Discovering the Acorn Life Cycle During Morning Walks

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Before starting school each day, the boys and I take a walk before starting school. During our first walk, I we picked up acorns we found around the oak trees. Then, one morning, we found an acorn with a small tree popping out of it! We continued to look for little acorn trees, and picked them up as we went along. In previous nature walks, I explained that we never disturb nature, as we could affect the ecosystem where we were walking. But in the case of our neighborhood walks, it was okay to pick up the acorn tree sprouts because they be destroyed by our neighborhood landscaper otherwise. The boys decided we were saving the little trees, and every time we found one, they said “We need to save it!” So we continue to pick up the acorns and acorn sprouts as we walk every day. After every walk, we set out our findings, and plant all the trees. We noticed a pattern in the growth of the acorns we collected, and decided to learn about each phase of the acorn life cycle.

Discover the acorn life cycle! Find acorns, and sprouting baby oak trees to discover what happens after an acorn drops.

Acorn Life Cycle

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The Acorn

Acorns found on the ground.

As I explained to my sons, acorns are the seed of an oak tree. The seed is covered by a hard, wood like shell, which is what we see in the picture above. If you cook an acorn, them remove the outer shell, you can eat the acorn seed. For a fun activity about the parts of an acorn, see this post by Mama’s Happy Hive.


Second step in the acorn life cycle is germination.

Germination occurs when an acorn is ready to start growing a tree. The wooden shell cracks open, and the seed inside grows a shoot. During our walks, we found many cracked acorn, like the acorn in the picture on the left, and would leave them for another time. We were also able to find some acorns like the one in the right picture. The boys were really interested in these acorns, as was I. We loved seeing the beginnings of a tree growing!


An acorn sprout!

As we kept collecting small oak trees, we noticed that once the acorn seed germinates, it starts establishing a root system, then grows a sprout upwards. A sprout looks like a tiny tree, but the leaves are small and not fully open. The sprout phase was the easiest phase for us to pick the trees, since the tap roots sent down into the ground were short, and not very fibrous.


An acorn seedling, the fourth step in the acorn life cycle.

The final phase of an acorn life cycle we found on our walks was the seedling phase. An oak tree seedling has a tap root going down into the ground, and looks like a tiny oak tree. The leaves are fully open, and look like leaves on a full grown oak tree. These trees really caught the boys’ eyes, and they wanted to save these ones the most.

Our Small Oak Tree Forest

The boys’ and I really enjoyed learning hands-on about the acorn life cycle. Not only did we see it on our walks, but have the privilege of watching all the trees we’ve collected grow. And I hope they have also learned we can play a role in saving trees, and helping them to grow.

All the acorn trees (oak trees) we've saved from the landscapers!

Connect with your kids by learning more about the acorn life cycle from these books:

From Acorn to Oak Tree

Watch an Oak Tree Grow

Follow the Life Cycle: Acorn to Oak Tree

Acorn to Oak Tree

Find other ways to learn about the science of nature!

Easy and Fun Garden Preschool Science Experiment
Seed Planters – Recycling Project for Kids
STEM Preschool Ideas for the First Two Weeks