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Printable: Scavenger Hunt with Sink or Float Investigation

This Montessori activity for toddlers combines a couple of types of exploration. It is an example of embodied learning, one of the principles of the Montessori method.

Embodied learning simply means getting a child’s whole self involved in an activity. For example, by incorporating walking, collecting items, organizing or classifying objects. Even smelling and tasting is an example of embodied learning, which is what we do when we introduce our little ones to kitchen activities

We love an outdoor activity with a mission, which is exactly what this Scavenger Hunt offers. We are incorporating our senses, using our whole bodies, and finally, when we come back home, we begin the intellectual fun of predicting whether the things we find on our walk will sink or float!

First, use this printable PDF to take your child on a scavenger hunt to look for these items in nature.

Next, bring the items home and set up a tub of water to learn if each item sinks or floats.

Some families slip the piece of paper into a sheet protector and use a dry erase marker to turn it into a reusable worksheet.

Tech Tip: You can also open the PDF on your phone and then use the “mark up” function to check off the items once you find them. 

First, it is a language exercise. Look at each image together and say the names. Then, head out on a walk in search of the objects, using the words along the way. 

Collect all the items into a bag. A resealable plastic bag will enable you to continue to look at what you have collected along the way.

Why this works

Comparing the photograph of the object with the real one you find in nature helps your child build up their concept of each word, as they explore the idea that objects can have the same name but look different. For example, pinecones can come in many shapes and sizes.

Research says that exposing children to a variety of words during the first three years of life has a significant impact on their later vocabulary, language development, and reading comprehension. Introducing new vocabulary in categorized groups (as opposed to random groups) helps children learn because of the principle of semantic clustering; presenting related words together boosts memory retention.

Numerous research studies show that when educational activities incorporate movement, learners gain a better understanding of content and remember that content more accurately.

In this activity, we will use our whole body to walk, search for objects and place them in the bag. 

Back at home: Making observations

Lay the items you have collected from nature next to a tub or bowl of water. Fill your container with a few inches of water and invite your child to guess if each item will sink or float.

TIP: Include grandparents! Invite them to a video call and show them what you’ve collected. Or offer this activity for them to do on a visit together.

Model the process for your child: Select an item and place it in a bowl or tub of water. Then, pause to observe it. You can remove it and state the results, reinforcing the language we are practicing. 

“The rock sinks!”

Invite your child to place the next item in the water and answer the question, “Does the flower sink or float?”

“The flower floats!”

Extend the activity

Sink or float is always fun with household items such as LEGO bricks, coins, and small toys. All you need is a bowl of water! You can also play in the bathtub.

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