Build a Terrarium

Build a Terrarium Activity
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Updated on Aug 19, 2014
Build a Terrarium Activity

Here's a great idea for recycling plastic: Create a mini plant habitat with your kids and learn what it takes to make an ecosystem work. Explain to your children that they'll be providing the water and sun for the little world they're making—its survival is in their hands! Don't be surprised if feelings of eco-responsibility start sprouting right before your eyes.

What You Need:

  • Plastic container with air opening
  • Scissors
  • Soil
  • Small plant that likes humidity
  • Pebbles
  • Small plastic animals
  • Bits of bark
  • Masking tape

What You Do:

  1. If necessary, cut off the top of the plastic container so that your child can easily reach into it. Be sure to save the top! Put tape around the edge of the area you just cut to cover the sharp edge.
  2. Now have you child sprinkle some pebbles into the bottom of the terrarium for drainage. 
  3. Fill the terrarium ¾ full with soil and make a hole in the soil for the plant.
  4. Carefully place the plant into the hole and surround it with soil.
  5. Arrange some pebbles, plastic animals, and bits of bark to make it look like a nature scene.
  6. Lastly, water your plant and put the "lid" back on the container, leaving the airhole open. You now have a terrarium! Make sure to put it somewhere there is light from the sun.

Tell your child as you are working that it is important for plants to have water and sunlight to grow. Plants turn water and sunlight into energy in a process called "photosynthesis." The terrarium is a mini landscape like you would find in nature, but the missing parts are rain clouds and sunshine so we have to add those parts. Because we have a lid on the terrarium, it retains a lot of humidity so it will not need watering very often. Turn the terrarium every once in a while to give the plant equal sunlight on all sides.

For a little added learning, try a simple experiment by building two other terrariums with different types of plants. Give them the same amount of water and sunlight (explain that the things that stay the same in an experiment are called "controls"). Then track which types of plants grow best in the terrarium. Be sure to make guesses with your child before you start the experiment, and then evaluate those guesses at the end.