Eating Parts of a Plant

Getting your kids to eat their vegetables can often be a chore.  Sometimes presenting it in a fun activity can make it more inviting.  Sometimes not.  Either way, this is an easy way to show children the connection between plants that they see and the vegetables that we eat.  No prep required and no weird ingredients to purchase.  You probably have these at home!

Here’s what you need to get started:

  • Baby Carrots (I steamed them for the tiniest tots in my class)
  • Broccoli Florets
  • Celery (Cut thin for the little ones)
  • Sunflower seeds (I’ve used both shelled and unshelled)
  • Fresh Spinach (or other leafy green)
  • Tomatoes (I used halved grape tomatoes because they are sweeter)
  • Plate
  • Dip (optional)IMG_7278

I cut up the vegetables and steamed the broccoli and baby carrots.  Since I have many 2 year olds in my classes, I wanted to make sure the veggies were soft and safe for them to chew.  I sliced the celery thin since the youngest ones still struggle with the fibers.

I used shelled sunflower seeds the first time I did this. The second time I used the ones in the shells and showed the tots the outside of the seed.  Then we broke them open and investigated the edible seed inside.

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I arranged the sample of vegetables on a plate and invited the tots to taste them on a plate.

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The children were invited to taste the real plant parts and then guess whether they were flowers, leaves, stems, seeds, fruit or roots.  We talked about the fibrous and strong celery stem and how juicy and watery it was inside. We also investigated the seeds inside of the tomatoes.  We broke open the shells of the sunflower seeds and tasted the seed inside.

I also had a pile of paper cutouts of the plant parts for the older tots.

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They could glue the real or paper versions on their worksheets.

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Extension:

This activity goes well with my Flower Sorting Discovery Tray.  I had the tots first sort through the parts of the flowers, showing them the roots, stems, leaves, flowers and pollen.  Then we connected it to this activity of plant parts we can eat.

The Science behind the Activity:

Children get excited about food when they take an active role in either preparing food, selecting food or interacting with food.  By comparing vegetables to parts of a plant, it piques a child’s interest in the food, thus making them more likely to try it.  Maybe.  (A mom can hope, right?)  This activity also links parts of plants to what we eat.  Eating plant leaves or plant stems or flowers seems so much more fun than eating broccoli or celery or spinach.

To see where I got this simple but fantastic idea from, please visit:  http://www.mpmschoolsupplies.com/ideas/3112/spring-plant-unit-eating-the-parts-of-a-plant/

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Orange Float or Sink?

Here’s a simple snack time experiment!  All you need is water, a glass and a Clementine (or Cuties, as my kiddos call them).  Takes only a few minutes.

Here’s what you need to get started:

  • small oranges like mandarins or clementines
  • Tall glass with water

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Ask your kids to predict what they think will happen when you place the orange in the water.

Add the orange to the water and observe.  Were their predictions correct?

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Peel the orange.  Now predict what will happen when you place the unpeeled orange into the water.

Add the unpeeled orange to the water and observe.  Were their predictions correct?  Ask them why the orange behaved differently with and without the peel.

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From these results, the boys wanted to know if it was just the peel that floated, so we tested that as well.

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The peels floated at the top as well.  What’s going on? We discussed the differences between the peel and the orange.  Is there air inside the orange?  What is special about the peel that it floats and also causes the entire orange to float?  Since the boys and I have done several floating and sinking experiments together, they immediately suggested that air and density had something to do with our observations.

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This was a great investigation on floating and sinking using oranges and a great snack time “quickie” science experiment!

The Science behind the Activity:

Oranges contain quite a bit of air inside them which causes the overall density of the orange to be less than that of water, so it floats.  Also, the peel keeps the water from getting inside the orange.  Once the peel is removed, water can enter through the membranes of the orange slices and will cause the orange to increase in density and sink.

For a more complicated explanation involving buoyancy and Archimedes’ Principle (a concept that is more challenging for most toddlers and preschoolers to understand) please visit the link where I got my idea from: http://www.playdoughtoplato.com/orange-buoyancy-science-experiment/ 

 

Flower Sorting Discovery Tray

Spring is in full swing and there a re beautiful flowers blooming everywhere!  Taking apart flowers and plants are a great way to explore the different parts that make up plants.  Set up this EASY Flower Sorting Discovery tray with either store bought flowers, flowers/plants from the yard, or flowers/plants from a nature walk.  Add a magnifying glass and some tweezers for some extra fun!

