From the Archives: 8 Ways to Explore Geology with Kids!

We have added so many new readers to the Simple Kids community in the past few weeks.  If you are new to Simple Kids, welcome!  For those who have been here awhile, thanks for hanging around with me!

I thought I might go back in the Simple Kids archives to dig up some of the great articles Joan wrote when Simple Kids first launched earlier this year. With most of us spending more time in the outdoors this summer, I thought it would be appropriate to re-play Joan’s article on creating a connection between kids and geology.  Enjoy!

kids and rocks
Photo by Rick

Green living has come to the forefront of the world’s focus. What better way to introduce good environmental habits to my kids than starting with the dirt and the rocks and the true, beautiful grit the world is made of? Preschoolers most certainly understand rocks before recycling, dirt before biodegradable. I have dreamt up a starter kit of activities for those of you finding this approach appealing.

Geology Activity Ideas

1) If your yard is equipped with a sandbox, sneak some interesting earth-related toys into the depths, and give your kid a shovel & a collander. If you don’t have a sandbox, improvise- maybe a cardboard box full of oatmeal? I would have a hard time finding much more than playground pebbles to bury as artifacts in my neighborhood, so I would keep it light & fun with fake dinosaurs, play jewelry, bones from our Operation game… or anything that will grab my kids’ attention & keep them interested. Once the paleontologists have finished finding their materials, explain to them the realism of the occupation. Let them know that the ground itself is a timeline of all the life that ever tread upon it. It may be difficult in many cases with young children, but try & convey the essence of history… and how much time the earth has encapsulated just by existing. Paraphrased, perhaps.

2) The Green Link: As soon as your child understands the idea of the earth as a box of treasures from our past, then you can let them know that not everything is good for the earth. Recycling can ensue naturally from there, having already established a foundation for the concept that you can refer back to.

3) If you want to go a little further, re-do the paleontology activity in the sandbox, but bury things that are good or normal for the earth and also items that are damaging. Once the objects have been uncovered, you can categorize together, with you supplying the reasoning for each if necessary.

4) I love volcano-making fun. Geology rocks for sure. No matter your child’s age, this easy easy activity is great for explaining volcanoes, and the levels of the earth from the crust to the core. Some kids will be ready to dive into plate tectonics, so act as their springboard and use their learning style as a guide for how to approach illustrating the point. My learning style includes a little of everything, so I pretty much use whatever I have on-hand to make it work. I’d LOVE a cross-sectional model of Earth, but it’s low on the list so I draw these concepts with crayon to the best of my ability for now, and I learn more in the process.

5) I think it’d be fun to simulate an earthquake, too. I’ll take the box springs out from under our mattress, then rumble the bed from below with the kids on sitting on the mattress above. This activity is definitely a stretch, but I just want to introduce the concept of an earthquake while associating it with volcanoes and the way they both originate below the earth’s surface. Quaking a trampoline from underneath would do the exact same thing.

sedimentary rock

6) If you happen to have play dough in different, distinct colors that aren’t muddled & indistinguishable… I don’t… make pancakes out of the different colors and stack them, alternating colors. You don’t have to mix the colors, just stack them. Get a butter knife & cut out a section of the stack to illustrate sedimentary rock. Again, the earth’s age plays so many different roles in the version on Earth that we know. Showing your kids that even rock has age may make an impression, but if it doesn’t you’ve still taught them about a really cool part of Earth. I love driving through canyons & passing the “Watch for Falling Rock” signs. It makes me feel like Earth is alive even in its supposedly lifeless rock formations.

7) While you have the dough out make 4 pancakes (not necessarily round) about 1/4″ high out of one color (they will mix). It doesn’t matter if they’re the same size. You take two, and have your child take two. With one in each hand, spread your arms out, then slowly smash (gently) the two masses you’re holding together. You’ve just simulated mountain formation with your child. If you’re already introduced them to plate tectonics, you can continue the discussion and explain that the same force that causes volcanoes and earthquakes made the mountains. •

8 ) Make a pile of sugar about 2″ high in a medium mixing bowl, and have a cup of water nearby. Tilt the bowl toward you so that the sugar shifts closer to the side of the bowl rather than the middle. OVER THE SINK, slowly pour water from the far side of the bowl through the middle of the sugar mound. When the water has erroded a valley through the sugar, you have successfully simulated valley formation.

I hope my little ideas inspire some action in this sector of your teaching.  Here are some additional geology for kids resources.

When do you feel the most connected to the world around you? Can you tell when your kids are connected?

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  1. Thank you so much. I’m saving this. It’s about 2 weeks of science for home school:).

  2. All great ideas, thanks for sharing.

    Aimee’s last blog post..Pecan-Streusel Coffee Cake

  3. One of my sons is planning a volcano-themed birthday party in a couple of months. So we’ll be cooking up some explosive ideas for that event!


    steadymom’s last blog post..Steady Thought for the Day

  4. My kids made volcanoes with their grandma a couple weeks ago and had so much fun. I need to send you some of the pictures-they’re very cute.

    Elizabeth’s last blog post..A Good Weekend

  5. This is wonderful – and I LOVE the follow-up resources. Thanks 🙂