The day after a heavy rain is a fantastic time for kids to see how water moves on the land. Water is still around, often in places it isn’t typically present. Rivers and streams are full and ephemeral rivulets of water may still be present.
For a laid back approach, see #2 Rainy Day Activity lower down on our News page. You can crank it up a notch if you want by introducing the concept of watersheds.
What is a watershed? It’s an area of land that drains to a body of water (river, stream, ocean). Every bit of land is part of a watershed. There are small watersheds (think local stream) and huge watersheds (think Androscoggin River).
Kids can think of a watershed as a shallow depression or bowl in the landscape, where the rim of the bowl is a hill or ridge. All the water that falls on the low side of the hill or ridge drains to the river, stream, or lake at the lowest point in the landscape. You can create your own watershed with a piece of plastic, two people holding up two of the corners, and a hose spraying water on it.
See if your child can find a small watershed in your yard or in a place you like to visit. Can they find an area where water collects in a stream or rivulet? Can they tell what area around the stream is sending water to the stream?
Water on the landscape gives rise to lots of questions.
- Why are there pools of water in places after a rain? Why isn’t that water there all the time?
- Why is there so much more water in streams after a big rain? How did the water get into the stream? Where does all that water in the stream go?
- Why is the water in streams so muddy after a big rain?
- Why do some places flood after a big rain?
It’s fine if you can’t answer them all. Curiosity is often the most powerful motivator. Cultivate children’s powers of observation, and interest in seeking answers may follow.
If you want to keep it simple, a popular activity for kids is building small boats or rafts out of twigs and leaves to send down a stream. See how slowly or quickly they travel between two points. Measure the distance and the travel time and calculate the boat’s speed. Do different boats travel at different speeds?
Water offers endless opportunities for fun and usually kids absorb some physics concepts along the way. Have fun and wear boots!