Float a Boat: A Summer Water and Sand Activity
Help children construct their own seaworthy vessel!
- Grades: PreK–K, 1–2
Children will expand upon their problem-solving and creative-thinking skills as they learn about the concept of sinking and floating through making boats with various materials.
- Water table, small wading pool, or basin
- Waterproof marker
- Camera and album
- Masking tape
- Yarn or string
Suggested Recycled Building Materials
- Cups (paper, styrofoam, and plastic)
- Empty milk cartons, egg cartons, butter tubs, etc.
- Foam packing pieces and trays
- Small cardboard boxes
- Paper rolls
- Craft sticks
Set Up and Prepare
Send a note home to families requesting donations of some of the suggested recycled materials for this boat-making activity.
Step 2: Engage the children in a conversation about boats to find out what they already know. Ask children to think about what makes a boat float on water and what makes it sink. Explain to children that they will each have an opportunity to design their own boat to float in the water.
Step 3: Set up the art area with the suggested materials. Invite small groups of children to the table to work on their boat. Encourage them to look at the different types of materials and experiment. Leave a small basin of water on the table so that children can test their creations. Offer assistance if needed.
Step 4: When children have completed their boats, explain to them that most boats have names. Encourage them to think of a special name for their boat. Help children write the name on each of their boats with a waterproof marker.
Step 5: Now it's time for a sailing party. A snack of cookies and juice is a perfect way to celebrate. Fill your basins, wading pools, or water table with water and encourage children to sail their boats.
Step 6: Take a picture of each child with her boat. Also photograph the entire "sea of boats." Make a class "boat book" for the children's library.
For Younger Children
Spend some time working on float/sink experiments. see if they can guess which objects will sink and which will float before they test each one.
For Older Children
See if children can find ways to sink the boats they create. What objects and materials will make their boats sink quickly? What objects and materials can the boats carry without sinking?
Have a Regatta! Explain to children that the word "regatta" means a series of boat races. Include the children in planning different ways to use air to propel their boats. Provide the children with straws, cardboard, and paper tubes. Ask them to think of ways to use these materials to create wind for the boats. An electric fan could be used with adult supervision. Encourage children to experiment.