At the Water Table
Boat Floats and Bubbles
Splish, splash! Grab those smocks and roll up your sleeves for these learning-packed water table activities.

Creating Colors

What kids PRACTICE: Primary and secondary colors
What you’ll need: Washable tempera paint (blue, yellow, and red), clear plastic cups, paint brushes, paint palette (plastic coffee can lid), water, crushed ice, ice cube trays, plastic bags
What to do: Fill three plastic cups with water. Dip a paintbrush in red paint and swirl it in one cup. Repeat with blue and yellow in separate cups. What happens if you pour red water into the yellow and stir? (The water turns orange.) Do the same with red and blue (purple) and blue and yellow (green).
Variations: To slow down the effect, use an eyedropper to drip red water into a cup of crushed ice. Add blue, and watch the colors slowly morph into purple. Or use food coloring to make yellow, red, and blue water, then freeze into cubes. Drop two ice cubes of different colors into a sealable plastic bag. Have children rub the ice cubes together. As their hands melt the ice, the colors combine to make a third color.
Extension: Invite kids to experiment with mixing paint and water, colored water with crushed ice, and colored ice cubes. Can they make green? Orange? Purple? What happens if they mix all the colors together?

Boat Float

What kids PRACTICE: Making predictions, gross motor skills
What you’ll need: Squares of aluminum foil (approximately 8" x 8"), half-pint milk cartons, small objects such as plastic counting beans, plastic math cubes, or clothes pins
What to do: Place the milk carton on its side in the center of the foil. Demonstrate how to mold the foil up the sides of the milk carton to form the walls of a boat. Scrunch the foil down until the sides are about 1"–1½" tall, then remove the milk carton. Will the foil boat float or sink? (It floats.) Hold up an object (plastic cubes, for example), and ask students to predict how many cubes the boat will hold before
it sinks.
Extension: Challenge kids to make their own boats using milk cartons or other materials. Provide a variety of small objects, and have students guess the number of objects their boats will hold before sinking. Then test their hypotheses.

Soapy Science

What kids PRACTICE: Simple science investigation, gross motor skills
What you’ll need: Pipe cleaners (12" or longer), various household items with holes in them (cookie cutters, berry baskets, etc.), bubble solution (To prepare, combine six parts water, two parts dishwashing liquid, and ¾ part corn syrup. Mix gently to avoid forming bubbles. Let stand overnight.)
What to do: Using a jar of bubble solution and a wand, show how to make bubbles—first by blowing, then by waving the wand through the air. Discuss the bubbles’ shape and movement. What’s inside a bubble? (Air.) Why are bubbles different colors? (Light changes when it shines through a bubble.) Introduce bubble-makers of different shapes (cookie cutters, berry baskets, etc.). What shapes does each one make? (No matter what shape bubbles take on initially, they always end up round.)
Variation: Show how to bend a pipe cleaner into a shape (square, triangle, etc.), leaving one end long enough to grasp. Dip the pipe cleaner in the bubble solution, then wave it through the air to make bubbles.
Extension: Encourage kids to test different bubble-makers, then catch bubbles in their hands. Do wet or dry hands make better bubble-catchers? On a hot day, kids can don bathing suits and encapsulate themselves in giant bubbles—have them stand in a baby pool filled with bubble solution, and lift hula hoops from the water up over their heads.

Making Waves

What kids PRACTICE: Simple science investigation, fine motor skills
What you’ll need: Drinking straws, items that make a splash (blocks, stones, etc.), spray bottle, eyedropper
What to do: Invite students to make waves. Blow over the water with a straw, drop an object into the water, send a spray of water over the surface, or squeeze drops from an eyedropper.
Extension: Now students can experiment with creating waves. What kinds of patterns do different waves make? Which method makes the biggest waves? The smallest? The longest lasting?

Tornado in a Bottle

What kids PRACTICE: Problem solving, simple science investigation
What you’ll need: Two 2-liter plastic bottles, metal washer, duct tape, 9-ounce plastic bottles, picture of a tornado, bits of paper or sequins, food coloring
What to do: Fill a 2-liter bottle two thirds with water. Add food coloring or lightweight objects such as paper bits or sequins to make the spinning action more visible later on. Place a washer over the opening of one bottle, then tape the bottle openings together with duct tape. What’s the quickest way to transfer the water from one bottle to another? (Create a vortex by swirling the bottles either clockwise or counterclockwise.)
Extension: Have kids fill a small plastic bottle to the top with water, then empty it into a pitcher. Ask them to count how long it takes the bottle to empty when they hold the bottle still, then how long it takes when they swirl.