Free creative teaching resource – Bottled up

Rather than putting a ship in a bottle (quite a tricky procedure), why not start a garden in a bottle instead?

As the weather improves and plants start emerging in gardens what better time is there to increase children’s observation skills by asking them what they have noticed changing. Extend this activity by planting a garden in a bottle (also known as a terrarium) and see how it grows.

What children should learn: Knowledge and understanding of the world – to observe plants grown in a garden jar.

What you need: Plastic sweet jars or round fish bowls (you’ll need to make a lid for these); clean gravel; barbecue charcoal; potting compost; clean fine soil; dessertspoons and teaspoons (to use as shovels); small house plants such as maidenhair fern or polka dot plant.

Activity: Using your hands or a dessertspoon, thinly layer the gravel, then charcoal, then potting compost and finally a slightly thicker layer of soil in the bottom of the jar (the jar can be upright or laid on its side). Press them down lightly. Using the teaspoon (perhaps tied to a stick to make it easier), plant a couple of plants in the jar. Press the soil down as firmly as possible and water the plants. Put the lid on the jar. If it gets cloudy, take the lid off for a short period. Do not overwater!

Extension: Draw the garden in a jar. Make a graph of how long the plants take to grow. If you have more than one jar, place them in different areas and observe the difference in the growth of the plants.

Talk about: Why does the jar mist up? What colour leaves does your plant have? How are the leaves shaped?

Bottle gardens

This activity is taken from Gardening – Activities for 3–5 Year Olds, which gives children a wealth of knowledge, skills and experiences. It offers opportunities to grow and care for seeds and plants, to observe and record how they grow and to discover, perhaps, why they didn’t grow! An outdoor area is not a prerequisite – many of the activities can be carried out inside.

The practical activities include:

  • growing gardens in jars
  • creating minature gardens
  • investigating how much different types of soil weigh
  • making leaf prints
  • pressing flowers

All of the 10 books in the Activities for 3-5 Year Olds Series contain tried-and-tested actvities, linked to the six key areas of learning. They are an invaluable resource of fun, easy-to-use ideas for all early years settings, from preschools and nurseries to reception classes and day nurseries.


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Filed under Key Stage, Key Stage 0, Key Stage 1, Nursery and Preschool, Teaching Ideas

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