How Composting Can Help Your Child Connect With Nature
Composting is a great way to educate your child about the environment and help her stay connected with nature. Read on for a handy guide on how you can get your child started on composting
By Vani Venugopal • 11 min read
The urban Indian citizen generates an alarmingly high average of 600g of waste per day, and over 200kg in a year. Most of this waste ends up in landfills that pose grave threats to the environment and the future of our planet. However, a good percentage of the waste that we throw away is organic waste, which, with a little care, can be turned into compost and used as a fertiliser for our plants.
What is composting?
Composting is a natural process that occurs when organic matter, such as leaves, vegetable scraps and fruits, decomposes. This process breaks down the organic matter into a nutrient rich, soil-like material called compost.
Why does composting matter?
Organic matter contributes to about one-third of our household waste. When this organic waste is dumped in landfills, it does not decompose properly owning to the lack of oxygen in these places. This in turn leads to the emission of methane, a greenhouse gas that contributes greatly to global warming. By choosing to compost, we break this cycle of ecological degradation and play a small role in helping the environment.
Compost is also a valuable fertiliser for your plants and gardens. It introduces nutrients and microorganisms to soil, which makes it more fertile. It also makes soil healthier and helps plants grow more resistant to diseases and pests. Making compost also reduces the need for chemical fertilisers, which are harmful both for your health and for the environment.
Composting is important because it is a small step that has big consequences. By introducing your children to it, you will give them a means to care for the environment and to make a positive impact in the world that they live.
What will my child gain from composting?
“Composting creates opportunities for a lot of ecological learning. Once a child starts composting, he indirectly learns about many other things such soil fertility, the role of earthworms, problems faced by farmers, chemical farming, greenhouse gases, carbon emissions, and so on. I have found my students growing more curious and becoming inspired to learn more about the environment once they start composting,” says Achsa Abraham, an environmental educator from Chennai, when asked about the benefits of composting for children.
Learn more about nature: Composting teaches your child how the environment works. Through composting, he will observe how waste decomposes into nutrient-rich soil. This is a very useful demonstration of the circle of life and how matter decomposes. Composting also makes children appreciate the role of insects, worms and microorganisms, and how they add value to the ecosystem.
Nurture environmental consciousness: Composting is a great tool to help children develop a sense of environmental responsibility. As they understand where waste goes and how it decomposes, they will be encouraged to be more conscious of how they dispose their trash. It helps them to further understand the three environmental Rs – reduce, reuse and recycle.
“I always tell my students that they are secret superheroes helping the planet. This immediately gets them excited about composting. Which child doesn’t want to be a superhero?” says Achsa Abraham.
Composting is a long process and it can seem too difficult for your child, especially for younger children. However, the key is to start small. Here are a few activities that can pique your child’s interest in composting and get them started.
1. Waste segregation
Before starting composting, introduce your child to waste segregation. Guide her to distinguish between biodegradable and non-biodegradable waste. Every time she throws something in the trash bin, ask her to think about whether it should go into the dry, wet or compost bin. This will help her develop a habit of waste segregation, an important life skill.
2. Collecting compostable waste
Give your child a small container where he can collect compostable waste. This is a simple way to get him more involved in composting.
3. Foraging for brown material
Composting requires dry materials such as dry leaves, paper scraps and newspaper. Take your child around your garden or backyard or the common areas of your apartment to collect dry leaves and twigs. Children will greatly enjoy this short outdoor activity. It is also an opportunity for her to observe nature and learn about different types leaves and the plants that they come from.
Another activity you can give your child is to collect old newspapers and paper scraps from around the house and cut it into strips to be added to the compost bin.
Before diving straight into composting, why not start him on a mini project – a micro-composter? This is a small version of a compost bin that can be created in a glass jar or plastic bottle and easily managed by the child.
To get started you will need:
- An empty 2 litre soft drink bottle
- Green Material: Compostable food scraps
- Brown Material: Dry leaves, news paper
Cut off the top of the plastic bottle so that you have a wide mouth and pierce holes at varying heights around the bottle. Now fill the micro-composter the same way you would fill a compost bin – begin with a layer of soil, followed by handful of food scraps and a handful of brown material. Keep alternating the layers until the bottle is almost full. Sprinkle a little water to ensure that it is damp. Cover the bottle and place it in a sunny spot in the house.
Ask your child to observe the micro-composter every day and take photos to track progress. Get him to stir the compost once in a few days and sprinkle water if it looks too dry. In about six to eight weeks, all the waste would have broken down into nutrient-rich compost.
Creating your own compost bin
Once you have tested the waters with your child and feel ready, it is time to start a compost bin in your home. This can be easily set up in your balcony or backyard. Involve your child in every step of the process. Let her watch and observe you for the first few days. Once the compost bin is set up and she is familiar with the process, she will be able to participate more.
What you will need
Compost Bin: To make a compost bin, drill holes at varying heights around a terracotta pot or a plastic bucket. You can use old flowerpots, plastic buckets or even discarded paint containers for this. Alternatively, you can buy a compost bin, which is readily available online or at nurseries.
- Brown Material: Dry leaves, straw, old newspapers.
- Green Material: Kitchen scraps, vegetable peels, eggshells.
- The first step in composting is to segregate your household waste. Maintain separate bins for your wet, dry and compostable waste.
- Collect dry leaves, old newspapers and uncoloured paper scraps for your brown material.
- Begin setting up your bin by layering the bottom with soil. Then, add a layer of brown material and followed by a layer of green material. Keep repeating this process of alternating between layers of brown and green material as you add more waste in.
- Cover the compost bin with a plastic sheet or a plank of wood to help retain moisture and heat.
- Every few days, use a rake or a stick to give the pile a quick turn to provide aeration. If it looks too dry, sprinkle some water.
- Within 2-3 months your waste will turn into dry, dark brown and crumbly compost that smells like soil.
- Don’t overload your child with too much information and rules about how to compost. Let him try his hand at it and learn as he goes.
- Remind him of the big picture. Explain how, by composting, he is helping reduce waste and doing his bit to help the planet.
About the author:
Written by Vani Venugopal on 21 August 2020.
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