Summer Science Fun: Growing Monster Plants!

Growing plants at home is a brilliant opportunity to explore science with your child. What do plants need to grow? What makes leaves green? Do all plants grow in the same conditions or do they need different amounts of water and sunshine? Nurturing plants from seeds also teaches children responsibility as most plants needs plenty of care and attention to thrive.

Here are some truly weird and wonderful monster plants that will inspire your child to roll up their sleeves and hopefully develop a life-long love of planting.

Make a light box

To grow many of these monster plants successfully you need a light box.

You will need:

Cardboard box large enough to sit three or four medium-sized flowerpots side-by-side

Tin foil

Clear bin liner




  1. Cut away the top and front of the cardboard box so you are left with the back, two sides and a bottom only. If you sat three plant pots side-by-side in the box you would be able to see them from the open front (like looking at a television screen) and from the top looking down.
  2. Line the sides and bottom of the box with pieces of polythene (the clear bin liner). Affix with tape as necessary.
  3. Cover the lined sides and bottom completely with tin foil.
  4. Cut a square or rectangle of polythene (from the clear bin liner) large enough to drape over the entire front and top of the box tent-style to keep your plant pots covered and warm at night.

Squirting cucumber

What’s special about it?

The Squirting Cucumber squirts seeds at up to 60mph! First it grows horrible, hairy stems and leaves then cucumber-shaped fruits that swell up with seeds and water. As these fruits become heavy they snap away from the stems and the seeds shoot out. They are hardy plants that can survive in most weather conditions.

You will need:

Squirting Cucumber seeds (available online)

2 small plant pots or yoghurt pots

Gritty compost (make this by mixing 1 part multipurpose compost with 1 part sharp sand – all available from a garden centre)



  1. Fill the pots to the top with gritty compost.
  2. Sow one seed in each pot and cover them with compost (you should cover with twice as much compost as the seed is long).
  3. Put the plants in the lightbox on a sunny windowsill. Face the open side of the lightbox towards the sun. Squirting Cucumbers are from the Mediterranean so cover them with polythene at night to keep them warm.
  4. Water the plants as often as needed to keep the compost moist. It shouldn’t be too wet or bone dry either.  Seedlings should appear within three weeks.
  5. When the plants have three or more green leaves plant them outside. Only plant them outside in summer and when the weather is summery!  It doesn’t matter whereabouts outside you plant them. If the weather is cold put the plants in a greenhouse if you have one (if not, you can make a mini greenhouse).

Abyssinian Banana

What’s special about it?

This plant doesn’t grow edible bananas but it can grow into a 3-metre tall monster with giant, floppy leaves. Although it’s a tropical plant it will grow here in the summer.

You will need:

Abyssinian Banana seeds (available online)

Medium and large flower pots


Plant food (from a garden centre)

Polythene sandwich bags

Clothes pegs


  1. Fill the pots with compost and sow one banana seed in each pot (remembering to cover the seed with twice as much compost as the seed is tall).
  2. Water well.
  3. Sit each pot inside a polythene sandwich bag and seal the top using a clothes peg or a plastic clip.
  4. Put the pots in a warm, dark place like an airing cupboard.
  5. Each day check the compost to make sure it is still moist and water if needed.
  6. When shoots appear remove the pots from the sandwich bags and place in a light box on a sunny, warm windowsill making sure the plants are facing the sun.
  7. Keep the soil moist by watering the plants regularly and feed them with plant food every week.
  8. When roots begin to appear through holes in the bottom of the pots replant into large pots and put outside. If the summer weather is more wintry than summery bring your banana plants indoors until it improves.

Venus Fly Trap

What’s special about it?

No monster plant guide would be complete without this famous terror! The Venus Fly Trap’s meaty, redness tempts flies with a promise of a meal but then a trap snaps shut. The plant digests the fly and absorbs it within itself. The Venus Fly Trap is a bog plant so it needs plenty of wet and light.

You will need:

A small Venus Fly Trap plant (you can plant a Venus Fly Trap from seed if you like but it takes a lot of patience as the seedlings are tiny for the first year and become easily overgrown with moss unless they are tended carefully)

Rainwater or de-ionised water (they don’t drink tap water)

A shallow container in which to stand the pot.


  1. Stand the potted Venus Fly Trap in the shallow container and fill the container with water. The container needs to hold 1cm of water. Keep this water topped up at all times – you don’t need to water the plant itself.
  2. Place the Venus Fly Trap in a sunny spot outside in summer where there will be plenty of flies for it to catch. Venus Fly Traps don’t need warmth or light in the winter months but they do need to be kept out of wind and rain and protected from frost.
  3. In about two years you will need to re-plant your Venus Fly Trap in a bigger pot or carefully split it across two medium pots. When the time comes, use moss peat as they won’t grow in any other kind of peat and re-pot in early spring.