Here’s what you’ll need to get started:

  • assortment of flowers, whole and broken into parts (sunflowers are great!)
  • seeds, roots, stems, leaves, flowers
  • magnifying glasses (optional but so fun for the kids!)
  • trays or plates to contain the mess

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Set up a tray with the following labels: roots, stems, leaves, and petals, along with a magnifying glass.  I placed a sunflower on each tray to get the kids started.

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Invite them to sort through the plant parts and ask them why they sorted them the way they did.  Kids often interchange sticks and stems. Discuss how there are different shapes and sizes of leaves.  Have them tell you the colors of the petals.  Count the petals on the flowers or the leaves on the stem for a math extension.  This activity is great for the youngest toddlers and the older preschoolers and kindergarteners.

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Science behind the activity:

Kids love to sort and there is something exceptionally fun about being able to take something apart that you are not usually allowed to do.  It also gives them a chance to freely explore, make their own connections with the plants and sort all the parts.  Young children LOVE to sort.  Older ones love counting.  It’s also a great sensory activity where they can touch and smell the plants.

Extensions:

Take your tots out for a nature walk and have them collect parts of plants.  Especially after a good rain, it was fun for my boys to pull weeds from the yard and see the roots.  Then sort the treasures collected on the nature walk.  When the kids are done dissecting and sorting the plant/flower parts, use the petals and leaves and sticks to create your own art project by making a Nature Suncatcher or just an art activity.

Here’s an easy suncatcher we made with plants and flowers pressed in between 2 sheets of contact paper:

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Click on the link for more details and to see where I got my idea from: http://scrumdillydo.blogspot.com/2014/07/investigating-plants-and-flowers.html

Observing Pumpkins using our 5 Senses

It’s Pumpkin Season and there is so much fun learning to be had with pumpkins.   Before we began experimenting with our pumpkins, we decided to investigate our pumpkins using our 5 senses.  So before you get busy carving your pumpkin, take some time to explore and investigate your soon-to-be Jack O Lantern

Here’s what you need to get started:

  • Pumpkin (we used the small decorative ones with the Tiny Tots)
  • Pumpkin carving tool
  • Metal spoon or scooper
  • Tweezers
  • Magnifying Glass
  • tray/plate

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We first held the pumpkins in our hands and felt it from the outside using our hands (Sense of Touch).  Ask them questions to guide their observations: Is it hard or soft?  Bumpy or smooth? What about the stem?  Using their eyes (Sense of Sight), ask them what color it is and what shape it looks like.

Then I cut the top off and asked them to listen (Sense of Hearing) to the sound of the carving knife.  The older kids thought it sounded like a saw.

Then I had them lift it out themselves to see what was inside

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Using our Sense of Sight and Touch, I asked the kids to feel the inside of the pumpkin.  The pulp and seeds definitely were a deterrent for some of the youngest toddlers.

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This toddler won’t touch the seeds.

I asked them if they could use their Sense of Smell to describe what they smelled.  Most said the pumpkins were “stinky”.

I gave the Tiny Tots spoons and tweezers to scrape the seeds and pulp out.  Then I asked them to touch the seeds.  How does it feel?  Most said “slimy” and “slippery” and “gooey”.

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Magnifying glasses are fun to observe things with so I handed them small and big magnifying glasses.

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For older kids, I had them compare difference between the seeds of the white pumpkins and the orange ones.

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I also asked them to predict how many seeds might be in each pumpkin and asked them to count to see how good their guess was.  My superheroes kept losing count and eventually gave up 🙂

Lastly, the Sense of Taste was applied to the pumpkin seeds after we roasted them in the oven.  I asked my boys to hear the crunch of the seeds and the taste of the seeds.  Neither of them were fans of the roasted seeds.  Great, that means more for me!

Once you have hollowed out the pumpkins, try the Pumpkin Volcanoes experiment!

The Science behind the Activity:

This is a simple observation activity for the youngest scientists as well as older ones.  Identifying the 5 senses and the body parts that are used for each is perfect for toddlers and young preschoolers while using tweezers and spoons and observing is great for preschoolers and young elementary students.  So much learning from a simple activity!

Ziplock Greenhouse

This little Greenhouse is SOO easy to make and is so much fun for kids to watch their plants sprout!  I got this idea from an activity that my oldest son did in a Mommy n’ Me class I did with him when he was 2 years old.  It stuck with me and I was excited to try it with my Tiny Tots.

