I’m a huge believer in composting. But how do you handle composting with kids? I bet you know what I’m going to say (since I’ve written before about my love of a certain kind of composting).
Granted a lot of kids love digging in the dirt (or a pile of rotting food), but it’s that much MORE fun if you add squiggly, wiggly worms to the mix. And if you build a plastic worm bin, you can keep them inside. Worms are the best low maintenance pets around. Your kids get critters to take care of and you produce less trash. As an added bonus, you have some amazing soil additive to use on your garden or houseplants or to give to neighbors and friends.
Plus it’s just fun to hold worms.
My own kids are used to having worms around since we’ve had them on and off for years. But don’t get me wrong – they still really enjoy helping me take care of them.
Just last night I did a “composting with kids” lesson with my Daisy Girl Scouts. And it went over so well, that I wanted to share how I did it.
Just as an aside, our Daisies are taking turns caring for two small worm bins we created during our meeting. Each girl will take a turn bringing a bin home and being the “worm watcher” for the month. I provided an instruction sheet and troubleshooting guide for moms and dads along with a spray bottle to help little hands keep those worms moist.
You can download the instructions and troubleshooting guide here:
- Tarp to contain the mess
- 2 5-gallon plastic containers with 1 lid
- Lots of newspaper and brown paper grocery bags
- Pitcher for water
- 2 pieces of sandwich bread
- 1 butter knife (to cut the “welcome home sandwich”)
Prep Your Materials
Prepare your worm bins by drilling your ventilation holes. I didn’t add screens at the bottom of these bins because they are just so small.
Prepare a bag of worm food – I just dumped our scrap container into a ziploc bag.
Composting for Kids – The Lesson Step by Step
Step 1 – Introduction to Worms
Have the kids sit in a circle. Tell them what they’ll be learning about (this produced some hilarious reactions from grossed out to jumping up and down excited). Ask them to help you figure out WHY you would want to have worms.
In case you’re not sure why – here are some easy answers if the kids can’t come up with any!
- Worms eat what would go in landfills. The less we put in landfills, the better for our planet.
- Worms help farmers and gardeners by creating rich compost (which helps the soil we grow our fruits and vegetables in) and something called worm tea (which is the liquid that drains off when they are eating your fruit/vegetable waste). Worm tea can be used in the same way as compost.
Relate a little story about how worms are like kids. Here are some examples of things you could say:
- Kids sleep in bedrooms. The worm bin is like the worm’s bedroom.
- Kids use sheets and blankets on his/her bed. The bedding is like the worm’s covers.
- Kids need to eat. Worms need to eat.
- Kids need oxgen. Worms need oxygen.
- Kids like to eat fruit and vegetables. Worms like to eat fruit and vegetables.
Step 2 – Prepare the Worms’ New Home
Tell the kids that the first step is prepping the bin. Grab a helper and pass out the paper you brought to the kids. Show them how to rip it into strips. Then let them have at it!
Collect the strips in the plastic containers. Then using a pitcher of water, pour it in and have the kids mix it around with their hands until the paper is the right dampness (wrung-out sponge wet). Explain that worms are like Goldilocks…the bedding can’t be too wet or too dry – it needs to be just right.
Step 3 – Prepare the First Meal at Home for the Worms
Ask the kids what they think worms eat. You might get some interesting answers. After they’ve had their say explain what worms like to eat and what they don’t like to eat.
Bread or other grains (without oils – although mold is just fine!)
Coffee grounds and/or filters
Crushed egg shells (rinsed first)
Oils (like mayo!)
Spicy peppers (like jalapenos)
Get your bag of worm food and your two pieces of bread. Take one piece of bread and dump a big old handful of the worm food on it, then cover with the second piece of bread. Ask the kids if they want a bite…they’ll scream and moan no! Then have them help to lift up the bedding and place the “sandwich” underneath it.
Step 4 – Meet the Worms
Grab your bag of worms and pour some into your hand. Let everyone get a good look.
For anyone who wants to hold one – have them hold out their hands palm up and go around and pass out a few worms to each kid. When they are done holding the worms, have them gently place the worms into the new bins.
Dump the rest of the worms evenly between the two worm bins. You can bury the rest of the food you brought or just leave it at the “welcome sandwich”. Have the kids help you put the roof on the worm’s bedrooms (i.e. the lid).
Composting with kids is that much more fun when you add worms to the mix!
Have you tried composting with kids before? How’d it go? What did you do?