Pine Cone Science Experiment for Kids | Why Do Pinecones Open?

Fall is in full swing around here and with that come pinecones, seeds, and berries dropping from the trees. This has put the kids in full project mode, as they are fascinated with pine cones, conifers and anything related at the moment. This week we did a really awesome pine cone science experiment after the boys wanted to find out why pine cones open and close.

Fall Pinecone Experiment


The other day we were out on our walk when the boys started to notice the pinecones all over the ground. First we picked up one, then another, then another. Before we knew it, we were carting an entire backpack of pinecones to the house. Suddenly, we were completely immersed in a project about pine cones.

We started by asking questions, making observations, and having conversations about all of the differences between the types of trees we found the pinecones under and the different sizes and shapes.

Investigating Pinecones

We spent a day just investigating, drawing, and dissecting the pinecones. The next morning, the boys noticed something amazing… the pinecones that were tight and closed shut were now opened up and round. They were so perplexed. So, you can guess what we did. Yep, we did a science experiment.

Setting Up Our Pine Cone Science Experiment

I believe in student led inquiry. This means that I did not tell them how to conduct this experiment. Instead I asked questions. Why do you think the pinecones open? How can we test it? What variable can we change this time.

The boys couldn’t decide between testing air temperature or moisture. When it rained outside that morning and they saw the pinecones closed, they immediately thought that the moisture was the reason for the closing and opening of the cones.

Pinecone Experiment for KidsMaterials:

3 Jars
3 Pinecones (all the same size)
Warm Water
Cold Water

Tools Needed:


Pine Cone Experiment with Water

The set-up for this experiment is really quite simple. After we measured, sketched and observed our pinecones, we placed 1 pinecone in each jar. My children are older so we just used glass jars. If you have younger children, you might want to use a plastic container for safety.

We labeled each jar and filled the jars with water to the top. We did one jar with warm water and one with cold water. For our control group, we left the middle one open with only air to use as a comparison and to document the change we saw over time.

 Conducting the Pine Cone Experiment

Why do Pinecones Open and Close

The change started occurring IMMEDIATELY. In fact, we were shocked how quickly the changes started happening. When we set up the experiment, we thought we would leave them set up for a day and come back the next day to see the change. We were shocked.

Recording Data for Fall Science ExperimentWe decided to start notating the change with drawings every 5 minutes. The boys drew in their record sheet the changes they saw and we discussed how things were changing.

At this point the boys also made some other discoveries that we never planned on.

1. Pinecones float.

2. Glass that is curved mixed with water makes a magnifying effect.

Can you guess some of the extensions the boys want to do next?

What Happens to Pinecones

We continued the same procedures repeatedly until the pinecones were both closed. Note: allow around 20 minutes to see both pinecones close.

We werent’ done yet. Now the boys wanted to leave the water out over night and see if the pinecones changed any more. Guess what? There was a change! I can’t wait to tell you about what we did next!

Here’s a hint…. it wasn’t the pinecone that changed.

Fall Science Experiment for Kids with Pinecones

I never thought I would love playing and exploring with pinecones so much. I guess that this is what happens when you let kids guide your learning. You come up with ideas you never would have thought of yourself.

More Fall Science We Have Been Doing

Stem Challenge Building Structures with Candy PumpkinsDissolving Pumpkin Candy Experiments20-Must-Try-Fall-Science-Experiments-for-Kids-210x300

What cool science experiments have you done lately? I can’t wait to see them!  I would love to know! FacebookTwitterGoogle+PinterestInstagram or subscribe by email. I can’t wait to hear your ideas.


Saturday Science Blog Hop


Every Saturday we will get so many wonderful ideas linked up from around the web that we have decided we want to feature some of these great ideas. That’s why every Saturday, I will pick from the posts linked up and feature my absolute favorites. This might be a hard choice to make, luckily you can always head over to last week’s post and check out more great science resources!

This Week’s Feature:Student Led Learning (Magnets)



Student Let Learning | The Science Kiddo

Follow Dayna :: Lemon Lime Adventures’s board Learning: Science Lessons on Pinterest.


LEGO Math | Place Value from The Science Kiddo Ears and Sound from Suzy Homeschooler  


Discover how to get siblings to get along even when all they do is annoy each other with the Sibling “Get Along” Poster Pack!

35 thoughts on “Pine Cone Science Experiment for Kids | Why Do Pinecones Open?”

  1. Pamela Spann

    We were using a nice fully opened pine cone in our sink and float experiment. We noticed after a few days it closed up tight.

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  3. My kids and I did this today and it was the coolest experiment! We branched off into so many different lessons on pine trees themselves all thanks to your experiment 🙂

    1. Lemon Lime Adventures

      We saw your pictures on Instagram and were so excited. My son couldn’t believe someone tried something because of them. 🙂 We did a ton with pines as well and different kinds of trees, the pictures of those just aren’t as fun.

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  5. This was on my list to do with the kids. We hear the pincones in the pine trees crackling all the time. We have a ton of them here in our yard. I think it’s great to do student led activities. It keeps them wanting to learn. This is a really neat experiment.

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  14. I’m in LOVE with the wonderful pine cone experiment! Thank you for adding it to the “It’s Friday We’re in Love Link Party!” You are being featured in this weeks pine cone round up!

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