Soil Facts: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Lauren Scott

Lauren has a Master's degree in special education and has taught for more than 10 years.

This lesson introduces you to the soil under your feet! You will learn about the materials and processes that make soil, the characteristics of different types of soil, and why soil is important.

Soil Basics

Who doesn't love dirt? You get to dig in it, plant flowers, make mud pies, and hunt for worms. But, what is in this stuff we call dirt? If you observe it closely, you can discover all kinds of things!

Dirt, or soil, is made of tiny pieces of rocks, minerals, and decaying matter. That decaying matter includes dead animals and plants. These materials turn into soil when they are eroded, or slowly worn down, by water, sun, wind, or glaciers. Dead matter, called organic material, breaks down and mixes with the soil. Wherever you find it, soil provides a home for borrowing animals, filters water, and gives us places to build our homes. We can't live without it!

Different plants grow in different types of soil.
farm field

Soil scientists describe soil according to its texture, which is how it feels. Soil may have a sandy texture, meaning it has large particles and feels rough. Clay soils have very fine, tiny particles that pack together tightly. Silt is in between, with medium-sized particles. Most soils are a mixture of all three textures.

What's In Soil?

Iron and some minerals can turn soil red.
red soil

The texture and appearance of soil depends on what's in it. Soil that has a lot of iron has a reddish tinge, while soil that contains a lot of organic material is dark brown or black. If soil contains quartz, it will sparkle in the sunlight. Soil near the beach contains lots of sand, and you will often find broken pieces of shell. Soil also contains varying amounts of nutrients, like phosphorus and nitrogen, that support plant growth. These nutrients come from the animals and plants that break down, and nutrients may also come from fertilizer.

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