Water is life and it is all around us! In honor of World Water Day on March 22nd, we share how kids can turn a jar into a rain gauge to measure rainfall and collect water for plants to thrive - a great way for kids to explore measurement, the water cycle and put their empathy into action.
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! 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?”
Step 2: 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.
Step 3: Collect rain.
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. 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.
Step 4: Extend the Play!
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.
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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People use critical thinking skills to gather information, evaluate it, screen out distractions and think for themselves. These skills help us identify which knowledge to trust and how to use new and old knowledge together to decide what to believe or do. People also use these skills to develop arguments, make decisions, identify flaws in reasoning and to solve problems.
Also referred to as “higher-level thinking,” critical thinking draws on many other skills that matter (e.g. focus/self control, communication, making connections, and even empathy). Kids won’t fully develop critical thinking until adolescence or even adulthood, but remarkably there is lots that you can do to help your kids build its foundation during preschool and early school ages.
How do little kids build a base for such a complicated set of skills? A key building block to critical thinking is the ability to develop theories about the world and to adjust your theories as new information becomes available. Kids can practice this as they attempt to solve mysteries or actively wonder about why things are as they are. As a family, the more you ask questions, make predictions and allow kids to take active part in discovering the answers to their questions, the stronger you make their foundation for critical thinking. As kids grow out of the 3-to 5-year-olds' freewheeling relationship with reality, you can also train them to question information and see the inconsistencies or flaws in certain ways of thinking.
Why does it matter?
In a world that is increasingly saturated with media messages and where information comes from a wide range of sources that differ in quality, critical thinking is more important than ever. Kids need this skill in order to be informed and empowered consumers, to either suggest or evaluate new solutions to complicated problems, to make decisions about our society and its governance, and to form the beliefs that guide their personal and professional lives.
What is Empathy?
Simply put, empathy is the ability to think and care about the feelings and needs of others. The good news is, the more we study, it appears that children are empathetic by nature. All we need to do is nurture it in them—that of course is now always easy. Even though young children are simply working on gaining control over their emotions and won’t learn to really think about their emotions and the cause and effect of their behavior on others until their school years, they can start to develop the foundation for empathy much earlier. Taking actions (and watching adults take actions) that benefit other people, caring for animals and their environment and even just wondering how other people or creatures are feeling helps build both positive habits and a strong base for the development of empathy.
Why does it matter?
Empathy is at the root of what psychologists call “pro-social” behavior—behavior that people must develop in order to develop a conscience, build close relationships, maintain friendships, and develop strong communities. Empathy also helps kids avoid bullying, one of the most worrisome social challenges young kids face. Being able to think and feel for others can keep kids from becoming either bully or victim and equip them to stand up for others who are bullied. Imagine if all kids had such tools!