Kids Science in a Jar Mixing Earth Materials

Mixing earth materials in a jar combines outdoor play with scientific discovery. Dig for clues and shake up some answers as you conduct some simple science in a jar.

Preschool science activity mix nature materials in a jar

This post contains affiliate links. See our disclosure.


What's in your kids pockets? 

When kids get outside and explore nature they are likely to stuff their pockets with pine cones, creepy crawlies, and stones.

Then they'll want to bring everything home!

They'll probably want to examine things and ask a lot of questions too. 

Related: Pine Cone Trail Outdoor Play

Messy, outdoor activities will sharpen kids senses and build awareness of the environment.

Give kids the opportunity to build skills with lots of outdoor play in nature.

This mixing raw materials activity is easy to do with kids, promoting exploration and discovery - with just a little dirt and mess on the side.


Mixing earth materials science activity

For this activity, collect SAND, SOIL, STONES or other available materials in separate containers.

  • The sand in this activity was taken from the sandbox, the soil from a deck planter.
  • The stones came from our gravel driveway, so there is a mixture of sizes small stones.


Add sand gravel and soil to a plastic jar


Conduct the experiment

Add the materials to the bottle in layers. I used a plastic peanut butter jar with a lid that seals tightly.


Mix water with earth materials in a jar for a preschool science activity


Add water to cover the materials well. SHAKE well to mix the contents!



earth materials mixed in a jar nature science activity for preschoolers


Make observations

1.When the materials are mixed, slowly turn the jar.

Can you still see each of the materials you added?


2.Let the jar stand for a few minutes. Observe how the materials separate as they settle.

Can you see some materials that you didn't notice before in the sand, soil or rocks?


Materials separate in a jar when the water settles


3.The longer the jar sits, the clearer the water becomes.

  • Trial and error: I repeated the experiment using less sand. This allowed more rocks to sit on top of the sand, making them more visible. Many stones were still embedded in the sand at the bottom of the jar.


Pour water out of the jar of mixed materials in a science activity for kids


4.Slowly empty the jar. The sand and other embedded materials will flow out with the water. Some wet sand sticks to the bottom.

  • Add more water, shake the jar, and pour.


Related: Science in a Jar roundup from Homeschool Preschool


Draw conclusions

Materials settle in layers.

Sand sticks to the bottom of the jar.

Water becomes clearer as the jar stands without movement.

What else have you discovered?


Learning through play

1. Before the water is added:

Make predictions about what will happen when a) the dry materials are mixed together b) the water is added c) the mixture settles.

2. After the water is added:

Observe which of the materials you can see after the mixture settles. Sometimes the soil will have small sticks or other materials that remain floating in the water.

Is there any new material that you didn't notice before? 

Is the water muddy or clear?

How much time does it take for the water to become reasonably clear?

Why did the sand stick to the bottom of the jar when the water was poured out? 

Which weighs more, wet sand or dry sand?


You don't need to have all the answers to conduct hands-on science activities with your preschooler.

Kids will learn as they play, mixing and measuring, building, creating, observing. 


Be prepared to get your hands dirty.

Have some extra jars on hand like these to store treasures kids will want to save.



The joy of digging into the properties of earth materials with kids should make up for any mess or inconvenience!

Science activities promote wonder, exploration, and discovery.


STEAM Kids 50+ Activities 

STEAM Kids e-book resource


Share this page

Share this page