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Basic Composting for Kids
September 25, 2013

Composting is such a fun and easy, earth-friendly activity to do with kids of all ages. Even young toddlers can join in the fun by helping to collect food scraps and yard waste to put into compost bins.  Use it as one of their first lessons on the importance of recycling.  Older children can learn about sustainability and how composting prevents material from ending up in landfills while making nutrient rich soil to help make your plants and gardens healthy.  Once your compost is ready, kids can enjoy getting their hands dirty by spreading the compost on your gardens, flower beds, grass, and plants.

There are all sorts of ways to compost.  There is basic composting and worm composting (or vermiculture), both of which we do in our household.  (Check back in the next couple of weeks because I will be writing about indoor composting with worms!)

For basic composting, find simple or fancy (and sometimes expensive) compost bins to place in your back yard. These containers can be purchased at most garden centers or home improvement stores.  You can also make your own compost bin.  There are all sorts of sites out there that explain how to make a variety of different compost containers.  I found this site had very simple instructions for making a basic and inexpensive outdoor compost bin. Making your own bin is another way to get your kids involved and help them better understand the composting process. Once you have your bin, you and your kids are on your way to being composters!  

First you will want to add your “browns,”which would be dry fibrous materials with a high carbon content. Kids can help with this process by collecting dried leaves and yard waste, small twigs, and a little bit of soil to put in the bottom of your bin.  Be sure not to use any items that have been treated with chemicals.  

Then you can add your household “greens”.  These are your normal kitchen scraps (though they’re not often actually green), such as fruits and vegetables, coffee grounds, egg shells, etc.  Just make sure that you never put meat, bones, dairy, oily foods, or pet wastes in your compost.  Meat, bones, oily foods and dairy attracts animals and oily foods can coat materials, making decomposition difficult.  Pet waste is too risky, since it can carry diseases.  In my house, we have a small container in which we place compostable scraps throughout the day.  This indoor bin doesn’t need to be made of any particular material or size since it’s just for storing green material until you are ready to take them outside to your large bin; if you wish, you can purchase small, countertop containers specifically made for this purpose.

My children enjoy knowing that they are helping out with the process to make food for our gardens and plants.  Miles, my toddler, enjoys being a helper and carrying our compost bin items out with me each day. My older son, Lucas, likes to check the progress of the compost often to see if we need to add water if it’s too dry or more browns if it has bugs and seems too moist.  Now that he is getting older, he understands that a healthy compost pile needs to have the right mixture of nitrogen (which it gets from the greens) and carbon (which it gets from the browns).  To speed the decomposition process, you can turn and mix the compost matter with a shovel (or allow older kids to do this with supervision), and explain how oxygen helps to move things along.

Once your compost looks like black soil and has an earthy smell to it, it is ready to use!

Below is a good sources to check out for more information about composting.  

http://www.organicgardening.com/learn-and-grow/compost-ingredients

 
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