Life Cycle of a Seed

Playful Learning: Life Cycle of a Seed

Watching a simple bean seed sprout offers children the opportunity to observe and document change over time. As the bean goes through its changes, children can witness the life cycle of a plant and identify the various parts as they unfold before their very eyes.


  • Bean Seeds
  • Clear glass jar
  • Paper Towels
  • Spray bottle with water
  • Parts of a Bean Seed (sign-up for our newsletter below)

The Process

No matter how many times I do this activity, whether it is with toddlers or grown-ups, I am always in awe of the power and determination of the seed to bring forth new life. Witnessing the process of the radicle breaking through the seed coat, taking root and flourishing gives you the opportunity to explore the cycle of life with your children.

  1. Start by gathering a handful of cotton balls and insert them into your glass jar. Make sure that there are enough cotton balls to place sufficient pressure on the side of the jar to hold up a bean seed.
  2. Place one to three bean seeds between the glass of your jar and the cotton balls, leaving enough space for them to grow.
  3. Use your spray bottle to dampen the cotton balls.
  4. Place the jar in a sunny spot and watch nature take its course!

You can add a valuable dimension to this experience by simultaneously planting the same bean seeds in a garden or container. As children watch their garden grow, the bean seed in the jar offers a behind the scenes look at what is happening under the soil. It is also wonderful for children to experience the process of growing something from seed and seeing it through until it reaches the dinner table.

Some helpful vocabulary terms that can be introduced as each part of the bean plant presents itself are:

  • Seed Coat – Outer layer that protects the seed
  • Cotyledon – Part of the seed that stores food for early growth
  • Hypocotyl – Helps to push the first leaves above ground and becomes part of the stem.
  • First True Leaves – The first leaves to emerge from the seedling and the beginning of photosynthesis for the plant
  • Primary Root – The first root to emerge from the seedling. The primary root grows downward. The functions of both the primary and secondary roots are to anchor the plant to the ground, to absorb water and minerals from the soil and to store food.
  • Secondary Roots – Secondary roots emerge after the primary root and grow out to the sides.

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