Have you ever walked around with your kids and talked about where leaves end up after they fall from the tree? It’s a pretty fun way to start the topic of decaying matter. After all the insects die off and leaves crumble, the starting process of breaking down begins. Everything turns back into the soil. This is nature’s super cool way of recycling.

What is Composting?

Composting is the natural process of organic materials like food and yard waste breaking down into dark matter, much like soil. How cool is it that we can convert waste into healthy organic soil!

Composting is a great way to show your kids how to convert waste into nutrient soil. It also connects us to mother nature, offering a new level of understanding for the life cycle. They will even learn how temperature plays a role in the decomposition process as they watch different materials break down. Natural cycles of life, death, rebirth, and the recycling of nutrients in the ecosystem.

As living matter dies, organisms known as decomposers consume it, breaking it into smaller components that are added into soil. Reducing waste should be a goal for every family. Composting can also help remind your kids that they are part of a bigger picture. What they do really matters. By composting they are stepping up to care for our environment and give back to the land. Just as each microorganism deep within the compost pile individually is small, when all the organisms work together they are able to decompose large amounts of waste and contribute beautiful, rich soil that can be added to any garden.

Composting is really for anyone. You don’t even need a vegetable garden to compost. If you live in the city, you can compost. Once you start you will be amazed at how much waste you are keeping out of our landfills.

Resources For Compost Study Unit

Outdoor Compost Bin – you can use a simple Rubbermaid bin also.

Kitchen Compost Deodorizer

Compost Starter Organic Microbe Starter

Compost Stew Children’s Book 

Now You See It Now You Don’t Kid Compost Science Experiment 

Start Your Own Compost

Start with reading a story about composting. I chose Compost Stew by Mary McKenna Siddals. After the story I collected everything I needed for the clear “now you see it now you don’t” science experiment and let my kids fill the sections themselves. We did a couple worksheets that were age appropriate for both my preschooler and third grader.

Then we took a small flip lid bathroom trash can from HomeGoods and made labels for it to keep in our kitchen. You can start with any small container in your kitchen, one that you can move into a bin outside. Oliver (my three year old) and I built our rotating outdoor compost bin. He loves anything that involves a tool. And so our journey began…

If you don’t have a vegetable garden yet, you can make compost for your potted plants. Another fun idea would be to donate your compost to a local school or community garden. I personally love the idea of having your kiddos jar it and start selling it! Anything to get those young entrepreneur minds going. Turn your lemonade stand into soil goddess organic matter.


All composting requires three basic ingredients (try to keep equal parts brown to greens):

  • Browns – This includes materials such as dead leaves, feathers, branches, and twigs.
  • Greens – This includes materials such as grass clippings, vegetable waste, fruit scraps, and coffee grounds.
  • Water – Having the right amount of water, greens, and browns is important for compost development. Your compost pile should have an equal amount of browns to greens. You should also alternate layers of organic materials of different-sized particles. The brown materials provide carbon for your compost, the green materials provide nitrogen, and the water provides moisture to help break down the organic matter.
  • Select a dry, shady spot.
  • Add brown and green materials as they are collected, making sure larger pieces are chopped or shredded.
  • Moisten dry materials as they are added.
  • Cover the top of the compost with a lid to keep it moist. When the material at the bottom is dark and rich in color, your compost is ready to use.

Get a Thermometer 

Talk to your kids and explain what causes compost heat up. Let them know that when a compost pile begins to work and break down, the inside of the pile starts getting warm. When the material breaks down, or decomposes, it releases energy in the form of heat. The heat is important because it sterilizes, or makes safe, the compost for people to use it later. We use different tools to measure things. For weight, we use scales, for length, we use rulers, and for temperature, we use thermometers. Find a thermometer and go over how to read it with them. The temperature of an active compost pile is usually about 140 degrees Fahrenheit or about 60 degrees Celsius. 

Download and print this fun cut and paste worksheet:    Cut and Paste

Fun Snack Time Recipe

Layer a glass cup with the following: Marshmallows for the bedrock. Cheerios as the subsoil. Chocolate rice crisps for the topsoil and mix in mini m&ms for the humus. Top it all off with some gummy worms. I bet they will remember the soil layers after this fun activity.

Have Fun Composting

Thanks for being here alongside me on this journey.

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Jennifer Mustin
Jenny was born in Santa Monica, California. The majority of her childhood years were spent being raised in Thousand Oaks. Jenny and her husband Trevor had known each other since high school. It wasn’t until much later that they became inseparable. Jenny and Trevor were both working in Santa Monica when they crossed paths again. Jenny was a single mom and Trevor is a firefighter... now the rest is history. Together they have three wild boys and one bonus daughter. With a blended family and wanting to bring a new level of simplicity to their lives, Jenny and Trevor moved back to Ventura Country and bought a little piece of land in Simi Valley. They are the type of people who raise chickens, alpacas, donkeys, and lambs in their backyard. They build fences and fix what’s broken. Their goal is to be self sufficient, sustainable, and waste free as much as possible. Jenny homeschools their children and helps run their neighborhood Co Op preschool all while working part time. Jenny is best known for brining in any animal that needs help (even when her husband has no idea about it until after). Jenny loves being in her garden, it's where she becomes grounded and reclaims her calmness. She is the type of person that always chooses to see the best in everything, she truly loves living life to the fullest. Jenny believes at the end of the day, hands should be dirty, hair should be messy, and hearts should be full.


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