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Make a Rain Gauge

  • Age: 3 to 8+
  • Time: Under 1 hour
  • Materials: glass jar or clear container, ruler, (optional) yarn or sidewalk chalk

Water is life and it is all around us! In this activity, kids explore measurement, the water cycle and put their empathy into action by turning a jar into a rain gauge to measure rainfall and collect water for plants to thrive. Here’s how:

The Guide

Learn about water: Watch the read-aloud of We Are the Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom. Wonder, who needs water to thrive? Where does water come from? Rain!

Set the stage: Say, “Do you think we could be water protectors? Would you like to make a tool to capture some of the water from the rain and give it to the plants that need water to thrive?”

Make a rain gauge: Find a jar or clear container to use as your rain gauge. Kids can draw or write on a piece of paper and use it to decorate the rain jar to make it feel extra special (just be sure to cover the paper with clear tape to keep it dry in the rain). Introduce a ruler as a tool you can use to measure how much water you collect after each rainfall. Big kids can help mark ½ inch measurement lines on the jar using a ruler. Or, you can skip this step and dip a ruler directly into the jar after a rain.

Set out your rain gauge: Find a flat surface to set out your rain gauge where you can easily see it or get to it from your home and ideally without large tree branches or other covering overhead.

Collect rain: The next time rain is in the forecast, invite your child to make a prediction of how much rain they will collect in their rain gauge. If you can, visit the gauge several times throughout a rain storm and use your measurement lines or ruler to see how much rain accumulates over time. Kids can also record their observations to track their rain measurements throughout each rain storm and throughout the summer.

Play in the rain: Part of the fun of making a rain gauge is going outside in a rainstorm! Embrace the gift of water play from nature. Stomp and splash in puddles. Dance in the rain. Float nature treasures in puddles and temporary streams formed by the storm.

Water the plants: After each rainfall, invite your child to choose a plant to gift the water collected in the rain gauge. Give yourselves a cheer for returning the water to the earth and helping a living thing to thrive.

Measure puddles: If your child enjoys measuring rain, add an extension by exploring evaporation. After a rainfall, search for a puddle and use sidewalk chalk or a piece of yarn to outline the shape of the water. Revisit the puddle throughout the day and take note of how the size and shape of the puddle changes over time.

Why is this activity great for kids?

Creating a simple tool to collect and reuse water is a super way to teach kids how to be stewards of our planet. Kids today can't help but feel the concern we all share for our earth, so helping them to take action can really help counter balance their worries. As kids collect and measure rainfall, they practice important STEM skills and learn about the water cycle. Plus, when kids think about the needs of plants and return the rainwater to the earth, they are practicing compassionate empathy.

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