Composting is a great activity to practice with your children. Sure, they learn all about the “Circle of Life” from the Lion King, but kids generally don’t understand how the circle works until later in their lives. As kids are full of questions, discussing what happens to plants and animals when they die, and are eaten and broken down, can be a difficult topic, even for adults! Trying to put complicated concepts into terms that kids can understand is a challenge. It is often easiest to teach the kids by showing them an example, rather than by explaining things verbally.
This is why composting can be such a great teaching method when it comes to children!
Composting, and specifically Bokashi composting, is a great task to involve your children in, and will help teach them to care for the environment and to understand their place within it. They can get involved in the whole process of bokashi composting, and you can even tie the project in with gardening, so that the kids will be rewarded with their own fruits, vegetables, and flowers!
Benefits of teaching children about composting
Kids can learn all about the soil, and how quality soil contributes to healthy plants, which in turn becomes healthy food.
The Circle of Life
Children are natural questioners, and are always asking about life, animals, plants, where they come from, and where they go. Well, composting can answer, and explain, a lot of these questions! The act of composting is the process of death and rebirth in its complete form, in a way that is understandable to children, and is not a particularly uncomfortable discussion topic for adults.
Foods and plants are often a little bit easier to discuss than, for example, the family pet’s passing, and as you get to the part about the soil becoming renewed and able to grow rich new plants, these ideas can bring a great deal of comfort, joy, and understanding.
Teaching children that when plants and animals are consumed, their remains go back to the soil, get processed in the soil, and bring new life to new plants and animals is an easily-illustrated task, when you teach your kids to compost.
Bokashi composting with kids
Bokashi composting is an especially good choice for teaching kids about composting, as it’s relatively clean and involves a minimal amount of work with wet, slimy, gross materials that are often found in larger-scale compost heaps and compost bins. Bokashi composting can be done indoors or outdoors, and generally doesn’t require as much use of grown-up tools like shovels, pitchforks, and the like.
Plus, children are often not blessed with lots of patience. Bokashi composting works well for engaging kids as it is fast. In just 4 to 6 weeks, food scraps are turned into usable compost.
After cleaning up dinner, you can have your kids place the compost in the proper receptacle (along with recycling, trash, and all that), and add the needed bokashi bran to the mix. With bokashi composting, the smell is generally not as… potent… as it can be with outdoor compost bins, and the scale is generally smaller than most outdoor compost bins.
You can even perform these tasks if you are in an apartment, and only have a small outdoor space!
By teaching your kids about bokashi composting, you have the opportunity to teach them about microbes, and what microbes do to process and break down foods. As the bokashi bin goes through its composting process, the kids will see the breakdown of the foods, and finally the addition of the bokashi materials to the soil for completion.
Gardening with kids
Of course, once you have completed the bokashi composting process for a batch, you can then encourage your kids to pick out some vegetables, flowers, fruits, etc. to plant with the soil they have produced and enriched. They can help grow the plants, and will be thrilled to consume the results of their life-science experiment.
This can be a wonderful way to convince vegetable-phobic children to try a few foods that they are typically disinclined to eat. When they watch those eggplants (or whatever) that they planted and nurtured grow and fruit, they will often be thrilled to cook and eat them.
Another turn of the wheel
When the foods or flowers that they have grown are consumed or die off, you’ll have the opportunity to spin the wheel once again, and bring the remnants of these plants and fruits back to the soil. Composting, once again, with a bokashi bin, will start the whole process over again, further cementing the concept of the cycles of life in their little heads.
Composting is often looked at as the least-appealing part of the gardening process. After all, it involves decay and breaking things down. There are no flowers, no beautiful colors, no delightful smells and sights involved in composting. But by teaching kids about how to enrich soil, you can show them how high quality compost from a Bokashi process can result in delicious, vibrant fruits, plants, and flowers.
This whole process would likely be an excellent kids science project, and if you encourage your kids to document the process, they will likely find even more enrichment and reward from their project.
Hopefully with an A+!
Thanks to Eric Clark for writing this blog piece. He can be found blogging all about gardens, lawns, and patio living over at OutsideModern.