Go Ahead — Eat Some Dirt!

How to make edible soil Header

Eating dirt is a bad thing, right? Not when we’re talking about edible soil! This fun STEM activity is a great way to teach kids about the layers of minerals and organisms under their feet. And it tastes good. We promise.

Kids first learn about the different layers of soil like bedrock, subsoil and topsoil. Then, they take clear plastic cups and build their own layers using candy pieces and crumbled cookies. They can add microbes and other organic matter using gummy worms, sprinkles and even bananas — whatever will help spark their creativity and engage them in learning.

Edible Soil for Kids
Ariel Johnston, registered and licensed dietitian, led a group of kids through this activity during a recent summer camp in Kansas City.

“They loved it,” she said. “It’s less challenging technically than some other recipes we do like making bread dough and homemade pasta. But, it’s got an educational aspect and the kids get a tasty treat to eat at the end.”

You might be wondering how a dietitian can get behind an activity involving so much sugar. Ariel believes that as long as you’re providing nutritious meals, an occasional high-calorie treat isn’t a bad thing. In fact, she thinks limiting foods too much can do more harm than good.

“As soon as you start restricting or policing food like candy, it’s going to become more of a coveted item. Kids will crave it,” Ariel said. “Being able to approach all food and not have good or bad food, but have ‘play’ food and ‘sometimes’ food, you teach kids to enjoy all of it.”

How to Make Edible Soil for Kids - STEM activity
She sees lots of picky eaters who are more likely to want to try foods once they’ve had a chance to touch it, play with it and see what goes into it. It turns out, getting to know your food better isn’t such a bad idea for adults, either.

“There’s so much fear around what we’re eating now — dairy, gluten,” she said. “We’re so removed from our food system that it’s easy to believe whatever we hear. A lot of times we’re taught to be scared of food and what it’s going to do to our bodies. Any time there’s fear being used to sell food, be cautious about the motivator behind that.”

Ariel recommends going to trusted sources like a dietitian or even a local farmer to learn more about your food. She also recommends introducing your kids to all types of foods, even edible soil!

To learn more about Ariel, visit her blog The Tasty Balance, where she helps parents have conversations with their kids about food, as well as provides other dietary services.

Resources to Teach Kids about Food

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