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Providing Intentional Learning to Water Activities


The coordinator of a number of preschool programs was concerned that some key learning experiences for children were not in evidence within the children’s programs. She was also concerned that the staff seemed unable to articulate the key learning experiences that children should be engaged in.

An initial meeting was scheduled with the staff members. The staff members expressed their desire to gain greater understanding of how to manage the water and sand play activities

A resource was developed and provided to the staff that focused on common concepts of sand and water. The staff were encouraged to observe the children to identify interests and skills levels. The consultant also observed and documented sand and water play activities indoors and outdoors. The staff and consultant discussed the results. It was decided to focus on experimentation in water to compare and identify things that float or sink.

The staff asked the consultant to set up an individual activity so that the results could be observed. The consultant brought in the materials and was immediately surrounded by interested children. The children helped to set up the activity and thus became familiar with how the materials were organized.

Organization of the Activity

One clear container was placed on a table with items that could sink or float. Two mats – labeled by picture and word (sink and float) were placed on slip-proof rubber mats beside a clear container filled with water.


The setting seemed to make sense to the children. They used objects one at a time to see if it would sink or float, then placed it on the corresponding mat.

In most cases, children cleaned up when they have completed the activity. Occasional reminders had to be given.

Children gained the following skills:

  • Comparing items one at a time
  • Organizing objects into sink and float categories
  • Collecting objects to see if they would sink or float
  • Cleaning up their activities when done
  • Expanded activity to large water table
  • Recording their own results
Expansion Activities
  • It was noticed that one child was actively trying to make things sink. As a result, objects were provided to see if floating objects could be made to sink.
  • Children started to predict if things would sink or float. They would then test their prediction.
  • One child discovered that some objects could sink or float, depending on how you placed them in the water. He decided to create a third category – “In-between because it can sink or float”.
  • The staff then proceeded to observe, plan and implement some key learning experiences in the water area. Certification was awarded upon completion of the task. All staff members received the certification.