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Vacuole Function Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Alexandra Owens

Alexandra has taught middle school science and has a master's degree in Math and Science Education.

In this lesson, learn all about vacuoles and their function inside of cells. Explore what a vacuole looks like, what it does, and how they look different in plant and animal cells.

What Is a Vacuole?

When you are asked to clean up your room, where do you put all of your clothes and toys? In a closet? In a dresser? In a toy chest? A cell needs a place to keep things, too! That is the job of a vacuole. A vacuole is a storage area for a cell. It can store food, water or anything else a cell may need to survive.

Here are vacuoles inside of a paramecium. Notice how they look like small water balloons!
paramecium

What Does a Vacuole Do?

A vacuole looks a lot like a water balloon. There's a thin outer layer, called a membrane, holding everything in. Vacuoles collect ad hold onto all sorts of materials for a cell, including food and water. Sometimes a vacuole holds waste or bad things, as well.

Imagine a vacuum cleaning up a mess--this is a great way to remember what a vacuole does. Think of the letter 'v' for vacuum! A vacuole sucks up materials to hold onto for the cell.

A vacuole is located inside of a cell. It holds materials like water.
vacuole

Vacuoles can be large or small. Sometimes they can take up most of the room inside of the cell. The number of vacuoles in a cell can vary, as well. Some cells can have many vacuoles, while others have one large central vacuole.

Where Can I Find Vacuoles?

Both plant and animal cells have vacuoles, but they look very different. Animal cells have many small vacuoles, and plant cells have a very large vacuoles. This is because the vacuoles in plant cells store a lot of water. This can almost fill up the entire cell, which helps hold the plant cell upright by giving it shape.

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