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Float Or Sink? Fall Water Activity

Sep 9, 2015

I really love the fall. Maybe it's because I love apples or pumpkin spice anything. Or maybe it's the gorgeous display nature puts on. Whatever the reason, I am happy to see fall begin to make an appearance.

When we were outside the other day, we noticed lots of colourful fall leaves already—but since it still feels like summer, our water table is still out and full. We decided to put the two together and do a fall nature float or sink activity in the water table.

We ended up bringing our water table inside for this experiment (it was so windy outside that all our treasures were blowing about). If you don't have a water table, the kitchen sink or even the bathtub would work just fine.

We began by gathering up lots of fall nature items from the yard. 

A child holds a bin of leaves and other nature bits.

We found:

  • pine cones
  • coloured leaves (we discussed if the colour of the leaves would impact their ability to float, so we got a few different colours just to check)
  • pine needles
  • maple keys
  • tree bark
  • stones
  • sticks
  • rocks
  • a feather

Then we ventured to our vegetable garden and grabbed a few green beans and a tomato.

Next, we sorted all the items based on if we thought they would float or sink.


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I labelled two circles with float  and sink. I told my pre-reader that one said float and one said sink and asked him if he could tell which was which. He used the first letter of each letter to figure it out—I love to sneak in some reading whenever possible (this also builds up his own confidence in his ability to read).

A bin of leaves and other nature bits and two circles: one says float, the other says sink.

We sorted our items, with just a few stumping my boys. What would the tomato do? And the green beans? Hmmm.

Then the boys got to testing. Would you believe that almost every single item floated? Except the rocks, of course!

Nature pieces in a water table.

After we tested all the items, we changed the game to try to sink all the floating items (also a very fun game!). The tree bark made a great boat for some pebble "passengers," but as soon as the big rock passenger tried to climb aboard, the boat sank. Lots of playful learning.

This was a simple and quick way to explore the fall season and introduce science concepts like buoyancy, density, displacement and the changing of the seasons.

Other fun water table ideas for this fall might be:

  • pumpkins in the water table (some cut in half and hollowed might make great boats); pumpkin seeds would be fun too
  • lots of colourful leaves could make for some lovely fall soup pretend play in the water table
  • add some apples and rocks to explore the idea of making big objects sink

Lots of fun to be had in the water table this season! I'm planning to keep ours out all year long in the basement. I forsee lots of chilly days spent playing with some warm water in that table. And lots of learning happening too.

For more float or sink fun, watch Mamma Yamma and Patty experiment with a rock.

Article Author Sarah Noftle
Sarah Noftle

Sarah is a teacher, mama, and wanna-be homesteader. She is home with her kids learning through play, exploring with nature, and surviving parenthood with humour. She writes HowWeeLearn.com which is full of creative and playful learning activities for kids, as well as the occasional post on natural living and farmyard antics. Sarah would love to connect with you on Facebook and Pinterest so she can show you pictures of her chickens (and more relevant things too, of course).

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