I’m really excited to share with you one of my most favorite activities to do with kids of all ages! How to explore sound with (colored!) water in various sized glasses. I love how it combines sound and color exploration and how sensory-rich it is!
I have used this with groups of kids as young as preschool and as old as 5th grade (and all sorts of combined age groups) and it is ALWAYS a hit.
Plus, it’s easy to do anytime with objects you probably have around the house already, and it requires very little set up.
Explore Sound and Color with Water Glasses
Be forewarned: by the time you’re finished, it will probably become a wet mess of brownish, grayish water. But it sure goes through some amazingly beautiful phases before it gets there (both to the eyes and to the ears!).
And since it’s just colored water, the cleanup is quick and easy.
What you need
- A variety of drinking glasses (You can use a set that are all the same size or a variety of different shapes and sizes—either way, you’re exploring science + art!)
- A pitcher of water
- Spoons and/or wooden sticks (the wood end of a paint brush works well)
- Food coloring (or liquid watercolors)
- Trays or a towel to work on (or do this outside, weather permitting)
Get Set Up
I started with 3 glasses and two spoons at each place, although you can vary this however you like—there is no wrong way to set this up!
While I was filling up the pitcher of water in the kitchen, I sent my kids into the art room and asked them “What sounds can you make?” with the objects on the table.
By the time I filled the pitcher and made it into the art room, they were banging away with spoons on the empty glasses.
How to Explore Sound with Glasses of Water
We started with empty glasses at each place and a pitcher of water on the table in the middle. My kids enjoyed the autonomy of pouring different amounts of water into each glass. (For younger kids, you can pour water and ask them to tell you when to stop.)
Once they filled their glasses, they wanted to add color.
Watching drops of food coloring (or liquid watercolor) diffuse through the water is absolutely magical!
Now that the glasses are filled with different colors, encourage your child to explore sounds again using the spoons. (Try wooden sticks, also, as they produce different sounds.)
Here’s a video of my kids exploring sound with the water glasses.
Ezra tried banging on different spots on the glass and eventually put a spoon inside a glass, covered it with another glass, and shook it all around. It sounded amazing (as you can tell by Lucy’s face in the photo below!).
They might notice that different amounts of water (or differently shaped glasses) make different sounds! Or they might just enjoy the experience of banging and pouring and mixing. :)
Ezra was really interested in putting one glass inside another glass and watching the liquid “squish up the sides”—a great science connection on the concept of displacement!
From here, it’s really a free for all!
I have yet to try this with a child who didn’t really enjoy dumping, mixing, adding more water, adding more color, and mixing some more.
Lucy wanted to explore the color mixing aspect the most; she was slow and careful with her color combinations!
You may want to have an empty bowl so that when their glasses get overly full, they can dump some out and start again with fresh water and fresh color.
My kids stuck with this for quite a long time.
I love the combination of science, sound and art in such an open-ended, sensory way. This activity really saved us on a blustery winter morning over the holiday break! Perhaps it will for you, too…
More Resources for Exploring Sound with Water
- Exploring the Sounds of Glass with Young Children (on Teach Preschool)
- Make and Play a Water Xylophone (YouTube video by Cartoonium Jr.)
- Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy (YouTube video of Robert Tiso playing crystal wine glasses)
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