Toddler Science: Creating a Terrarium


Toddler Science: Create a terrarium with a plastic soda bottle. A fun Green Project for kids. Planting is a great kids science activity that introduces many concepts naturally. Using a soda bottle, make this easy terrarium. Great as a classroom activity too.

Build a Soda Bottle Terrarium


  • One 2-liter bottle of soda (with cap)

  • Choice of Small Plants (Ivy is a good choice)

  • Small stones or pebbles to line one to two inches deep on the bottom.

  • Potting Soil
  • Sharp Scissors (adult only)

  • Plastic spoon

  • Newspaper to work on

  • Paper plate to remove plant from pot and separate individual plants.

  • Charcoal Granules (optional)

  • Spaghum Moss (optional)


  • Cut bottom half of soda bottle four-six inches from the bottom. You may need to poke a hole with tip of scissors to start the cut. (Adult only)
  • First, put one inch of coarse sand, gravel, or pebbles. This is the drainage layer that captures excess moisture.
how to make a terrarium using a soda bottleCut the bottom of the soda bottle
  • Add a thin layer of charcoal granules. This keeps odors from developing. You can buy this at a well stocked pet store or at a garden center. (optional)
  • Add a layer of Sphagnum Moss. This serves to keep soil from seeping into the drainage layer.(optional)
  • Add 3-4 inches of potting soil.
adding dirt to the terrariumAdd dirt to the terrarium
  • Select the plants you want. Remove from pot and gently separate a single plant.
  • With plastic spoon dig a small hole where the plant is to be placed.
  • Plant your plants carefully. Create a small hole and set or tip your plant in. Make sure all roots are in the hole.
  • Fill soil on and around the roots, and tamp down lightly. Add a spoonful of soil if necessary. Give space to grow between plants.
adding plants to your soda bottle terrariumAdd your plants to your terrarium
  • After adding your plants, add water to make soil moist but not soggy.
  • Slide top of bottle over the bottom. If it is too tight, make a small 1/2 inch slit on each piece and fit together carefully.
  • Put the cap back on the top of the soda bottle.
Add water to your soda bottle terrariumAdd water to your terrarium

Tips and Suggestions

  • Gather all the materials needed before beginning this toddler science activity. Cut the soda bottles ahead of time.
  • When selecting plants, choose ones that have similar growing conditions. Since you don't want to keep it in direct sunlight, read the growing conditions on the tag at the store.
  • Keep your Terrarium out of direct sunlight. Direct sunlight can cause temperatures in the enclosed environment to rise rapidly and your container will get foggy.
  • It is best to use a spray bottle to spray water into the container rather than pouring it in. Close the container and check it daily for the first few days. If the soil appears too dry, add a little more water. If it appears too moist and the container becomes foggy, take the top off for a while to allow some evaporation.
  • You can find some of the materials at the Dollar Tree or similar stores. Pebbles, containers and even the peat moss. Each store may vary their selection so call ahead.

Educational Tips

  • Terrariums are a self contained environment. Once they are established, they need nothing from the outside except a little indirect sunlight. If it is placed in the right amount of sunlight, they thrive without water for several days to a few weeks.
  • Moisture in the Terrarium evaporates from the soil and plant leaves. It condenses on the Terrarium walls (sides of the soda bottle) You can point out the water droplets to your child to show how the plants are being watered. The condensed water then falls down and re-moistens the soil. As long as the top is sealed, this process will continue for months.
  • Note that on the first couple days, the container may appear the third day water droplets started to form.
water droplets forming in terrarium

Glass Terrarium

glass terrariumGlass terrarium allows you to see all the layers
Using a glass container is another option. This of course must be done with close supervision and have a safe place to put it when finished. The glass container allows for easy viewing of all the layers. When selecting your container make sure your child's hand can fit easily into the top of the container.

Fun plastic figurines make this terrarium special!

Scientific Processes

  • Seeing the plants.
  • Feeling the soil and plants
  • Silent Showing how to dig a hole by demonstrating
  • Oral Lots of verbal discussion when purchasing plants, learning about the different types and giving directions
  • Pictorial Reading a book or researching online plants to grow
  • Measuring where to cut, amount of pebbles and dirt
  • Quantity Comparison How many seeds or plants planted