that you are making extra food for the plants to grow healthy and big.

1. Explain different types of waste

Teach them the difference between compostable and non-compostable waste. Show how organic food waste and other types of waste, such as newspapers, decompose quickly and can be used in your compost bin. In contrast, other types, such as plastics, should be avoided because they are not biodegradable.

2. List out compostable and non-compostable materials

All kitchen waste cannot be used in your compost bucket. With your child’s help, list the things that can be added to the compost (fruit, veggies, grass, eggshells, leaves, newspaper, coffee, tea grinds, brown material from the garden) and those that cannot (meat, bones, shells, dairy products, oils, and fats). It helps them segregate kitchen waste properly.

3. Get the compost bin ready

If you have a garden or backyard, you can set up a full-sized compost bin. Buy one or prepare one at home. If you have a kitchen garden or want to start small, even a plastic pop bottle would do.

  • Keep the lid of the pop bottle
  • Cut around the bottom or base about 2/3rd of the way.
  • Turn the bottle upside down and flip it open using the cut-out part.
  • Drill holes in the bottle base to let air in.
  • Make some holes at the sides for excess moisture to drain out.

Your micro compost bin is ready. If you are making a large garden compost bin, follow the same steps except for the compost container’s inversion.

4. Find the right spot

The compost bin has to be in the right spot so that the contents decompose quickly. Involve your child in identifying a location where the bin and its contents will be exposed to the sun, enough to maintain warmth inside and break down the waste.

5. Prepare the spot

Ensure the ground is even and the compost bin (if it is outdoors) is on bare soil. It allows worms and insects to get in and help with the decomposition process. Make sure the compost container is not in a dip on the land. The water inside must drain out quickly and easily and should not stagnate inside. For a micro compost bin, check its position so that water does not accumulate inside.

6. Start filling the micro compost bin

Ask your child to follow these steps to fill an indoor micro bin.

  • Put in a handful of soil at the bottom.
  • Moisten the soil with water from a spray bottle or sprinkle a few water droplets to make it damp.
  • Add some organic waste, such as fruit or vegetable scraps.
  • Add another thin layer of soil.
  • If you have yard waste, such as dry leaves, you can add some of those too.
  • Add a layer of soil at the top and moisten it by spraying some water.
  • Cover the bin.

7. Water periodically

Ask the child to check the compost and spray water as soon as they see the topsoil drying out. They can see the crumbly nutrient-rich soil that the composting has created in about eight weeks.

8. Layer the bottom of the garden compost bin

If you introduce your child to a full-sized garden compost bin, teach them the following points.

  • The bottom layer should be made of four to six inches of brown material—dead plants and twigs. It lets the water flow out quickly and ensures air circulation inside.
  • Over this, you can ask the child to add dry leaves, soil layers, and organic waste layers.
  • If you already have a full-sized composting bin in your backyard or garden, your child can be actively involved in filling it up with the right things, maintaining it, and then distributing the compost among the various plants.

9. Monitor the composting process

Ask your child to monitor the compost in the micro bin and regularly mix the contents while ensuring there is no excess water. With a garden compost bin, your child can add new organic waste periodically and check if the bottom layers are ready for use.

10. Add compost to the daily routine

After every meal or snack, ask the child to take the organic waste to the compost bin. Make this a part of the routine, and you can show how quickly you can generate a good amount of nutrient-rich soil for the garden. Place a container on your kitchen counter to add the compostable kitchen waste daily, and ask the child to empty it in the main compost container every evening.

11. Schedule the weekend for maintenance

Turning the soil over with a garden fork or compost aerator and checking if it has enough moisture can be done periodically. If you have a garden or backyard, it could be another family activity you can do outdoors. With a plastic pop bottle, the child can roll the bottle around to let air circulate inside. For a bigger container, such as a tub or box, give your child a small shovel or stick to turn the contents over.

12. Make your worm compost

Worm compost bins teach children how little creatures play a role in maintaining balance in nature by turning food scraps into rich vermicompost (1). You can buy a vermicompost bin online or make one on your own. The red worms, Eisenia foetida or Lumbricus rubellus, that eat the food scraps and make compost are easily available. Check with other worm bin owners to know where to purchase them. Harvesting the compost from the worm bin by separating worms from ready compost is another activity that children may like to help you with.

13. Harvest the compost and distribute

When the contents of your compost bin turn crumbly and dark, the compost is ready for use. With a micro bin made with a plastic pop bottle or something similar, the child can check if the compost is ready by simply turning the container over. But with a large garden bin, you might have to help the child identify if the compost is ready for use using a spade or shovel.

Your compost will be ready quickly with a worm compost bin because you have the little critters doing the bulk work for you. Fill the ready compost in pails and let the child distribute among the plants or pots.

Teaching composting to kids is a fruitful activity that makes the child more environmentally aware and earth-friendly. It also gives them a constructive activity that does not involve screen time. Composting can be a great family activity and also an opportunity to teach science to your little buddies in a fun way. So make your composting bin out of a bottle or get one for your garden right away and do your bit for nature.

Reference:

1. J Fong and P Hewitt; Worm Composting Basics; Cornell Waste Management Institute



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Bharathi V

Bharathi is a content developer and writer with over 20 years of experience in creating original content for e-books, articles, websites, blogs, ads, brochures, company profiles, speeches, business presentations, instructional design and more. She has also edited financial papers and books. She writes kids’ education-based articles for MomJunction. Bharathi is associated with The Hindu group of publications in their STEP program,... more