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Science & Kids: DIY Worm Farms & Compost

Photo by Gustavo Fring from Pexels

Squirmy Science: Worm Farming with Kids

The natural world fascinates children, so why not turn their love of all things wriggly into a teachable moment? Creating a DIY worm farm is a cool project for teaching kids about the environment, from soil science and sustainability to animal care and container gardening. Still not convinced? It also hits the kids’ activity trifecta: inexpensive, easy, and screen-free.

While worm farming with kids sounds like a recipe for a mess, you can do this composting activity almost anywhere. Apartment-dwellers can set up a worm habitat under the kitchen sink or on a balcony, while those with yards can take their worm bin to the patio. With some helping hands and simple supplies, you can create a fun, squirmy science project that’s good for your garden, your kids, and the planet.

The Creepy, Crawly Science Behind Worm Farming: What Is Vermiculture?

Also called worm farming, worm composting, or vermicomposting, vermiculture is the process of using worms’ natural digestion to break down organic materials into rich soil. To acquaint children with composting, start your project after a meal. Ask kids what they think will happen to the leftover food on the table if they throw it in the garbage.

The answer is it can go to two places: trash collection sites like landfills (which keep food from decaying naturally and release greenhouse gases) or back to nature as new soil. Nature has its own recycling method for breaking many things down into new dirt for plants to grow, and that process happens thanks to creepy crawlies like worms.

What Are Worm Castings?

Worm castings are just a scientific name for worm poop. What you’re really trying to accomplish by worm farming is creating this natural soil conditioner. Studies show the nutrients and minerals in worm castings help plants grow bigger and stronger. By creating their own worm farm, kids can turn today’s lunch leftovers become tomorrow’s flowers and veggies.

What You’ll Need for Worm Farming with Kids

    • A worm bin, planter, or container: While you can buy expensive worm composters, this experiment is easy to do with colorful planters and pots. You can even make a DIY stackable worm bin with two plastic storage buckets. The main requirements for a container are drainage holes and room for soil and table scraps.
    • A worm juice collector: Moisture from worm farms drains into the bottom of the bin. This liquid is called worm juice, and it’s great for your garden. For outdoor worm composting, sit a planter on two bricks with a container underneath. For mess-free indoor worm farms, drill holes in the bottom of a plastic bucket, then stack it inside a second bucket that collects the worm juice.
    • A cover: Worms like the dark and damp, but a worm habitat should also have airflow. If you use two plastic buckets, buy one bucket lid and poke a few holes in it. If you use ceramic planters, just lay plastic sheeting, a towel, or plywood on top.
    • Newspaper: This will form the bedding for your worms. Black and white newspaper works better than glossy magazine pages or color-printed paper for a DIY worm farm.
    • Dirt: Dirt from a yard or garden works best for this worm science experiment since bagged soil can already contain chemicals. Apartment-dwellers without a yard can try asking a neighbor or nearby park if they can take dirt from their flower beds.
    • A spray bottle full of tap water: Moisture is a key to composting, and a spray bottle will help you and the kids keep the soil damp. It should be done regularly, so it’s a good lesson in caring for things.


  • A gardening spade: What’s the fun in worm farming if you can’t dig around in the dirt a little bit? You’ll need to shift the contents from time to time, making this an essential tool.


  • Worms: You can send kids out to dig up worms in dark, damp areas of the lawn, take a hike and see what you find under rocks and logs, or buy worms at a local bait and tackle shop. You need about a pound of worms for every pound of organic material in your bin.

How Do You Make a Homemade Worm Farm?

    1. Create newspaper bedding: Start by shredding newspaper into small pieces. Spray it with water and layer damp, loosely packed paper about an inch thick in your bin. The kid-friendly explanation is you’re making a bed for the worms. The scientific reason has to do with balancing moisture.
    2. Add a layer of dirt: Top off the newspaper with about an inch of soil.
    3. Make alternating layers: Cover the dirt with more damp, shredded newspaper, and continue to switch between layers of wet paper and dirt until your container is about three-quarters full.
    4. Introduce your worms to their home: This is the perfect time to talk to kids about handling worms and other animals gently and respectfully. We don’t want to injure these animals by being careless. They’re going to help us make new dirt out of our leftovers!


  • Feed your worms: Have kids use a spade to gently dig a hole in the dirt and paper, then add their table scraps. Worms love fruit and veggie peelings, bread, cereals, and even coffee grounds. Avoid adding meat or dairy products and cooking oils.


  1. Cover the worm farm: Sometimes you want to attract insects to your garden, and sometimes you don’t. To keep pests like fruit flies away from a DIY worm farm, layer dirt and newspaper on top. Finally, put the lid on your container.
  2. Set up a feeding schedule: Maintaining a worm farm is easy, and this is one chore kids will love. Collect table scraps and take them to the worm bin once a week. Cover it back up with compost, put on the lid, and you’re done.
  3. Harvest the compost: Depending on size, worm farms usually fill up within a few months. When compost reaches the lid, it’s time to harvest. Put all food on the left side of the bin for a few weeks to get all worms to move to that side. Then, just scoop out the right side and add the compost to your garden.

What Are the Benefits of a Worm Farm?

Whether you’re looking for unique container gardening ideas or a fun activity for kids, it’s hard to beat vermiculture. Kids will love playing with worms, while parents get to plant a seed of green thinking by helping them turn trash into fresh, chemical-free compost. Then, simply add that free fertilizer to produce robust, tasty fruits or herbs as well as hardy, healthy flowers or shrubs.

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