Here’s what you’ll need to get started:

  • Green paper (I used construction paper but cardstock would have been nicer)
  • Ziplock bag
  • Potting Soil
  • Spray bottle with water (or a small measuring cup to add water)
  • 2 seeds (we used bean seeds as they sprout quickly)
  • Scissors, pencil, ruler
  • Tape

The paper Greenhouse is not a necessary part of the experiment but it sure does look cute.  I drew a house shape on green paper and then cut out the center so that the ziplock bag could show through.

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We added about 1 cup of potting soil to the ziplock bag

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Then we sprayed the soil generously with water so that it was moist but not wet.

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We added 2 seeds to the soil and made sure they were covered.  IMG_1829I always add 2 seeds in case one seed doesn’t sprout.  It is devastating to little ones when their seeds don’t sprout:(

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Then seal up the Ziplock bag.

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Tape the bag to the back of the Greenhouse.  I used 2 strips of Painter’s Tape to hold it up (Mainly because my kids use up all my transparent tape for their art projects!  I think I need to hide one for my personal use!)

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Turn it around and tape it to a sunny window.  IMG_1838No need to water the soil since the moisture is trapped inside the bag.  The sun heats up the air in the bag much like a real greenhouse.  After 6 days of checking the bag, we saw the seed sprouting!

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Here’s a close up.  You can see the brown seed coat still attached to the tall sprout.  If you look closely in the picture below, you can see that the second seed has also barely begun to sprout, but it’s still buried in the soil.

IMG_1910One day later this little sprout grew super tall!  And now you can see the second sprout better.  And look at those roots!  Looks like it is time to plant these in a pot!

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My middle son was so excited that he grabbed a ruler and measured it screaming, “Mummy, it’s FOUR INCHES tall!”

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Now how fantastic is that?!

The Science Behind the Activity:

This experiment is a twist on the the typical “planting seeds” activities that many preschools do in the spring.  Gardening is a wonderful learning opportunity for kids of all ages!  Planting a seed and watching it sprout is so fun for kids to watch.  My boys checked their greenhouse every morning to monitor its progress.  For older children, this is a great way to teach them how to keep records, make daily height measurements and observations, draw scientific sketches of what they see and to experiment with different growing conditions.

The “greenhouse” part of the activity is planting the seeds in a bag.  Since it is a closed system, the moisture in the soil evaporates from the soil by the heat inside but then “rains” down as it cools so the soil doesn’t need to be watered.  The bag also retains heat much like the glass of a real greenhouse.  The clear bag allows kids to watch the plant sprout from the seed which is not usually possible when seeds are planted in pots.

Extension:

Carefully plant the bean sprout into a pot with proper soil and drainage. Make daily measurements to see how fast the plant grows.  For older kids, make a graph of the daily growth.

Where I got my idea from: My son’s “pre”-preschool teacher, Erin O’Neill.  She is a fantastic example of what a preschool teacher should be like:)

 

Rainbow Celery

Ever wonder how plants “drink” water if they have no mouth?  This simple colorful experiment demonstrates how celery “drink” water and explores the concept of “capillary motion” (without the long scientific term of course)

Here’s what you need to get started:

  • 6 Celery stalks with the leaves
  • 6 clear jars or cups
  • Water
  • Some food coloring (we used red, yellow and blue to create 6 rainbow colors)IMG_1416

Fill all of the glasses halfway with water and add a few drops of food coloring to each to get the following 6 colors: red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple.  Add one celery to each different glass.

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At this point, I ask my superheroes to guess what they think will happen over time.  This is a good time for them to draw/color in their observations.

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We checked on the jars 2 days later and this is what we saw:

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The darker colored water showed the most dramatic changes in the color of the leaves.  The superheroes thought the colors of the celery leaves were very cool.  They also noticed that the yellow appeared to have no changes in leaf color.  We talked about why this might be the case.

The Science behind the Activity:

This is an example of ‘capillary motion’, the process by which plants pull water from their roots and bring it up against the force of gravity.    I have also seen this done with white carnations and daisies where the flower petals turn different colors.  Pretty neat, huh?

Follow this link to see where I got the idea from and more details about the experiment: http://www.coffeecupsandcrayons.com/celery-science-experiment-kids/