Sustainable Play shares top tips for composting with children
Early childhood education and care (ECEC) provider Sustainable Play, a small long day care provider with sustainability at the heart of its mission, has shared its top tips for successfully implementing a composting program with children.
The provider describes itself as “crazy about composting” with the rituals of composting (such as collecting scraps, sorting recyclable materials and food matter, and emptying the lunch bin into the compost area) being fundamental parts of the daily routine.
While converting waste into nutrient-rich soil may sound complicated, “it really is so easy,” explains Sustainable Kids spokesperson Jenny Roxburgh.
Step one: Identify compostable materials
Help children identify what is compostable material and importantly, what isn’t. The following list are all great additions to the compost bin:
- Vegetable and fruit scraps
- vegetable oil
- prunings and lawn clippings
- tea bags (staples removed) and coffee grounds
- vacuum dust
- shredded paper and cardboard
- used potting mix
Meat and bones, dairy products, diseased plants, metals, plastic and glass, animal manures, fat, magazines, large branches, weeds that have seeds or underground stems, sawdust from treated timber, pet droppings, and synthetic chemicals should all be disposed of elsewhere and should not be added to the compost bin.
Step two: Start small
Composting doesn’t have to take up a lot of space, but services should be aware that composting areas need enough access to fresh air, sunlight, and good drainage.
For those services who are not sure about what type of composting system they should use, here is a great infographic to help to decide what will suit each space best. (You can also download a printable PDF here).
Here, The Spruce has collated 15 DIY compost bins ideas using items you probably already have at home.
Step 3: Create your layers
It’s all about the layers. Getting the balance right when adding waste to your compost bin, ensures the right consistency to create that great soil, Ms Roxburgh says.
Start with a base layer of twigs, mulch, or old potting mix to encourage air circulation and provide drainage. Follow with layers of green and brown material — say garden clippings and kitchen scraps, then leaves and wet paper. Add water after each layer to keep the pile moist but not too wet. Finish with a layer of soil or finished compost to help reduce odours.
“Ideally, you will be looking to add 25-50 per cent green material, with the remainder being brown material. Anything over 50 per cent green can turn your compost rather sludgy and not so nice to use” says Kids Do: Gardening.
Step 4: Turn and use!
Turn, or aerate the compost every week or so and keep it covered at the top (to keep that moisture in which is essential for the process). Another option is to poke garden stakes or plastic pipes through the heap to allow air in.
Compost is ready to use when it’s a rich, brown colour and crumbles easily. Be patient, as this might take a few months depending on the size of the bin.
Here are some additional resources to support the composting journey:
- Gardens that Matter: Choosing the right composting bin
- Composting experiments at home
- A definitive Guide to composting
- What to compost vs. what not to compost for different rooms in the house
The Department of Environment and Conservation has also created a range of composting and worm farm guides which may be downloaded below:
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