Science and Nature for Kids {Make a Rainforest in a Jar}

When I was a kid, I was obsessed with all things pertaining to tropical rainforests. In fact, I vividly remember my fourth grade science fair project being a rainforest in a jar experiment. I guess learning about the rainforests is what started me down the road to becoming a lover of the outdoors and nature. When I was 12 years old, I finally had the privilege to visit the only tropical rainforest that is part of the US–the El Yunque rainforest in Puerto Rico. It was like a dream come true.

So today when I awoke sick for the fourth day in a row, I knew I needed to find a way for the kids to get outdoors. Making a rainforest in a jar seemed like a good project that wouldn’t do me in. It seems I have passed down my love of rainforests to Little Man, who even reads some of my favorite childhood forest books now at bedtime. I adore that!

So here is how you, too, can create a mini rainforest in a jar. It’s a great way to view and learn about the water cycle which is vital to the rainforest’s existence. We used materials we already had on hand and only used plants from the backyard.

Materials Needed:
Potting Soil
Plants (mosses, ferns and african violets work well)
Jar/container with lid (even a 2 L soda bottle will work)

All of our materials came from our home and backyard. But if needed, you can purchase all the items you need at a local hardware store.

Fill the bottom of your container with a layer of small rocks or pebbles.


Next add a layer of potting soil. Make sure to only fill the container up about 1/3 of the way full.



Now it’s time to add some plants. We threw in some moss, rocks and tiny plants from the backyard.




Since this is a tiny rainforest, afterall, I guess it’s ok to add your gorilla as well.


Now water your tiny forest and place the lid on. Set the terrarium in a place where it can receive bright but indirect sunlight. For us, that’s our kitchen window sill.


After a little bit of time has passed, you can see the water cycle has begun.


The warmth of the sunlight that gets trapped inside turns the water to vapor. That water vapor can then condense onto the cool glass and eventually fall back down to the plants (hello, precipitation!) The plants take in the water and then release it, starting the cycle all over again.


Be sure to open the lid and let some fresh air circulate every couple of weeks to prevent mold from growing. You shouldn’t have to water your little rainforest too much, but if it starts drying out, be sure to give it a food watering. Now sit back and enjoy your tiny rainforest!

15 thoughts on “Science and Nature for Kids {Make a Rainforest in a Jar}

  1. beechcreekproject

    Love the little gorilla. Great backyard project. Now all I need is the sound of little feet in my house to share some of these projects. Not sure grandchildren are near in the future but I have lots of ideas saved up if ever happens. 😀

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  3. Rochelle

    I just wanted to tell you thanks for this fantastic project idea. We made them in our Wolf den this afternoon and the kids were so excited. The plastic animal or insect at the end is the cherry on top. THANK YOU!

  4. latebloomershow

    I LOVE this!! Wish I had done this when my boys were small. You are so clever! I do have a smaller jar with compost/manure for the grub I caught. It’s been in there for two weeks now I guess. I had put holes in the lid for air. There is moisture in there, but not much. I put a small pineapple guava in there to decompose if it needs additional nutrients. Have not seen anything, so it’s either dead, or a pupae. Thanks for a great post, and lovely photos! – Kaye

  5. Claire

    Awesome idea. Project Rain forest for my 3 year old son Noah is set up for tomorrow! Can’t wait! Thank you for the idea xx

  6. Cyndi Reece

    Love this idea!!!!!! Have to wait til our snow topped yard thaws out, already have jar tryint to wait patiently!!!!! Thanks…..

  7. Marissa

    That is so awesome and looks like lot of fun. I am going to try it in my pre-k class I think the children will enjoy. Thank you.


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