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Plant Activities for Preschool

Instructor: Sharon Linde

Sharon has a Masters of Science in Mathematics

Young children are naturally curious about the world around them. They question where, why and how as they learn how things work. Add in their love for all things dirty and you have the makings for lots of learning activities focusing on plants!

Why Teach About Plants?

Have you ever taken a walk with a preschooler? They love to pick up, look at, explore and question leaves, nuts, twigs, rocks - just about anything they find. Because plants have a straightforward, easy-to-understand life cycle, introducing plant activities at this age helps 'plant' schema about how all life works. Schema is a cognitive base for thoughts that allow us to organize and understand information, which we then apply to new learning. In other words, it's the stuff that gets stuck in your head that you build on later. Because plants have four basic parts - roots, stem, leaves and flowers - children of this age can easily remember and identify them. Teaching about plants naturally lays the groundwork for future scientific learning and understanding. So, ready to get your hands dirty?

Getting Started Inside

You don't need to be outside to teach about plants. Many plant activities can be completed inside, and some may begin inside and transfer outside later on.

Growing Beans

For this activity, you'll need a clean, empty jar or plastic baggie, a few paper towels, and a bean. Most types of beans work great, so you may try several differing types to compare.

Wet the paper towels well and place them in your jar or baggie. Wedge the bean next to the towels, facing out so the children can view it. Make sure the towels are sufficiently damp; if you're not sure, add a little more water now. Then, seal the lid/baggie and place in the sun. In a few days, shoots will appear coming out of the bean.

seed bags

Tip: If using plastic bags, you can tape these in a window.

Growing Potatoes

Explore how to grow new plants from old using a potato. You'll need to gather toothpicks, a clear, clean glass jar, and a potato. Begin by inserting a few toothpicks into the potato around the circumference, about mid-way. Balance the potato on the jar using the toothpicks to hold it up. Pour enough water into the jar that the bottom of the potato is covered by a few inches. After a week or so, the potato will develop roots, which you can continue to watch grow!

growing potato

Tip: If you don't have a potato, you can also use an avocado pit.

Growing Carrots

This activity is slightly different than the bean or potato plant because green, leafy sprouts will grow on top. To begin, cut off the top few inches of a carrot. If there is any green remaining, carefully remove it with your hands - don't cut it off. Place the carrot stubs with the tops facing up in a shallow dish of water. In a week or so, new green shoots will appear on the top of the carrot and continue to grow.

Tip: Check the water level often, and keep it even.

For all these activities, you can incorporate simple record-keeping logs, either as a class or individually. Add observations at regular intervals, once or twice a day, about how the plant is doing. You can measure, describe, or draw your findings, just like real scientists do!

The Great Outdoors

Taking plant activities outside helps kids see and explore nature first-hand. Many activities, including collections, comparisons, and identification, will keep kids interested long after the activity ends.

Sensory Walks

Grab their attention by asking them to use all their senses when learning about plants. Remember, although the word 'plants' sometimes makes us think of flowers or a vegetable garden, the term plant refers to a wide variety of species.

For this activity, tell students you're going on a sensory walk. Talk about all your senses and how you can use them to tell about plants - seeing, smelling, touching, hearing, and sometimes tasting. Then, head outside and lead your group to several spots where they can put their senses to work. Feel the bark of a tree, smell a flower, listen for leaves in the breeze or insects buzzing around, look for a specific kind of plant, and taste a dandelion.

Tip: You may need to set some things up in advance to hit all senses.

Leaf Identification

Do your students know not all leaves are the same? Introduce them to a few different types of trees by comparing their leaves. Carefully remove a few leaves from several trees and lay them side by side. Talk about what is the same and what's different about each leaf. Are some round? Pointy? Do they feel the same or are some smoother? Next, use a reference guide to name each kind of leaf. For a bonus activity, mix up the leaves and see if the children are able to find the tree they came from.

leaf exploration

Tip: If you don't have access to a field guide or if using one is too complicated, download simple, large pictures of the leaves with the tree name underneath.

Different times of year offer differing experiences with plants in nature. Get out often and explore the plants in the world around you using all your senses.

Getting Crafty

Using arts and crafts activities to represent art helps kids create models applying their new skills. To support your learning, allow children to get hands-on with materials in many different ways.

Seed Strips

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