Seeds on the Move – Seed Dispersal for Kids

Posted on by Christy Peterson

xIn the northern hemisphere, September is the time for launching offspring in the world. Plants do this in the form of seeds—a whole new generation of green wrapped up in unassuming packages. Unfortunately, plants have one distinct disadvantage compared to humans and other animals. They can’t move from their appointed spot on the planet. So, how to launch Jr. into the world with no feet, fins, or scales, let alone wheels? With pretty ingenious solutions, as it turns out.


Plants have five primary mechanisms for moving their seeds. Some plants simply let their seeds fall to the ground. For annuals (plants that live only one season), this method works fine. The parent won’t be around to compete with the offspring. However, for plants that do survive more than one season (perennials/shrubs/trees), having Jr. growing at your feet and competing with you for resources is not a good plan. How to solve this problem? Come up with a better way to launch your seeds.


One way to send seeds far from the parent is to have them hitch a ride. Plants using this method often have seeds covered with barbs or sticky mucous, perfect for attaching to unsuspecting passers-by. Some seeds, particularly those surrounded by tasty fruit, hitch a ride in the digestive systems of animals. Hard coatings allow them to pass through and emerge at the other end relatively unscathed.

Animals are also participants in a two-part arrangement that some plants have developed. For example, most nut trees simply allow their seeds to drop to the ground. The seeds are then carted away by squirrels, jays, and other animals. Some are eaten; others are forgotten. The misplaced seeds are able to grow into mature plants away from the parent.


Anyone who has made a wish on a dandelion flower has seen wind dispersal in action. The variety of designs plants have developed to harness the wind is staggering. There are maple keys that spin and fly, cottonwood seeds that float gently, and dandelion seeds that fly along like tiny parachutes. If the wind is right, seeds from these plants can travel hundreds of miles. It’s a big gamble though. Most seeds don’t fall in suitable growing locations. This is why plants that use wind dispersal produce so many seeds.

Other plants depend on the wind in different ways. Poppy seeds, for example, can hardly be called aerodynamic, but these plants still depend on the wind. “Salt-and-pepper-shaker” style pods keep the seeds from falling directly below the parent plant. When the wind kicks up, the plant’s long, slender stalks gracefully bow in the wind, tipping the shakers and depositing the seeds.


Plants in riparian/beach areas often employ water to move their offspring. These plants produce seeds that float. Water carries them away—hopefully to a suitable growing location. This dispersal method explains how remote islands have vegetation similar to land masses hundreds of miles away.


Probably the most entertaining of seed dispersal methods is mechanical. Some plants have developed the ability to “launch” their seeds away from the parent plant. These plants build up tension in their tissue, much like a catapult stores energy in a taut rope. At just the right moment, the tension is released and the seeds are flung. What a way to send off the kids!

Activity: Move Those Seeds

All this discussion about seed dispersal can get a little dry. One way to make it fun is to have kids pretend they are plants—it’s up to them what kind—and give them the task of coming up with ways to disperse seeds. Provide them with glue, tape, string, and any other fasteners you can think up, plus a variety of materials. I find that recycled items, like TP tubes, plastic containers, egg cartons and fabric scraps, work well for these kind of crafts. I like yarn, pipe cleaners, and dowels too. This is a great “clean out the junk drawer” project!

Books & Websites

Christy Peterson

About the author

Christy Peterson is notorious for shouting “Look, LOOK” when she spots wildlife while riding in a car. Her husband begrudgingly admits that this can sometimes be useful, like when she spotted the grizzly bear in Yellowstone. When she isn’t nearly causing road accidents, she is a freelance writer. She lives in Vancouver, WA with the aforementioned husband, two kids, two dogs, three cats, two guinea pigs, one frog, three lizards, and some fish! She blogs at

  • I love the Kids Discover magazines. I've gotten them from the very beginning and always have ways to use them in my classroom.

    Marcella E.

  • Thank you for keeping discovering so interesting for children of all ages.

    Jennie R.

  • Even with 7th graders, I use the magazines since the illustrations are superb!

    Joie N.

  • The topics in the various magazines have sparked great conversational skills as well as working on language literacy with my students… GREAT TOPICS for a variety of students.

    Monique K.

  • Our WHOLE family enjoys these magazines -- we keep all of them, they make excellent reference guides for school projects/papers!

    Tanya F.

  • Love this website and Love Kids Discover Magazine… Thank you for providing such a unique and positive publication for our children.

    Patricia S.

  • My son and I always look forward to the newest issue of Kids Discover - we both learn something new!

    Sue V.

  • These are the BEST kid friendly magazines!!

    Shirley B.

  • Kids Discover is great for homeschoolers and also just to keep yourself informed in small doses - we all love it!

    Cassandra O.

  • My kids are all older now (2 high school, 1 college) and Kids Discover is STILL our most waited for, most read, most loved magazine we get. THANKS!!!

    Robert S.