Growing Lima Beans

One of my favorite but easiest science project is growing lima beans. I use it to teach about the life cycle of plants and also give kids a “job” (watering and caring for a plant). All you need are dried lima beans (you can find these at every grocery store), a paper towel, sandwich bag, tape, a window, a cup, and soil.

First, talk about what the lima bean looks like now. Is it soft? Smooth? Bumpy? Etc. Then help your child wet a paper towel enough so that it’s pretty damp but not dripping. Have your child fold the paper towel in half with the lima bean in the middle and then place it in the sandwich bag. Tape it to a window that gets a good amount of sun.

Observe the lima bean over the next few days. It won’t destroy it to take it out of the bag and paper towel. Just be gentle with it if the roots start growing through the paper towel. Be sure to keep the paper towel damp. Talk about what the bean looks like and feels like after it’s been in the paper towel for a few days. Here’s what ours looked like after 4 days.

Once your bean has sufficient root growth (see above picture), it’s time to transfer it to a cup. We found our cups in the dollar spot of Target, but any cup will do. Have your child put enough soil in the cup so that it’s about 1/2 to 2/3 full. Encourage them to dig a small hole in the middle of the soil and help them gently put their lima bean in root side down and then cover with soil. Then have them water it enough so that the soil is wet but not soaked.

During the next few days allow them to water it and watch for it to pop up to the surface.

As the days pass, your lima bean plants will grow taller and may need more room to grow. Transfer them to a bigger pot if needed.

Eventually, it will produce flowers and then bean pods.

Extend the activity: Read a book about how seeds and beans grow. This book is my favorite, especially for younger children (even 2-3 year olds can grasp the concepts in this book, but it’s also appropriate for older kids). Print out ***sequence cards and help your child put them in the correct order. Talk about what plants need to grow and how your plant is getting them. You can even discuss photosynthesis.

*** Note: You can take out some of the sequence cards from the link provided to make it more simple for younger children.

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