Will it Float? Salt Water Science

Just because summer is winding down doesn’t mean you have to stop the water play! Have an itty bitty one at home that loves our Sea Saw underwater game? Then, extend their play by engaging them in a fun water-based science experiment.

Ask your child questions to enhance their play-based learning while playing Sea Saw or any of our other games! Sitting with your child as they engage with electronics and asking them questions turns a somewhat passive activity into an engaging learning activity and an opportunity to bond with your little one!

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One way to develop their scientific reasoning is to introduce the concept of prediction. For example, ask questions like “Which color fish do you think we’ll see next?” or “How many purple fish do you think we’ll see?” 

Follow up each question with something like, “Why do you think that?” or “How do you know that?” Open-ended questions encourage your child’s cognitive reasoning and develop language skills.

Don’t worry if your two-year-old provides a reason that doesn’t make sense to you or says, “I don’t know.” Their silly answer may seem very logical to them! Instead, if you don’t understand, ask them why or to give you more details. For example, you could say. “Hmmm. I don’t think I understand. Could you explain it to me?”

The next step is to take what they observe and learn from the game and put it into action with an actual, live experiment!

Will It Float? Experiment

If you want to take the concept of predictions even further, explore playing a game of Will It Float? Play this game/water science experiment with your kiddo in your kitchen, bathtub, or backyard. Your little one will love being a scientist in this fun experiment!

SUPPLIES: Bathtub, sink, kiddie pool, plastic container, water, and small objects that may or may not float! 

SET-UP: Set the experiment up by explaining to your child that water is naturally buoyant. Explain that objects less dense than the water will float. 

  1.  Fill the container or tub with enough water to judge whether an item will sink or float.
  2.  Look at the various objects and make predictions on whether or not they will float. 
  3.  Choose an item and allow them to place it in the water. Did it float? Was their prediction correct?
  4.  Continue making predictions and adding items to the water.

Further Extensions

Saltwater is heavier than freshwater, so very light things will float in both. Discuss the ocean and how ocean water is salty. Explain that the more salt in the water, the more likely an object is to float.

Some things are heavier than fresh water and lighter than salt water; weighty things will sink in both. The ocean’s salt water makes it easier for us to float, too! Add a few tablespoons of salt to the water and stir, then repeat the experiment to see if anything changes. 

Use different-sized containers with more and less water and compare the results. Does more water mean more things will float? Remember to ask open-ended questions as you play and experiment. 

Your young child may or may not grasp all the concepts introduced in this science experiment. However, the best learning happens through play with trial and error and interaction with materials. The more opportunities you provide your child to experiment through play and materials, the more scientific concepts will cement and develop in their brain. 

Depending on where you live, outdoor water play could be a year-round option. But if you live in a colder climate, there are many fun indoor water play options, too! Little Bins, Little Hands has some great indoor water table ideas!

Free Children on the Inflatable Pool Stock Photo

Playing Will It Float? Develops scientific inquiry, prediction, observation, language, comparison, fine motor control, reasoning, following directions, and sensory input.

View more great experiments by visiting  Kiwi Crate.

Updated August 29th, 2023, by L. Elizabeth Forry

written by

L. Elizabeth Forry 

L. Elizabeth Forry is an Early Childhood Educator with fifteen years of classroom teaching experience. She earned a Master of Science in Early Childhood Education from The University of North Dakota and has a Bachelor of Arts in English and one in Music from Lebanon Valley College. She has taught children in Japan, Washington D.C., Chicago, and suburban Maryland. She is trained as a reading therapist, has a TEFL certification, and has done extensive work with children regarding mental health, social-emotional development, gender development. She has written curriculum for children and educators and has led training sessions for parents and educators on various topics on early childhood development. She is the mother of two boys and resides outside of Annapolis, Maryland.

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