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Sesame Street

Float Your Boat

Make predictions and use trial and error to engineer a boat that will float.


  • Construction paper
  • Popsicle sticks
  • Fabric
  • Playdough or clay
  • Cork
  • Other household materials (such as sponges, newspaper, and aluminum foil)
  • Tape or glue
  • Large container of water


  1. Talk about the concepts of sinking and floating. Explain to your child that when something sinks, it falls to the bottom and when it floats it stays at the top of the water.
  2. Choose three materials to put together to engineer a boat. Encourage your child to talk about his plan and why he thinks his design will float. What will he put on the top? On the bottom? How will the pieces stay together?
  3. Together, construct the boat.
  4. Make a prediction about what will happen when you place the boat in water.
  5. Place the boat in the container of water and observe what happens. If it floats, talk about why you think your design works. If it sinks, think of ways to redesign your boat and try again!
  6. Then, experiment with different household materials to make more boats. Which materials work well and which ones sink to the bottom?

Talk About It

Discuss with your child what may have caused the boats to sink or float. Talk about how the materials you used may have affected how well the boat stayed afloat. Based on what you learned from your investigation, what types of materials do you think engineers might use to build boats?

Take It Further

On your next trip to the park or zoo find different things in nature that float, like certain animals and plants! Notice how animals such as ducks, seagulls, and otters can float on top of the water. What part of their body helps them to float or swim? Also notice how plants, like lily pads, float too!

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