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Water Cycle: The Cotton Ball & Water Activity

ages 3-6


Cotton balls, cold water, flat pans or containers

Activity Detail

Read a book about rain...suggested titles are : It's Raining Cats and Dogs: All Kinds of Weather and Why We Have It by Franklyn M. Branley; April Showers by George Shannon; or any book with a story that involves rain. Introduce the topics of Evaporation, Condensation, Precipitation, and Collection. Evaporation is caused by the heat of the sun, it dries up the rain and it becomes vapor that goes up into the sky and becomes part of a cloud. (You can boil water in a kettle to show the children that the 'vapor' rises.) Condensation happens when the water vapor gets so high in the sky that it gets cold. The vapor gets 'chilled' and turns back into water again. Precipitation happens when cloud gets very heavy with water...the air just can't keep up the raindrops. The cloud 'bounces' and 'shakes' causing the water in the clouds to fall and come down as rain drops again. Sometimes it is so cold, that the rain freezes on it's way down and becomes snow or hail! Collection happens when the rain finally falls back onto the earth...sometimes in a stream or river, or onto the ground. If the water falls into a stream it is carried away to the river and eventually out to the ocean. And everything begins again. Sometimes the rain falls on land, and is soaked up by the ground. It becomes 'ground water' and it is water that is used by animals, plants, and us! For the Activity: You'll need cotton balls, some flat pans or containers filled with an 1/2 inch of COLD water. 1. Give each child a cotton ball to hold. Tell them to pretend they are holding a cloud. 2. Ask them how does the cloud feel: heavy or light, soft or hard? 3. Instruct the children to place the 'cloud' (cottonball) gently over the cold water. Explain that water that has evaporated has traveled up to the cloud and it is a lot colder in the sky, so the vapor turns back into water and is filling up the cloud. Ask the children if the can see the 'cloud' (cottonball) filling up with the water. 4. Ask the children to gently pick up the 'cloud' (cottonball) from the pan. Ask: How does the 'cloud' feel now? Light or heavy? Warm or cold? What is happening with the water? Yes, the water is 'dripping' from the cloud because it cannot hold all the water. It is too heavy! What do we call it when water falls from the clouds because they are too heavy with rain? Yes..you are right...it's rain!


novelline said:

Not necessarily as "fun" as other activities, but a good educational tool.

- Posted on Jul 18, 2007

amyanddaniel said:

Great visual and hands-on way to teach the water cycle!

- Posted on Aug 23, 2007

this to me is a great idea! I have a daycare and I needed more ways for my kids to learn with out getting bored, and this did just that!

- Posted on Sep 23, 2008

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