Introduce Composting to Toddlers
Don't hesitate to teach big concepts to your little ones! When I was teaching toddlers a few years ago in a Montessori environment, I found no reason not to get down and dirty with composting. This activity is certainly messy, but it was totally worth the efforts. Composting with your little ones offers an opportunity to contribute to caring for their environment. After each child had the opportunity to dig into the compost, our composting moved outdoors to the garden in a covered bin that doesn't require the mess. The point of this project was for children to use their senses in order to physically grasp the concept of how composting works.
My Compost PresentationThis project came about after I explained to my students why a potted annual plant died in the classroom. A dead plant was a great way to introduce composting with a little presentation. Below are the supplies I had ready to present during a group lesson in the toddlers studio. This is just one of the many ways out there to go about such a lesson:
Material for Kids' Compost
- One dead plant potted in soil or some dead leaves gathered from outdoors
- Food scraps. In our studio, fresh fruits or vegetables are offered daily during snack time and there are often leftover scraps.
- 1 plastic bin or open container
- 1 cardboard box that the bin could fit in (to keep the mess from spilling out onto the floor, especially if you are teaching indoors)
- 1 large spoon, small garden hoe, or shovel
- Just for fun: 1 back scratcher (that can be used as a" mini hand rake")
- 1 watering can, a small pitcher or spray bottle with water (whichever you prefer your kids to make a mess with)
- An additional bin for composting, i.e., if you are prepared to start composting on a regular basis. If a large composting bin is not an option at your school, you could start small by using a plastic storage bin with a lid and drill some holes in it. For more information, here is a tutorial I found on how to make a compost bin out of a storage bin. We followed the tutorial and kept our bin in the garden area out back of our school.
- Kids' books with photos on composting along with a composting video found on the web. I typically find my videos on youtube. There are plenty of composting videos out there that would be appropriate for the kids.
The presentation can be a discussion, followed by library books on compost and video clips from youtube. Kids will begin to understand, especially if you begin the demonstration with this hands on activity. We talked about the dead plant, which also lead to giving the kids an opportunity to learn about the roots of the plant and how a plant grows, etc. We put the plant in the bin and began to break it down with our hands. Add dead leaves, or whatever you prefer, and give the kids a chance to get in there and help to begin the process of "breaking down." It's a messy project, but even just letting them get dirty once will help them to have a better understanding of how the process works.
LONGTERM: We switched to a local composting company after this project, and talked to the kids about the company so that they know exactly where their food is going every time they put it in their bin. Talk to your school about working with a composting company and typically they can offer a deal with big companies. We went with Tilthy Rich in Durham, NC and we've got our students routinely helping the environment by composting every day!
Thanks for reading along and learning about this simple (yet messy) activity that helps teach little ones to better understand a big concept that can benefit our world.