Looking for a way to introduce composting to kids? Check out these eight ways to help get kids excited about composting and help reduce food waste
After doing many interviews about families that compost at home through the Bring Your Trash To Life series, I’ve heard lots of stories about how families got started practicing their new composting habit.
In just about all cases, one parent drove the change, and slowly (but surely) family members jumped on board. In some cases, full families now participate equally in relevant composting tasks while other families rely primarily on one person to keep the composting party going.
Through both the interviews and in our own house, I often think about ways to encourage our kids to get more involved in the composting process. I hope that exposing them to composting at a young age helps the habit become an ingrained part of their life and something they continue long after they move out and move on to their own lives.
8 Ways To Get Kids Excited About Composting
There are many ways we can make composting fun for kids as well as help them understand the process and the importance of composting through simple projects and experiments. I’ve pulled together just a few ways to help kids compost so they come to appreciate it and prioritize it as much as we do.
1. Create A Compost Pile For Kids
Let kids manage and take ownership of their own compost pile. Make a smaller pile or set an extra bin next to your regular pile or bin. Encourage them to add food scraps on their own, turn it when you turn the main pile, and examine how their compost heap changes over time. You might even encourage them to compare it to your compost and see how it’s the same or different.
2. Introduce The Science of Composting For Kids
While it’s fun to play in the dirt, learning the sustainability science of composting for kids will help them gain a deeper understanding of why their compost pile is so important for the planet and their community.
We’ve created a fun introduction to composting for kids activity to help young learners understand what to compost, what to recycle, what belongs in the trash, and why each has its respective home. This activity comes with a printable worksheet and activity materials as well as discussion questions. Drop your email into the form below to get the free activity delivered right to your inbox!
3. Use Kid-Sized Composting Tools
Projects are so much more fun and satisfying when we use the right tools. Give kids smaller shovels or pitchforks (if you’re comfortable letting your kids use them) if you manage a compost pile in your yard. Most young kids are neither tall enough nor strong enough to use adult-sized gardening tools. They can use these tools to manage their own pile and help you care for the larger pile shared by the family.
4. Help Their Compost Pile (When They Aren’t Looking)
Sometimes it’s ok to “let kids win” when it encourages them to keep striving toward their goals and building their skills. If your child’s compost pile is not processing as fast as yours, turn it a few times when they aren’t around.
This might help it to decompose faster, which will likely make the experiment and habit more rewarding for them. They may just not be big enough to really get the pile or bin turned over enough to keep the process moving along.
5. Make Composting A Game
We can build momentum to encourage kids to keep practicing important skills when we make the process feel like a game. With your compost pile, see who can turn it the fastest or flip the most shovel loads in a certain amount of time. Dance to some loud music while you bring the scraps out to the bin and turn your compost tumbler.
Lots of kids love playing with worms. As you turn the compost, have a competition to see who can count the most worms in the compost. Maybe even count how many different types of food you can still identify in the bin even though they are covered in dirt and partially decomposed.
6. Try A Composting Experiment
While not all kids will be interested in getting their hands dirty, try doing a composting or food decomposition experiment in the house. You can replicate a small compost pile inside of a plastic bottle in a soilarium experiment by following the instructions in our Soilarium Activity. It takes a few weeks or months (depending on the contents of the bottle and the weather conditions) to see the final compost, but your child can watch as the content of the bottle changes over time.
Alternatively, kids might like this landfill gas experiment that emulates the effect of leaving food to rot in a landfill without oxygen relative to the decomposition process that happens with proper oxygen in the system. Hint: food rotting in landfills is a big bummer and has some pretty terrible environmental impacts.
7. Do A Food Waste Audit
A food waste audit doesn’t teach kids how to compost or show them how the process works, but it could inspire them to get started. We did a food waste audit about a year ago, and it was surprising how much food we put in the trash (even after composting what would normally go in our backyard bin).
When kids see how much food waste they create, you can help them identify which items can go into your home compost bin and which should head to a landfill (especially after doing the composting activity I mentioned above). Then they can visualize how much less trash your family will bring to the curb just by composting.
8. Read Books About Composting
We read aloud a lot in our family, especially before the boys go to bed. Every once in a while, I choose a picture book about composting for kids. Books can help kids understand how composting works in a way that is age-appropriate and help them feel more comfortable when they decide to get involved in composting at home.
Read books about composting to help your kids understand all the different ways to compost, how it fits into a home garden, your kitchen, and more. I created this list of great picture books about composting to get you started.
Do you have any other ideas to help get kids excited about composting? Tell us in the comments or drop us a DM on Instagram @RaisingGlobalKidizens. We love hearing from you!
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About The Author
Jen Panaro, a co-founder of Raising Global Kidizens, is a self-proclaimed composting nerd and an advocate for sustainable living for modern families. She’s also a serial library book borrower and a messy gardener.
As a mom to two boys, she is passionate about helping families be more responsible stewards to their communities and the planet. She also owns Honestly Modern, an online space focused on eco-friendly living for modern families.