Pine cones are an excellent experiment subject at Thanksgiving, Christmas, and any other time of year when you can manage to find them on the ground!
First, gather some pine cones! Take your children on a walk and enjoy the process! While you are outside, find which trees grow pine cones (pine trees) and look for cones that are still on the tree. Let your children grab some pine needles too and feel the sticky sap that oozes when you pull needles off the tree or break a branch.
Feel free to collect other small objects too. Your children can compare these to pine cones and discuss what they discover.
Do pine cones float? What about rocks, sticks, needles, and any other objects you collected? Older children can record their hypotheses and the results.
Can you close up a pine cone that is "open?" How long do you think it will take? Will its size change?
Experiment by placing your pine cones in a bowl of water to find the answers. Most pine cones will look dramatically different after half an hour.
A Little Pine Cone Science:
Pine cones grow on pine trees to protect the seeds. Each pine cone scale protects 1-2 papery, thin seeds. When the seeds are mature, the pine cone falls off the tree and the pine cone scales dry out. As they dry, they "open" up and release the seeds. The scales are made such that when they are wet, they are closed and when they are dry, they open.
Do you use pine cones to decorate for Thanksgiving and/or Christmas? What about for a little science?
I may share at any of these parties!