Is it just my me, or are kids drawn to water? My baby can find an abandoned glass of water within two minutes of leaving it somewhere. It’s like he has a sixth sense for it. My little boys have gotten into a habit of filling containers of water to “mix up” and somehow they all end up in my freezer, sometimes filled with some sand or torn paper or every last one of my measuring spoons.
On walks after even the slightest rain, kids can find even the tiniest puddle. They notice the beads of sweat on your brow when you are packing them on a hike. And the bath is never so fun without a constant stream of water falling from the faucet.
They are just drawn to water. It’s almost magnetic.
Which is fine, because now that intense curiosity about water can lead into some of the most fun science activities for preschoolers. Namely, a classic sink or float sensory bin.
Sink or Float Preschool Science Activity
Using just common household items, this preschool science activity can be put together in a matter of minutes.
Materials for the Water Sensory Bin
Or, if you want to know exactly what I used…
- Various small bowls or scooping materials
- Random rocks
- Dried oranges or other potpourri materials
- Sea urchin shell
- Plastic gems (like those from my Valentine’s sensory bin)
Place all the sink or float materials on a tray to hold them. Fill your water bin or table with a few inches of water.
Now, just a reminder…we are working with children and water, here, so please supervise your children at all times. Never leave your child alone with a water sensory bin.
Let’s answer the question of where to put the water bin. As I’m sure you can imagine there is bound to be a little bit of splashing! Unless you need that water to wash your floors after the activity, it’s best to take some preventative measures to limit the mess.
Consider setting up your water sensory bin
- On the porch
- In the sunroom
- With a shower curtain under it
- In the bath tub
Any of those places will make clean-up a little easier than your carpeted living room floor. 😉
The Preschool Science Activity
As expected, my little boys were immediately drawn to this water bin. How could they not be?
For activities like this one, I like to sit back and allow my boys to just play, and I completely take my teaching directions from what I observe and from what I hear them say. Kids will naturally say things like,
- “This one floats!”
- “I pushed this one down.”
- “My rock is making your bowl go down.”
- “I’ll throw this rock and it’s gonna’ splash you big, big, big!”
- “Why this not floating?”
For the record, these are exact examples of what by boys said as they played. So, my job then was to facilitate and build on their playing to teach them the science concepts (or math concepts) they were already seeing and experiencing in the water sensory bin.
My job was to answer all the whys and hows.
- Why did the bowl float but the rocks didn’t?
- How could you use the rocks to make the bowl sink?
- Can water make things sink, too?
- Why does the sea urchin sink?
- How can you use your hands to make things sink or float?
- Why does throwing the objects in the water cause splashing?
The questions could go on and on…from your preschooler and for your preschooler. I really believe that children learn the most from activities like this when they can explore at their own rate and take the lead.
That said, you could also make the science activity more complex by offering materials that sink or float but are all equal weight. Then you’ll really talk about water displacement. And you can go into a science activity with that intention if your preschooler is interested and has enough background experience and knowledge to enjoy it.
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I’m Sarah, an educator turned stay-at-home-mama of five! I’m the owner and creator of Stay At Home Educator, a website about intentional teaching and purposeful learning in the early childhood years. I’ve taught a range of levels, from preschool to college and a little bit of everything in between. Right now my focus is teaching my children and running a preschool from my home. Credentials include: Bachelors in Art, Masters in Curriculum and Instruction.