Water Cycle In The Garden: How To Teach Kids About The Water Cycle

By: Mary Ellen Ellis

Gardening can be a great way to teach children specific lessons. It’s not just about plants and growing them, but all aspects of science. Water, in the garden and in houseplants, for instance, can be a lesson for teaching the water cycle.

Observing the Water Cycle in the Garden

Learning about the water cycle is an important part of basic earth science, ecosystems, and botany. Simply observing the movement of water through your yard and garden is one easy way to teach this lesson to your children.

The basic concept about the water cycle to teach children is that water moves through the environment, changing forms and constantly recycling. It is a finite resource that changes but never goes away. Some of the aspects of the water cycle you and your children can observe in your garden include:

  • Rain and snow. One of the most noticeable parts of the water cycle is precipitation. When the air and clouds fill with moisture, it reaches a critical point of saturation and we get rain, snow, and other types of precipitation.
  • Ponds, rivers, and other waterways. Where does the precipitation go? It replenishes our waterways. Look for changes in the water levels of ponds, streams, and wetlands after rain.
  • Wet vs. dry soil. Harder to see is the precipitation that soaks into the ground. Compare how the soil in the garden looks and feels before and after it rains.
  • