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Composting with the Family

Composting with the family can seem like an intimidating project. There are a ton of articles online on how to do it correctly—how to build your own bins, what should go in and what should not. It can be a little daunting, but in reality, it is super basic. Plus, it’s a great project to get the kids into! Grab the family, and give everyone a job to do in starting your own compost.

Gather the Basics for Composting


Pick out your bin, or container, or spot. Decide what kind of bin will work for your family. Here are a few different options: Stationary– these sit on the ground and allow you to add through the top. These generally can hold more, but can take longer for the compost to be ready. Some have side access panels to help you turn the pile for faster composting. Tumblers– these containers consist of a drum that is supported on legs, allowing you to spin the container to mix up the material. These are great for making compost faster and it makes it easer to turn the material.

Compost Pile (no containment)- Don’t want to spend the money on a container? If your yard is large enough, you can just pick a spot in your yard for the compost pile. However, you have to keep in mind that compost pile can attract rodents, which is why so many people buy or create bins.

Kitchen Compost Bin– If you want to start small or don’t have room for something larger, consider a kitchen compost bin. These are great to collect composting materials and take it to your town’s collection location or a local community garden.  At our house, we have a composting tumbler.  We bought it used, but you can find them just about anywhere. It’s a great way to get you started.

There are so many options for containers. A quick google search will also reveal ways to make your own composting bin with storage tubs or trash cans.  The key for the container is that it has air flow while also keeping pests out.

Organic Material Needed for Composting

This is the easy part. Have the family start collecting organic material that would normally get thrown away. We keep green material/kitchen scraps in a countertop container. The leaves in the yard are raked into a designated pile near the compost bin. Newspapers and other paper are shredded or torn up and placed in a box in the laundry room. Having a place to keep these materials until you’re ready to take them out to the compost will help in keeping up with it.

Two Kids of Organic Material

Brown material is carbon rich and includes: Leaves (best if shredded) Newspaper (best if shredded) Tea Leaves and bags, Cardboard Straw Paper (non glossy), Wood chips (not pressure treated wood), Coffee filters.

Green material is nitrogen rich and includes: Grass clippings, Eggshells (best when crushed) Fruit and Vegetable scraps, Coffee grounds.

Don’t add to Your Compost Pile

Items you shouldn’t add: dairy products meats greases, oils or fats egg yolks, or egg whites, pet waste, or cat litter, weeds that seed onions or garlic (only because they can repel earthworms who are helpful for your garden)

Composting With Your Family: Put it Together

To start the compost, you’ll want to add some dirt on the bottom. We added about half a shovel full. Then begin to layer the brown and green material. Most research recommends 2/3 brown to 1/3 green, but it doesn’t have to be exact.  Add just enough water to make it moist. Mix it up!

Turning the pile helps the process. We spin our barrel whenever we add to it, so thats every few days. When adding the green material/ kitchen scraps, put a layer of brown material on top. It helps to reduce pests.

Keep the Family Involved

Have the kids help you add stuff to the bin and turn it. Our kids love to see how it changes each time they check it. They also look to see if there are any bug or worms helping out.  Compost is doing good when it has an earthy dirt smell. It will have a deep brown, almost black color. It’s really about experimenting and adjusting to your composting needs. If it seems dry, add some water or more green material. If it seems too wet, add more leaves.

Fun Activity with Kids

Experiment- What can and cannot compost?

Ask the kids to collect some items that they think will compost and some that won’t. Have them place those items in a jar and mix it up.  Every few days, have the kids write down any changes. If they added anything plastic, they will be able to see how it does not change, while the organic material does. Great way to encourage recycling!

Composting Sources

When I say there are a ton of resources about composting out there, I mean a ton. People are so clever in how they build their bins or methods they use to get the best compost. Here are a few sources I like, but I do recommend researching more on what you want your compost to do.

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