Odd One Out

Winter seeds

Activity overview

15 mins
Ages 5 – 7

Science topics:

Plants , Seasonal changes

Put your class' observation skills to the test with these three seed-bearing plants. This activity is great for promoting observation and discussion skills.

Run the activity

1. Show the three images above and ask everyone to come up with as many similarities and differences as they can. If they get stuck, prompt them to think about:

  • appearance
  • what they do
  • where they might be found

2. Then, everyone needs to decide which one is the odd one out and why. Encourage a reason for every answer and there is no wrong answer!

Background science

These images are of a teasel head, some holly berries and the keys of an ash tree. 

We tend to associate seeds with spring as that is when gardeners sow most seeds. However, by the time spring comes, most wild seeds will have been dispersed (waiting in the soil to germinate) or eaten by animals. In winter, it is possible to find many seeds that will start to grow when the temperatures rise in the spring.

Teasels are tall structural plants whose seed heads are very noticeable in winter when the plants around them have died back. The seed heads contain many seeds within them. These seeds are a valuable food source for birds such as goldfinches. 

The seeds of hollies are found within each berry. In a mild year, some berries will remain on holly trees for the whole winter. They are a welcome source of food for birds when the weather is particularly harsh. Only female holly trees produce berries.

The keys of ash also provide a welcome source of food for both birds and mammals. Fortunately, the trees produce so many that, no matter how many are eaten, there are always plenty left to grow.

Take it further

If children are not already feeding the birds, this discussion may prompt them to set up a bird table to help our feathered friends. A walk in late winter, looking for seeds and sorting them, would also be an interesting activity, but ensure children know the importance of not eating any seeds or berries that they find and wash their hands thoroughly after handling any plant material. The Woodland Trust have produced a lovely time-lapse video of an ash tree that can be seen here, along with some lovely images and good resources to help you identify trees.

Image credits: Teasel plant by MabelAmber via Pixabay CC0;

Holly berry bush by LUM3N via Pixabay CC0;

Ash tree keys on a tree in winter in golden afternoon light by AngieC333 via Shutterstock SL