4 FUN COMPOSTING ACTIVITIES FOR KIDS
Keen to get your kids into composting? Want your kids to show an interest in the garden? These activities are aimed at helping kids understand composting and how they tegorn contribute to the composting process. They are suitable for home or for school. In my opinion, you can never start teaching kids the importance of composting too early. These activities are suitable for kids of primary school age, but the language and activities can be modified to suit smaller children.
I KNOW MY RUBBISH!
Activity 1: The Rubbish Feast
This activity is aimed at giving kids an understanding of what happens to our rubbish once it leaves our kitchens and lunch boxes. It also teaches kids how to identify biodegradable and non-biodegradable waste and how we can put our biodegradable waste to work in our compost bins.
Useful dialogue to introduce activity
Where does our rubbish go? We put it in the bin. What happens next? Where does it go? Rubbish that we throw away gets taken to a big rubbish dump (which we call landfill). What happens then? Some of the rubbish decomposes (becomes rotten, breaks down and eventually ‘disappears’). This rubbish is biodegradable. Other rubbish doesn’t decompose (which means it stays at the rubbish dump forever). This is non-biodegradable.
Even though biodegradable rubbish will eventually disappear in landfill, it causes greenhouse gases (methane) as it decomposes, which is bad for our environment and pollutes the earth’s atmosphere.
If we reduce the amount of rubbish that goes to landfill, we can reduce the impact we have on our environment.
What ways can we reduce the amount of rubbish that goes to landfill? We can re-use it or recycle it. Some non-biodegradable material (glass, metal and plastic) is recyclable, which is why we put in the recycling bin to be used again in the future. This means it doesn’t get stuck in landfill forever.
What can we do with our biodegradable rubbish? Food scraps can be composted. This means recycling it in a way that doesn’t produce greenhouse gases. It can then be used as a fertiliser to grow new food and plants.
Ask your kid to collect the rubbish they create from the food their family eats over one full day (wrappers, containers, tins, leftovers, fruit and vegetable peels).
Help your kid separate the rubbish you have collected into biodegradable and non-biodegradable piles. Discuss which items can be re-used, recycled or composted. What rubbish can’t be reused, recycled or composted? This is the rubbish that will go to landfill. Ask them whether there is a way that you could reduce your rubbish in future by choosing items that can be re-used, recycled or composted? Eg, drink bottle rather than juice box; lunch box rather than plastic bag.
I CAN COMPOST!
Activity 2: Build a micro composter
Once kids understand the term ‘biodegradable’, this activity is a really cool way to demonstrate the process of decomposition and how compost is made.
Useful dialogue to introduce activity
What is compost?
Compost is made when biodegradable material – food scraps, grass cuttings, cardboard and straw – rots and decomposes. Rotting happens when our biodegradable waste is broken down by different organisms including: bacteria, fungi, worms and insects. The organisms use the waste as food and help to turn it into compost. When this process is complete a brown crumbly mixture is left behind. It looks and smells like soil.
Composting is a natural process of death, decay, and re-birth. It is nature’s way of recycling.
What you need
- Empty 2 litre soda bottle (make sure it is transparent)
- Raw food scraps (vegetable/fruit peel, tea bags, coffee grounds, raw leftovers)
- Water spray bottle
Remove the label and rinse your soda bottle. Cut the top off the bottle (the end with the lid).
Throw a handful of soil into the bottom of the bottle. Follow this with a handful of food scraps. Repeat this process until the bottle is full, finishing with a layer of soil. Once your bottle is full, spray the bottle with water (it shouldn’t be too wet, but should be damp).
Place your composter in a sunny spot. When the soil on top dries out, spray with water to maintain a constant level of moisture.
Watch and wait as your food scraps decompose and turn to soil. You will need some patience – the whole process will take about 8 weeks. Take photos of the bottle once a week so that you can compare changes that take place from week to week. [A more advanced version of this experiment could include adding ‘green’ and ‘brown’ materials to your bottle, exploring the impact of nitrogen and carbon on the decomposition process].
Activity 3: Build your own compost bin
A great follow-up to this activity is to build your own vermicomposter. Kids love worms! Building your own worm bin is a simple project that they can make an ongoing contribution to in the family home or in the school community. It’s an excellent way for kids to develop responsibility, take ownership and hopefully develop a love for building compost and using it to grow their own plants and food.
Follow my instructions for building a worm farm here. To add an extra element of fun, choose a container that they can decorate themselves, using colourful paints or stickers.
I CAN GROW MY OWN!
Activity 4: Compare plants grown in compost and regular soil
Once you have created your own compost, this activity will demonstrate the superior quality of compost when it comes to growing your own food and plants. If you have completed the above activities, this will also complete food/compost life cycle for your kids.
Take two similar sized pots. Fill the first one with regular soil and the second one with your compost. Plant a seed of the same variety in each pot (I recommend an edible plant because this delivers the additional reward of being able to eat what you grow at the conclusion of the project). Label the pots so you know which pot contains compost and which contains regular soil and place them next to one another on your verandah or in your garden (this ensures both plants grow under the same conditions).
Watch your plants grow and record the difference between the two plants. Which plant looks bigger? Which plant bears more fruit? Which plant is tastier?
If you want to supplement the above activities with some colourful pictures, light and sound, I recommend the following books and clips, which help explain composting in a fun and child-friendly way. I would love to hear of any other recommendations from you that I can add to this list!
Joanna Cole, Magic School Bus Meets the Rot Squad: A Book About Decomposition, (1995).
Linda Glaser, Garbage Helps our Garden Grow: A Compost Story, (2010).
Linda Glaser, Wonderful Worms, (1994).
Elise Gravel, The Worm, (2014).
Robin Koontz, Composting: Nature’s Recyclers, (2006).
Mary McKenna, Compost Stew, (2014).
Composting for Kids With Peppa Pig (thrown in for younger kids)