Sink or Float Activity

My older son who turns three later this week (sob) has gotten really into the concept of sinking and floating lately. In the bathtub, he loves to talk about his various toys and whether they sink or float and, ever since my husband took him the christening of a submarine at his work, he’s been interested in different kinds of boats that go above and below water. I’d seen some other sink or float activities on Pinterest and figured I would create my own in our sensory table for him to try.

First I took a spin around the house looking for a variety of objects for him to test out. The beauty of this activity is that you can really use anything you have lying around, as long as there’s a good mix of sink and float incorporated. Here’s what we used:

Great beginner science activity for young children! Hypothesize and test out which objects will sink and float in a sensory table or your bathtub. Easy setup and lots of fun!

I wanted to use objects Chase encounters a lot so he could make a good guess about whether they’d sink or float. He’s had repeated exposure to every single one of these items, which was really my only criteria for picking the materials to use. I also set out these labeled baskets so he could put the items in afterward as kind of a recap out of the outcome. I had these baskets on hand in their kitchen area, but you could use really any type of container. If you have older kids, you could also write “Sink” and “Float” on a piece of paper and either draw pictures of or write the words for the items in each category. 

Great beginner science activity for young children! Hypothesize and test out which objects will sink and float in a sensory table or your bathtub. Easy setup and lots of fun!

Great beginner science activity for young children! Hypothesize and test out which objects will sink and float in a sensory table or your bathtub. Easy setup and lots of fun!

Part of the build-up of the activities I do with my boys is in the setup. Chase loves when I tell him we’re going to do an activity but I don’t tell him what it is until we’re ready to start. For this one, I poked around the house with my tray, grabbing different items from various places. He was so intrigued and couldn’t wait to see what they’d all be used for when I was done.

Once he saw me filling up the sensory table with water, he was really excited. “What kind of “tivity” are we gonna do, mama?!”

I put the tray on a low table for him so he could look at all the items and explained that we were going to test whether they sink or float. He decided that he wanted to start with the toy boat.

Great beginner science activity for young children! Hypothesize and test out which objects will sink and float in a sensory table or your bathtub. Easy setup and lots of fun!

He plays with this a ton in the tub, so I was pretty sure he’d know that it floats–and he did. But it was so cool to watch him fill it up with water and realize it starts to go under when it’s full. 

He tried the marble next, which he correctly predicted would sink. Then he put the marble into the toy boat and saw that it floats while in the boat. “Mama, look! It floats in the boat!”

Great beginner science activity for young children! Hypothesize and test out which objects will sink and float in a sensory table or your bathtub. Easy setup and lots of fun!

I think out of the 13 items, he only got one or two predictions wrong. I was pretty impressed and I loved seeing the excitement on his face when he got them right. 

Great beginner science activity for young children! Hypothesize and test out which objects will sink and float in a sensory table or your bathtub. Easy setup and lots of fun!

Of course, his little brother had a different agenda, which included biting the apple down to the core and throwing all the pieces into the water.

Great beginner science activity for young children! Hypothesize and test out which objects will sink and float in a sensory table or your bathtub. Easy setup and lots of fun!

After we’d gone through all the objects, Chase asked, “Can we see if the basket floats or sinks?”

Great beginner science activity for young children! Hypothesize and test out which objects will sink and float in a sensory table or your bathtub. Easy setup and lots of fun!

To which I, of course, said yes. 

Great beginner science activity for young children! Hypothesize and test out which objects will sink and float in a sensory table or your bathtub. Easy setup and lots of fun!

If you’re looking for a super easy but fun activity with almost no setup, this is a great one to try. No sensory table? No problem. You can do this in the bathtub or a large Rubbermaid container on the floor. 

Have fun and make sure to ask lots of questions during the activity!

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Melissa Mowry

Melissa Mowry is a stay at home mom to 3 year old Chase and the slightly younger guy, Sam. She is the main voice behind One Mother to Another, which she started in July 2014 as a way to connect with other moms who felt just as lonely as she did some days. She is married to her high school sweetheart, Adam, and they live in their home state of Rhode Island. Melissa's work has been featured on the Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, Mamalode, Coffee + Crumbs and Mamapedia, among others. Her book, One Mother to Another: This Is Just Between Us is for sale on Amazon.
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