Floating and sinking – Te tere me te totohu

Experimenting with water and objects encourages understanding of complex science ideas – why things float and why they sink. Whānau can support expressive language as tamariki experiment, observe, hypothesise, wonder, problem-solve and ask questions.

Why do it?

So that tamariki can:

  • enjoy a play and learning activity indoors or outside
  • have an opportunity to predict and test ideas
  • experience the fun and soothing effects of water play
  • strengthen expressive language by building their vocabulary of terms related to floating, sinking and water play.

How to do it

  • Make sure the situation is safe for your tamaiti. Water play needs close supervision at all times.
  • You’ll need some water in a container — for example, a bath, basin, bowl, bucket, puddle or rock pool.
  • You’ll need things to test — ask your tamaiti to help collect some nearby things that are okay to get wet.
  • Items from home could be a wooden block, a plastic lid, a peg, a cork, a sock, a metal spoon, a flower or some leaves.
  • At the beach you could collect small stones, shells, sticks, feathers, pumice, some seaweed or leaves.
  • Have them hold each thing one at a time and ask them what they think will happen when they put it into the water.
  • Ask them, ‘Why do you think that happened?’
  • Try all the things you collected to see what floats and what sinks — you could help them to group the items.
  • If your tamaiti is still interested, you can think and talk about what the things that float or sink have in common with each other.
  • If you’re playing in a bucket, bowl or a bath, explore what happens to the water level when something big sinks to the bottom. If you can make a mark on the bucket before and after, you can measure the difference the sinking object makes to the water level. This is called ‘water displacement’.
  • In the bath, notice what happens to the water level when someone gets in (and out) of the water.
  • Share picture books such as, Who Sank the Boat?, Mr Archimedes’ Bath and Alexander’s Outing, all by Pamela Allen.

Using more reo Māori

Te reo Māori English
Ka taea e te [...] te tere? Will the […] float ?
E kore te [...] e tere? The […] won’t float
Ka taea te [...] te totohu? Will the […] sink ?
E kore te [...] e totohu The […] won’t sink
Paddling pool
Rākau mataono Wooden cube
Kirihou taupoki Plastic lid
Tīmau kirihou Plastic peg
Tīmau rākau Wooden peg
Ka taea e te awe te tere The feather can float
E kore te awe e totohu The feather won’t sink
Ka totohu te kōhatu The stone will sink
E kore te kōhatu e tere The stone won’t float