Sinking & Floating Activities on a Water Table for Toddlers

Written by marissa abernathy
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Sinking & Floating Activities on a Water Table for Toddlers
Sinking pool toys, bath toys and other plastic toys are ideal objects for water table activities. (Mechanical Scuba Diver and Frog Bath Toys image by nextrecord from

Water tables provide a fun and easy way to explore the properties of water without needing to fill the entire bathtub. You can play all kinds of activities and games with toddlers to demonstrate the difference between sinking and floating. Many toddlers have a very vague idea of the reason objects float. Conduct experiments with your toddler to discover what types of objects float. Use imaginative play to create an ocean full of floating and sinking creatures or play guessing and counting games with your toddler. Sinking and floating water table activities can provide hours of fun at toddler playdates and in the classroom or other group settings.

Imaginative Play

Create an underwater ocean scene using sand and small toy sea creatures. Encourage toddlers to use their imagination and pretend that the table is an ocean or lake. Point out that the sand sinks and sits at the bottom of the ocean floor. When you stir the water to create ocean currents, the water becomes cloudy with sand. As the sand sinks, the water becomes clear again. Observe which objects and animals sink, and note those that float. Starfish sink and sit on the ocean floor. Birds like seagulls or ducks float on top of the water.

Guessing Games

Choose a variety of objects and make predictions about which ones will float. Coins, plastic silverware and real silverware, small balls and heavy marbles are great objects to use for this experiment. Separate objects into those toddlers expect to float and those which will sink. Toddlers will learn to test their hypothesis and compare like objects. Compare a plastic spoon to a regular spoon or a small toy plate to a real kitchen plate. Ask toddlers why they think certain objects sink while others float. You may be surprised to discover what your child does understand and what their perceptions are.

Colour and Number Games

Practice colour and number skills while finding objects that sink or float. Choose objects of a specific colour to incorporate other forms of learning. Try to find red objects that will float or blue objects that will sink. Sort objects by colour in the water, and count how many float and how many sink. Children also can try to find a specific number of floating or sinking objects. Search the house to find 10 toys that will sink. If two end up floating, how many are still sinking?

Free Play

Toddlers simply enjoy splashing and playing in the water. While your toddler plays with boats or bath toys at the water table, point out those that float and those that sink. Observe certain toys that sink when they fill with water and float when the water is squeezed out. Ice cubes make great objects to use during free play at the water table. Try to submerge the floating ice cubes and watch them pop back up to the surface.

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