Saturday, November 1, 2014

Why Do Boats Float? PLUS, Ten Easy Ways to Make Toy Boats

Boats are fascinating.  There is something surreal about leaving the land behind and traveling across the water.  It is intriguing that all that weight, which would otherwise sink to the bottom of the ocean, floating because of the boat.  I have ten ways for you to make your own boat from pantry items, but first, Could you explain to your preschooler, Why do boats float?

You can explain how boats float, and find 10 ways to make your own toy boat from pantry items.

Why do boats float?

First, ask your child, "Why do boats not fly?"  If this is a new concept, you may get to talk about how the earth's gravity pulls everything on the planet toward the middle.

Why then are boats not pulled all the way to the ocean (or bathtub) floor?  What pushes boats up? Get a toy boat to float in the tub, and encourage her to look underneath the boat to see what is pushing up on it. Of course, the water is!  The force of a fluid like water pushing up on something is called the buoyant force.

That might be enough for your child to comprehend, but there is one more piece that I personally find fascinating. This buoyant force is always equal to the weight of water the boat pushes out of the way.  Once the boat has sunk deep enough to push the amount of water equal to its own weight out of the way, it will not sink any further.

How to make your own toy boat from pantry items

Now all you need is a toy boat, and you are ready to have some fun with your preschooler.  Here are some easy ways to make toy boats, and they all use items that you will find in your pantry.

Find out why boats float, and make your own toy boats that really float!

Use a water bottles.

Bathtub boats from Powerful Mothering look super simple, and you can always use something else to play with in the tub.

I love that these juice box boats from Happy Brown House have moving parts.

Here are some more great, frugal boat making ideas!

These Cork Boats from Mama Papa Bubba would be ready to play with in a flash.

Citrus Fruit from Science Sparks will carry passengers, and she gives some nice experiments to have even more learning fun.

Ice Boats from Learning 4 Kids would be fun on a hot day.

Margarine Tubs from Red Ted ART have moving parts!

Tray and Balloons from Life with Moore Babies have their own locomotion.

Walnut Shells from Two Daloo look like they should have story book characters on board.

Egg Cartons from  Here Come the Girls Blog turn into really lovely canoes.

Wax Cheese Wrapper Boats  from Housing a Forrest allow for some great creativity.

Thanks for Reading!

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More Transportation learning ideas

Interested in a whole unit of  preschool transportation theme learning ideas? Check out this unit that I coauthored with 11 other teacher/mom bloggers.  

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Here at Thriving STEM, we make every effort to be accurate in our explanations.  If you find an error, please leave a correction in the comments.


  1. This is exactly what I needed to put together a preschool class about boats! Thank you so much for the simple explanation of why boats float, and the links to all the ideas. Perfect!

    1. Hi Sue! Thanks for taking the time to let me know that this was helpful. Have a great time floating your boats!


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