Cave Stalactites and Capillary Action

By Marnie from Carrots are Orange

Preschoolers can learn science too. If you don’t believe me, go and check out Steve Spangler’s website. Search his experiments and do one with your child. They may not get all the abstract concepts but their brain will fire neurons in ways that when they hit a later age they will be prepared for more complex ideas.

Within the context of learning about Land Forms, we explored caves by taking a look at images of Caves Around the World. So, a project we absolutely had to try out recently was so simple yet so powerful. I have to share it with you.


With guidance from Steve Spangler, we created a cave pillar in just a few days with a few simple items:

  • Washing Soda (I purchased this item from Amazon)
  • Warm Water
  • Thin Dish Towel
  • String, Yarn or Twine
  • Two Cups or Bowls
  • Small Plate
  • A Spoon





  1. Filled our two mason jars with hot water, leave an inch at the top of your beakers to avoid spilling Add approximately 1/2 cup of washing soda to each beaker and stir both beakers until all of the washing soda is dissolved.
  2. Roll the towel or wash cloth tightly
  3. Cut three lengths of twine and tied the washcloth on both ends and in the middle
  4. Put each end of the towel into its own jar, making sure that the ends touched the bottom
  5. Pull the towel’s center down so that it hangs towards the table
  6. Put the plate under the center of the towel
  7. Wait three to five days. It was fun to check on our cave pillar to see the progress.
  8. After the waiting period is up, you should have a pillar that stretches all the way from the washcloth to the plate!


For my 3.5 year old and I, this project was about observation. I introduced new language such as “capillary action” which is actually quite easy for young children to understand. Capillary action is similar to process of a tree or plant to transfer water and nutrients through the ground through roots and trunks and then into leaves and branches. The visual aspects of the experiment were good enough for our purposes. With older children, there is fascinating science behind the experiment that you can explore together. You can learn more about the science behind this Preschool Chemistry experiment right here on Steve Spangler’s website.

We love doing science in our home. Here are a few Montessori inspired Preschool Chemistry Science experiments we’re working on this month:

Shiny as a New Penny


  • Lemon Juice
  • Old Pennies
  • A Q-Tip or Small Cloth


  1. Rub the lemon juice on a penny
  2. Rub hard
  3. Look at the penny
  4. Ask your child: “What do you see?”

The penny changes color. Copper becomes tarnished when exposed to air. The acid in the lemon juice removes the tarnish from the copper.




  • Jar with a lid
  • Oil
  • Vinegar


  1. Pour oil in the jar
  2. Pour vinegar in the jar
  3. Screw the lid on tightly.
  4. Observe the layers. Ask your child: “What do you see?”
  5. Shake up the jar until the layers disappear
  6. Observe the layers coming back together.
  7. Ask your child: “What do you see?”

The layers disappear when we shake the jar. Water and oil have different densities. Shaking the oil breaks it up into droplets that suspend in the water, a term scientists call “emulsion.”

Don’t be afraid to introduce these big science terms to your 3 or 4 year old. They will retain it on some level.


I hope you enjoyed learning about how to create your own cave and how to perform a few simple chemistry experiments with your preschooler. Please leave a comment. I love hearing from you.



headshotAbout Marnie

Marnie writes Carrots Are Orange, a Montessori inspired homeschooling blog she started in 2010 after the birth of her first son. She hails from Maine, a wonderfully down to earth place to grow up. Marnie moved to the west coast in 1999, currently living in Seattle with her husband and two young boys. She is pursuing Montessori certification. Marnie can be found on Facebook, Twitter @OrangeCarrots, Pinterest and Google +.

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