How many of us grew up being told by our parents, not to play in the dirt or get dirty when we went out to play? I’ve found out, it’s great to get your hands a little dirty making fresh and organic compost. Composting is very simple, costs virtually nothing and is one of the best outdoor family activities you can do. Here is some quick information to share with kids about the benefits and how-to’s. I’ve also included a list of things we do with our kids to help make it fun and educational for them.
The Dirt on Compost
The “behind the scenes” science is what makes composting pretty cool. All organic scraps or wastes break down over time. When nitrogen and carbon wastes are combined, tiny microbes, insects and worms, help them to decompose. What’s left is organic matter, or “humus”, that is very nutrient-rich, medium which plants grow and thrive in. It all comes from things you throw away everyday and it costs nothing. When you compost you are also reducing your carbon footprint on the Earth and helping our fragile environment. To learn more about your family’s footprint, visit the Nature Conservancy for this easy to use interactive calculator.
KEY TAKEAWAYS: Composting creates a medium for plants that is filled with the nutrients they need to flourish, made up from things you already have in your home, helps the environment and reduces the trash we send to the landfills...A major win/win/win!
Making Compost – What You Need
There are many great reasons to compost. It’s easy and the materials are readily available in everyone’s home. Here are some examples of what you need;
Nitrogen or “greens” - Produce scraps, grass clippings, coffee grounds, aquarium water (freshwater), and weeds that have not seeded.
Carbon or “browns” - dried leaves, paper towel/ toilet paper rolls, newspaper, cardboard, paper egg cartons, and sawdust. TIP: The smaller the pieces, the faster they break down.
General rule of thumb: a 50/50 balance of each in your compost and you will be well on your way to achieving compost! There is plenty of research and information on ratio balance. Compost will happen regardless so there is no need to do the math.
Water - without moisture your compost pile will become too dry for the microbes and insects to their thing. There should be a source of water nearby to help keep the compost moist.
Air – proper air flow will aid in the composting process. For larger compost piles it’s best to turn it occasionally, exposing the inner layers to the outside air.
Making Compost a Family Affair
Now we get down to the dirty fun part and how my family shares in the joys of composting. Besides teaching my kids about reusing and recycling much of the waste we produce, we make sure to involve them in every step of the process. They are thrilled to head out in our garden to do projects. We’ve even made a game which they enjoy too. Here’s a list of 5 cool composting projects you can all do together.
#1 – Make a Compost Bin
There are many solutions available for making a compost bin; discarded wooden pallets, cinder blocks, trash cans or even a plain old pile. All these will work but I tend to use whatever I have on hand. For this project I used wire garden fencing material left over from last year’s garden. It’s an easy weekend project that’s fun for you and the kids, inexpensive (under $20 to buy), and makes a great compost bin! For other great ideas, check out the Organic Gardening website and search for “compost”.
Step 1: Tools needed – wire garden fencing (36”x36”) available in most retail hardware stores and garden centers, wire cutters, gloves, safety glasses.
Step 2: Wearing safety glasses and gloves, unroll the fencing having your kids help by holding it in place. Cut a section 36” leaving enough wire to secure the bin together.
Step 3: Roll the section into a cylinder (cut edge to uncut edge) bending the wires on the end you cut around the edges of the uncut side.
Step 4: Put into place and start adding waste to your compost pile.
#2 – “Seek and Find” Compost Game
A great way to make composting fun for kids is to make it a game. We play this at home and the kids love it!
Step 1: Review the list of compostable materials, the browns and the greens they need to find. If you need a quick reference on materials to use and what not to use, check out this handy guide published by the EPA.
FUN TIP: Create flash cards with pictures of what to look for! I’ve found this to be a very helpful visual!
Step 2: Create a chart with each family member’s name, with check boxes for finding browns and greens.
Step 3: Give each kid an empty pale or sealable plastic baggie (it can get messy!). Spend 20 minutes walking around the house and outside for materials to compost.
Step 4: Each item they find is worth 1 minute of “screen time” or time with their electronic devices.
There are so many cool things about this game. Kids go looking for materials everywhere…even outside! Like raking up leaves or grabbing the junk mail and newspapers to shed. To keep track of points and a log of what goes into your compost pile, we made simple spreadsheet to track it. The kids know how many points they have and it helps maintain that 50/50 balance. If you see they are collecting more greens, ask them to look for more browns to even out your compost.
#3: Compost Bug ID
Once you get your compost started you’ll want to turn it occasional to speed the process. A garden fork works well for this and helps get air to the materials on the inside. As it begins to break down, you will find all sorts of bugs and crawly things in the pile. Take a camera so kids can take pictures of the bugs they find and look them up online. It’s a great way to get them outside and learn about nature. They also love that they get to use the electronic devices to look them up. Okay, so it’s still techy but we get to spend time together, learn about bugs, and the kids think they are playing on the tablet.
#4: Give Your Compost Bin a Makeover
Decomposing waste may not be a focal point in yard but it doesn’t have to stick out like a sore thumb. Here are a couple of great ideas that you and your kids can do to help dress it up.