Does your child need extra help with science?

Whether your child is at primary school or studying for exams, TutorMyKids can put you in touch with a fully-qualified, specialist science tutor.

All our tutors are up-to-date with the current curriculum and they are passionate about firing children’s enthusiasm for their subject.

During the coronavirus pandemic all tutoring sessions take place one-to-one online. Talk to us today at 858 421.

Summer Projects: Exciting Engineering

After months of homeschooling the summer holidays may be a welcome break for both you and your family, but if you are wondering how to keep your child occupied over the next few weeks we have some ideas to help.

The projects below are designed for children aged 8 upwards and they have one simple aim – to be lots of fun! We talk about how you can extend your child’s scientific knowledge and understanding as they engage in the activities if you wish to do so.

Ultimately, it’s about your child experiencing the joy of making discoveries for themselves and spending time with you.

Balloon-powered vehicles

Challenge: Choose and make a balloon-powered vehicle from 3 Simple Science Experiments from Balloons.

You will need:


Masking tape

Additional materials depend upon what your child chooses to make. Think about ways you can substitute materials used in the video for things you already have at home. For example, if you don’t have a sheet of polystyrene to make a boat you could fashion a boat by cutting up a plastic bottle or modify a bath boat.

For your information:

Newton’s third law of physics explains how balloon-powered vehicles work – for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. As the air is expelled from the balloon in one direction, the balloon itself moves in the opposite direction.

Helping your child:

After your child has made and played with their vehicle you could introduce them to Newton’s third law of physics by watching The Dyson Foundation’s Balloon Car Race film.  Can they now explain why their balloon vehicle goes?

Marble run

Challenge: Build the fastest, and best marble run you can.

You will need:

Cardboard tubes (toilet rolls/kitchen rolls)


Bowl to catch the marbles

Felt tips or paint to decorate the marble run if your child wishes

For your information:

For instructions to make a marble run read Tinkerlab’s How to Make a Marble Run. Also watch The Dyson Foundation’s Marble Run Challenge which explains how a successful marble run depends upon gravity and friction.

Helping your child

Encourage your child to experiment with different angles as they arrange the marble run chutes – what angles work best?

To discover that friction and gravity make a difference to the success of the marble run they could try lining their chutes with rough or shiny materials and then sending a marble down the run. They might also drop different objects down the chutes instead of marbles in order to make further comparisons.

Marshmallow bridge

Challenge: Build a bridge from mini marshmallows and cocktail sticks.

You will need:

Mini marshmallows

Cocktail sticks

Pictures of different types of bridges (which you could print from the internet).

For your information:

Type ‘bridge mini marshmallows toothpicks’ into Google Images to see some examples of marshmallow bridges made by others.

Helping your child:

Together look at pictures of real bridges. Ask your child what shapes they can see in each bridge and whether they could use any of these shapes in their own bridge construction.

If the activity is too tricky, your child could build a tower from marshmallows and cocktail sticks rather than a bridge.

Paper table

Challenge: Make a table that is strong enough to hold a heavy book.

You will need:

Sheets of newspaper

Masking tape

Corrugated cardboard rectangle approximately 20cm x 30cm

Masking tape

Heavy book

For your information:

Start by watching Paper Table from iPhysics. You will see that table legs and supports are made from rolled up newspaper and the table top is a rectangle of corrugated cardboard. 

Helping your child:

Show your child how to make a strong tube from a sheet of newspaper as demonstrated in the iPhysics film. Start at one corner and roll diagonally towards the other corner, rolling the tube as tightly as possible and securing with tape.

Before your child begins, look together at tables and other furniture you have in the house. Do table legs and table tops have any support? Can your child apply what they see to their own designs?

As your child builds their table, support them to solve any problems that occur as independently as possible. Wobbly legs can be supported with extra newspaper tubes, and if their table tips it might help if they make the legs shorter.  The more triangular supports that are in place the stronger the table will be.

Would your child benefit from tailored science tuition?

At TutorMyKids all our tutors are passionate about firing children’s enthusiasm for their subject. We believe children gain a deeper understanding of science by making discoveries for themselves and solving problems.

Whether your child is at primary school or studying for exams, TutorMyKids can put you in touch with a fully-qualified, specialist science tutor who is up-to-date with the current curriculum.

During the coronavirus pandemic all tutoring sessions take place one-to-one online. Talk to us today at 858 421.