Mixing Earth Materials in a Jar Science Activity for Kids

Hands-on exploration of earth materials combines outdoor play with scientific discovery. This simple science activity gets you digging for clues as you collect raw materials to mix in a jar.

Preschool science activity mix nature materials in a jar

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When kids have opportunities to get outside and explore nature they will stuff their pockets with pine cones, search under rocks for creepy crawlies, and want to bring everything home!

They will probably want to experiment with materials and ask a lot of questions too. 

This mixing raw materials activity is easy to do with kids, and promotes observation and discovery.


Related: Tree Puzzle Outdoor Activity


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



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!

When the materials are mixed, slowly turn the jar.

Can you still see each of the materials you added?


earth materials mixed in a jar nature science activity for preschoolers


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


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

I repeated the experiment using less sand.

This allowed more rocks to sit on top of the sand, making them more visible, but many 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


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.

Be prepared to get your hands dirty in this hands-on activity. And you might want to have some extra jars on hand 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 inconvenience!


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? 

Measure and weigh one cup of dry sand in a container and an equal amount of wet sand in another container. Which weighs more?

Related: Science in a Jar roundup from Homeschool Preschool

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 and observing. 

Science activities promote wonder, exploration, and discovery.


STEAM Kids 50+ Activities 

STEAM Kids e-book resource


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