• Plant seasonal flowers and vines that can grow along the outsides of wire bins and add some visual color to your yard. Trim stray vines to keep it looking tidy and toss them right in the compost.
• If you are using wood to support your compost pile, give it a coat of paint and let kids add their touches. Putting their hands in paint and leaving their mark all over the outside is just plain fun for them. It’s also like having kids’ artwork out in the yard too!
#5: Take a Compost Coffee Break
It may sound hard to believe, but composting is a little addicting. Once you have seen the fruits of your labor you may just become compost crazy. I’m always on the lookout for more waste wherever I go. A good source is your local barista. Many coffee shops will bag up coffee grounds for you for free! Take your kids with you later in the morning and have them ask the barista for any left over coffee grounds. 9 times out of 10, it works if someone doesn’t beat you to it! It’s also a great time out with the kids, you get your morning latte and your compost gets a mega-shot of nitrogen.
There you have it, 5 great ways to get kids interested in compost while having fun and learning in the process! Do you teach your kids about composting? Share what works in your family in the comments!
Just before the school year ended, my daughter received a fun project from her 2nd Grade teacher. The assignment was aimed at teaching kids about recycling and how they can be stewards of the environment. Each student was asked to build a robot made of recycled materials and write a story about their “recyclobot”.
Meet Tom the Grobot
We stated putting aside all of our bottles, cans and anything else that could have been used to make a recyclobot. Once we had plenty of items to choose from, I helped my daughter put some of the items together as outlined in the assignment. It was at that point, my daughter’s 8 year old imagination kicked into overdrive. She decided she wanted her recyclobot to be a “grobot”. Okay to be fair, she had just watched the movie Wall-e, but she decided she wanted her recyclobot to be able to grow something inside of it and further challenge her dad! But I liked that she was giving 200% to her assignment so I went with it.
She developed and wrote her story about Tom the Grobot, and I helped put him together. I thought why not push the envelope and teach her a little bit about sustainability in the garden while I was at it? I thought I would utilize some of the knowledge I impart from our weekly #landscapechat and introduce her to the concept of collecting rain water and proper irrigation techniques. Tom was not only made of 95% recycled materials (the other 5% were some HotWheels borrowed from my son) but he was designed to harvest rain water and to water the tomato plants he was nurturing.
The Grobot Story
My daughter came up with an amazing story about Tom the Grobot and Doug the Dumpster. And when she presented it to her class, both her story and Tom got the biggest round of applause from the classroom. What impressed me the most was at 8 years old she understands the importance of; recycling, its impact to our landfills, a broad concept of sustainability and turning trash into something that gives back fresh grown food.
I loved what she came up with so much that I decided it would make a great blog post and awesome project to work on with kids this summer. So start saving those bottles and cans share your creativity with us on Corona Tools Facebook!
As a father, one of my favorite things to do is teach my two young kids about gardening. It’s always a challenge to make it fun and interesting for them but one Monday night I was on Brenda Haas’ #gardenchat with her host, @Growums. And by the luck of the draw, I won a complete Growums kit, designed to get kids introduced to gardening.
I love that it comes with everything you need to grow a complete meal (ours was a pizza kit) and it’s made just for kids. Both my kids got into the great characters and videos they have when you register it on the Growums website. The kit tells you how to get your seeds started, watering, planting and fertilizing in a way that kids relate to. The planter box is easy to put together and it even tells you when it needs water. Best of all, my kids still go outside, check it out, check the water and are excited to watch them grow. Well done Growums!
As a parent, we all want our kids to live long, healthy lives and anything that gets children interesting in growing fresh food (and hopefully eating them) makes me feel like I’m getting them off to a good start.
How Does Your Father Inspire Your Gardening Giveaway
So with Father’s Day just around the corner, we want to hear your story of how your father, or even your grandfather, helps inspire others to grow fresh healthy foods. Starting today, you can send us your story and picture of Dad and share how he influences your passion for gardening. Doesn’t need to be a novel, just a thank you for what he teaches you, words of wisdom he imparts, a memory from your childhood that stuck with you over the years…etc. You get the idea…!
On 6/13, Corona will select 3 posts and celebrate them on our Facebook page. Corona Tools fans will comment or like them to cast their vote for the post they think celebrates a father’s inspiration to gardening. Then on Father’s Day, we’ll award the post with the most comments and likes with $100 shopping spree on coronatoolsusa.com. And of course, since he’s inspired you, we’ll give you a matching gift. The other 2 shares selected, will each get a set of or new ComfortGEL snips and pruners or our e-Grip Garden Hand Tools with Corona tote.
Share your dad’s story with us and we’ll help you both celebrate this very special Father’s Day! And for those dads who garden with us in spirit, it certainly doesn’t diminish the contributions they've made in our lives. Keep the tools and think of him when you use them or share them with someone you know who may be new to gardening. Happy Father's Day and happy story telling everyone!