Water work

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By Louise RichmondTeaching Assistant in a Reception class

Make a splash with these fun experiments that investigate the properties of water


Water splash


Activities in this article:

  1. Fill it up!
  2. River crossing
  3. Cross-curricular activities

1. Fill it up!

A race game in which children work as a team to fill the container

Problem Solving, Reasoning and Numeracy – Shape, Space and Measures

Development matters: Enjoy filling and emptying containers (16–26 months); Order two items by weight or capacity (40–60+ months).

Early learning goal: Use language such as ‘greater’, ‘smaller’, ‘heavier’ or ‘lighter’ to compare quantities.

What you need

Space outside; cones to mark the start/finish; two large containers of water; food colouring (optional); two equal sized measuring cylinders (ideally transparent); two equal sized jugs or cups.

What to do

  • Lay out the equipment in a large space outside. Place the jugs apart at one end of the space, fill the large containers with water (add a few drops of food colouring to make the water easier to see) and place them halfway between the start and finish area.
  • Place the empty measuring cylinders at the finish line. Organise the children into two teams and sit them in lines one behind the other at the start line.
  • Explain to the children that they have got to work as a team to fill their measuring cylinder with water. Invite them to suggest how they could do this with the equipment they can see. How can they get the water from the container to the measuring cylinder? What could they use? How will they know when it is full?
  • When the children have suggested their ideas, demonstrate what they need to do: the first person in the team collects the jug, then runs to the water container. They must fill the jug, carry it to the measuring cylinder, carefully pour the water into it, and then take the jug back to the next team member, who begins the process again. The winning team is the one that fills their measuring cylinder first.
  • As they race, encourage the children to comment on the level of water in the measuring cylinder – ‘empty’, ‘half full’, ‘nearly full’, ‘full’ and so on.
  • The activity could be made more challenging by adding obstacles, such as cones, for the children to move around. Or add an additional stage by asking them to record a tally mark on a clipboard for each cup of water added to the container.
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