Classroom Activity
Planting Magic Beans
Try this activity to "plant the seeds" of early science skills.

AGES 3–4


  • book: Jack and the Beanstalk* by Matt Faulkner (Scholastic, Inc.; $3.25)
  • dried lima beans
  • paper towels
  • plastic sandwich bags
  • small plastic cup or milk container
  • soil
  • chart paper and brown craft paper
  • marker
  • plastic scoop (for soil)

Objective: This lima bean activity will help children develop science skills including prediction, observation, and recording while encouraging language development.


  1. Read children the folktale Jack and the Beanstalk. Then show them a handful of dried lima beans. Ask them if they know what type of bean it is. Invite children to plant the beans two different ways — in a cup with soil and wrapped in paper in a plastic bag — to see if a beanstalk will grow. Prepare a sheet of chart paper listing the two lima bean experiments. Ask children to predict what will happen in each experiment.

  2. Invite children to work in small groups to prepare the first experiment. Provide children with a plastic cup. Assist them in filling their cups halfway with soil. Place two lima beans in the soil. Cover with more soil. Add water. Write each child's name on a piece of masking tape and attach to the cups. Place the cups in a plastic bin or container to prevent it spilling and keep them in a sunny area of the room.

  3. For the next experiment, provide each child with a plastic sandwich bag, a damp paper towel, and two lima beans. Ask children to carefully wrap their lima beans in the damp paper towel and then place them into the plastic bags. Label children's bag with their names. Find another sunny area in the classroom to place the bags.

  4. Prepare two five-day observation charts on long sheets of brown craft paper so that children can record their observations for two weeks. List each day of the week and make two columns below each day to record observations for the Planted Beans and the Wrapped Beans.

  5. Plan a time each day for children to observe the growth of their beans. Remind children to water their beans when the soil feels dry and to dampen the cloth if it becomes dry. Record children's observations daily. Compare the growth of their lima beans with their initial predictions

Optional: Photograph the process of the children's experiments to document their learning experience. Children can assist in placing the photographs in sequence and provide dictations to describe their observations and the outcome of their experiments. Create a display in your science area or class bulletin board.

Curriculum Connection

Cooking: Succotash: It's as Much Fun to Say as It Is to Eat.
Invite children to assist in preparing this delicious vegetable dish. Use canned, frozen, or freshly prepared lima beans and corn. You can also add finely chopped carrots, red bell peppers, or tomatoes. Place all of the cut vegetables in a bowl and invite children to stir them together until they are all mixed. Place the vegetable mixture into a pot to cook. When finished, add a small amount of butter or margarine and a dash of salt. Serve for snack or lunch. Ask children to make up silly words that rhyme with succotash.

Giants Have Feelings, Too/Jack and the Beanstalk
by Dr. Alvin Granowsky
(Raintree Steck-Vaughn Publishers, 1996; $5.95)

Jasper's Beanstalk
by Nick Butterworth
(Aladdin, 1997; $5.95)

Seeds Grow*
by Angela Shelf Medaris
(Scholastic Inc.; $3.99)