Plant Experiments for Kids

Instructor: Melinda Santos
Children can gain a hands-on understanding of plant anatomy, growth patterns and reproduction by conducting a variety of interesting and engaging experiments. This guide will highlight some purposeful plant experiments and provides some useful resources that reinforce what is learned.

Flower Anatomy Experiment

  • Tools & Supplies Needed: Knife or scissors, magnifying glass, flowers
  • Instructions: Lay flowers out on a table or work surface and allow child to work with one at a time. This can be a child-lead dissection where they can take the flower apart as they choose or you can guide him/her by asking him/her to first remove the petals and examine them under the magnifying glass. Proceed with each additional flower part, allowing time for the child to feel, smell and otherwise explore each part independently. You can name each part and provide a brief, age-appropriate explanation of its function as they dissect. The child can also categorize all of the same flower parts and label them.
  • Question Prompts: While you identify and explain the various parts of the flower, you may also want to ask questions that encourage the child to think about the flower's structure and how all components work together to sustain it. Some thought-provoking questions might include:
    • How do you think the flower receives nutrients and water?
    • Why do you think the petals of this flower are that color?
    • Where do you suppose the seeds are located in this particular flower?
    • What does the pollen feel like and why do you think it has this texture?

Middle school teachers looking for fun multimedia lessons on the anatomy of plants should explore our plant biology and structure resource.

Carnation Dying Experiment

  • Tools & Supplies Needed: Four white carnation flowers, four flower vessels, red, green, yellow and blue food coloring, water
  • Instructions: Put adequate water into each vessel. Add several drops of food coloring to each vessel, one color per vessel. Be sure to use the exact same number of drops in each vessel. Put one carnation in each vessel and set aside. Results typically occur with a few hours but become more dramatic the longer they sit.
  • Question Prompts: This is a very visual experiment that provides a natural flow into questions and conversations about the changes of each flower. Some things to observe:
    • Which color appeared in the flower first?
    • Which color appeared last?
    • Which color is the most vibrant (aka absorbed the most)?
    • Where is the color primarily saturated (i.e. around the tips of the petals, the center, all over)?
    • What do you think would have happened if we used more or less food coloring?

Check out our resource on plant and fungi facts for elementary school for many more lesson ideas involving plants.

Feeding Plants Experiment

Through this easy experiment, kids will examine whether or not plants can continue to grow when other liquids are provided besides water. This experiment takes a little time and uses observation skills but generally requires very little work.

  • Tools & Supplies Needed: Four identical plants in containers, water, soda, juice, milk, measuring cup
  • Instructions: Label each plant according to the liquid it will be given (one for milk, one for juice, one for soda and one for water). Place all four plants in a sunny location. Measure precisely the same amount of liquid for each plant and distribute the appropriate liquid according to the label on each pot. Redistribute the liquid every few days as needed while making observations everyday about the health and characteristics of each plant.
  • Question Prompts: Changes in each plant will probably occur at varying points. This experiment will require the child to record observations so he/she can reflect on them throughout the course of the experiment. Some questions to ask during each observation may include:
    • Is there any liquid left from last time?
    • Are the plants changing color and if so, which ones?
    • Is there any growth or new leaves?
    • What do the leaves feel like? Has that changed since last time?
    • Does the plant look like it's thriving or dying?

Kids can learn more about chlorophyll and photosynthesis through life science lessons with

Potato Reproduction Experiment

This experiment highlights how some plants and vegetables can asexually reproduce using pieces from previously grown specimens. This experiment must be observed over the course of a month or so, depending on how far you'd like to take it. New roots typically appear within a few weeks.

  • Tools & Supplies Needed: Potato, plastic cup, toothpicks, water
  • Instructions: Pierce four toothpicks around the middle portion of the potato. Place the potato over a plastic cup using the toothpicks as support. Fill the cup with enough water so it barely reaches the bottom of the potato. Put the cup in a relatively sunny spot and begin observation over the next few weeks. Change the water in the cup often. Over time, roots and plant shoots will appear and continue to grow longer and longer. Once the roots are sufficiently long and thick (touching the bottom of the cup for instance), you can continue with the experiment by planting the lower half of the potato and roots in soil. Eventually, with continued watering, potato plants will grow, sprout flowers and might even grow new potatoes.
  • Question Prompts: In addition to some questions along the way, this experiment might be best observed through journaling and/or pictures. Have the child draw and document each stage of the process so they can remember the stages throughout the experiment's duration. Use questions that reference previous observations and inquire about hypotheses for the next stages.
    • Do you think the potato will sprout and if so, where?
    • What do you think it will look like if it does sprout?
    • How long do you suppose it will take before we see anything happen?
    • How long are the roots and shoots?
    • Why are there both roots and plant shoots coming from the same potato?

Our plant growth and reproduction resource is a great way to supplement a middle school life science curriculum.

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