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Explore and Play: Can It Hold Water?

Which containers can hold water? Which ones can’t? 


  • water table(s), large tubs, or plastic wading pool, if outside (limit the number of children at a water table or tub to four or five, or use multiple water tables and/or tubs) 
  • tools children have used so far: cups, containers, bottles, basters, plastic tubes, funnels, etc.
  • plastic baggies, rubber gloves, or other unusually shaped containers that can hold water
  • colanders and/or strainers (that water easily flows through) 
  • chart labeled “Our Ideas About Water”

Key Science Concepts

  • Water takes the shape of its container.
  • You can use lots of different objects to move water.


Introduce the words colander and strainer. Ask children if they’ve ever seen their families use them in the kitchen and what they use them for.   


Tell children that, like the people we read about in the book, we’ll try carrying water in different containers.

  1. Hand each child one or two of the containers or tools. (You might give each child an object they are familiar with and one of the new, untested ones—a plastic baggie, a colander, or a rubber glove.)   
  2. Then have them take turns testing whether their objects can hold water. Beforehand, ask the group for their prediction about each object: Do you think it can hold water? Why or why not? Divide the objects into two groups: ones that hold water and ones that don’t.  

Share and Reflect

As children test the containers and tools, ask:

  • What happened to the baggie when you put water into it? What about the rubber glove? 
  • Do you think you can carry water with a funnel? How would you do it?
  • How does the water move differently in a colander compared to a bowl? What’s similar about a colander and a bowl? What’s different?
  • We’ve discovered that colanders and strainers aren’t good for moving water. What do you think they are good for? (You might discuss removing water from spaghetti or separating seeds from juice after squeezing a lemon or orange.)