exploring a cave system earth science kindergarten preschool 1st

Explore a cave with your kids without leaving home



Two years ago we studied earth science for our science lessons.  I had one project we did when the kids were preschoolers, that I desperately wanted to figure out how to recreate, but never did figure out how to do it.  We created a cave system in our house.  It was amazing, but I never replicated it, any suggestions of how to replicate our cave exploration lesson?

Caves unit for preschool and elementary
though I have a vague memory of doing that bottom cave activity in middle school

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Our study materials for our cave exploration lesson

When we were studying earth science we used CKE Earth and Space*, and it had all sorts of great information.  When the kids studied caves as preschoolers it was part of our study on New Mexico, related to the Carlsbad Caverns, and we used the book The Secret of the Circle-K Cave* (Science Solves It).

This is a cute beginner science book with a fun little mystery.  It takes place in New Mexico, not too far from Carlsbad Caverns.  Remembering how they did with our local caves, we opted not to visit there when we drove through New Mexico a while back, but I did want them to learn about the caves, and this was a great extension of learning about the OK Corral, because it had cowboys also.  This book does a lot of covering how to safely explore caves, and how the different formations are made.

Building a cave system in your house

waiting to explore the cave system

So, to practice what they learned in a way they wouldn’t be freaked out, I kicked them outside while I set up their surprise.  And that’s how they spent most of their time outside.  Staring at the door wondering when I was going to let them back in.  I kid you not.

Now when I did this for my super amazingly small preschoolers, I used all the blankets in the house, three child-sized folding tables* (which we don’t own anymore, sadness, Future Ticia 2023 wants to point out, we completely destroyed those tables we used them so much, and we even bought another one)), and a few of our dining room table chairs.  Part of why I couldn’t do it with my ginormous children, they don’t fit under that super cute little table anymore to crawl, and our dining room table chairs are now rolling chairs, making it a little harder to create stable walls for our cave system.

exploring caves with big kids
Future Ticia 2023 wants to point out they are even more huge now

These giant monsters are not going to fit under that little kid’s table, not by a long shot.

So, how do you safely explore a cave?

1.  Always go in groups of 3.  Never by yourself.  This works out well, I have 3 kids.

exploring caves with kids crawling into the cave

2.  Wear long pants and a shirt, they should be heavy duty.  We didn’t follow that one.  Pajama pants are not known for their protection. Now are the shorts Princess is wearing.

crawling through small cave for exploring caves with kids

3.  Bring a flashlight and climbing gear.  Flashlight we had, climbing gear not so much.  They didn’t say, but I’d add in a first aid kit, but that’s just my kids’ ability to get hurt.

4.  The general nature rule: Take only pictures, leave only footprints.  And one added for caves: don’t touch the rock formations, that will “kill” the formation so it can’t continue growing and changing (the oils in our hand react poorly with the chemicals in the formations, not harmful to us, but it is to the cave). In our local cave system, they have ONE and only one rock you are allowed to touch, and you can see the difference between it and the rocks that haven’t been touched.

exploring caves and taking pictures

Batman’s pictures of the cave.

Inside our cave system was a cavern, the large room inside a cave.  Our cavern had an underground lake,   It’s a mobile lake and also seems to trap people.

exploring caves and finding a huge cavern
I actually found a blue-ish sheet for our lake.

Caves often have lakes in them.  We also learned that while bats like to nest in caves, they don’t go deep into them, preferring the twilight area near the cave’s entrance.  They don’t like the absolute dark of the interior of the cave.  I can tell you from the few times we’ve gone on cave tours, that neither do my kids.

I’m hoping to do this experiment from Little Wonders’ Days and show them how a stalactite grows.

So, it’s not this amazing experiment or anything, but it was fun.  And the kids are begging me to keep this up until Daddy comes home tonight (I’m writing this on Thursday).

{Future Ticia here, no clue if I left it up for when Daddy came home, good chance I did. Also, it’s really hard to type while dancing at your standing desk, I’ve had a lot of typos to fix.}

Adapting this cave exploration lesson for older kids

caves experiment

The perfect experiment to do with your kids is the stalactite experiment, where you super-saturate the water with sugar or salt, or something.  I just know ours never worked.  Thankfully though I can point you to a YouTube video that was successful.  I swear there are some days I think our science experiments never turn out.

Since that was a bust, I decided to go for what always works (if not as expected) in our house, and build a model.  I told them to create a cave using paper.

Here’s what I thought I would get, they would create a nice flat representation of a cave, having torn construction paper and glued it on.

Instead, I got the kids telling me, “I’m going to build a 3-D paper version” (perhaps the paper engineering challenges inspired them, yes I redid this because I lost the pictures).  Which got me:

paper engineering design a cave

A rather traditional-looking cave from Batman.

design a cave, tunnel cave

A tunnel-ish looking cave from Princess, and….

design a paper cave

A monstrous cave, complete with a backdrop from Superman.  No matter what angle I tried to photograph this particular project from, it did not look as cool as it did in real life.

Get some more Earth Science Ideas


14 responses to “Explore a cave with your kids without leaving home”

  1. Christy Avatar

    Very interesting information! I like your comment about the pajama pants.

  2. Jolanthe Avatar

    You are too funny…and my kids would have been standing there doing the same thing too. 🙂

  3. MaryAnne Avatar

    What an awesome activity! And my kids probably would have stood at the door wailing…

  4. Phyllis Avatar

    This was such a sweet activity. The way you write is so cute and funny. Makes me feel like I was right there. Great post.

  5. An Almost Unschooling Mom Avatar
    An Almost Unschooling Mom

    My children would love you! Would you like an extra 6?

  6. 2 Pequeños Traviesos Avatar
    2 Pequeños Traviesos

    What a clever idea!!! Want to have my boys over to play???

  7. Little Wonders' Days Avatar
    Little Wonders’ Days

    How fun! I wish I had thought of doing this with our cave study. There are a couple of good IMAX cave movies that we enjoyed too. I'm going to look for the book you mentioned. It looks fun.

  8. You are always so fun!

  9. Marcia Maynard Avatar
    Marcia Maynard

    I tried to add to Science Sunday but didn't have success with my first time using a linkie. If you happen to receive a picture of a boy with a bike and trike, let me know.
    Marcia (read about you on Weteach)

  10. Wow, looks like lots of fun!

  11. Pathfinder Mom Avatar
    Pathfinder Mom

    Tornado Boy would love this. Fort, cave – call it what you want, he'd love it.

    I also love this saying: Take only pictures, leave only footprints. Great stuff!

  12. I think this self-made cave was a big hit! Anna designated our closet as a bear cave and loves to play “Going on a Bear Hunt” there – she is always bringing a flashlight with her 🙂 I have to look for this book to extend the game.

  13. This is a nice blast from the past 🙂 It’s fun to see everyone so small 🙂

    1. I know! It’s crazy how big they’ve grown.

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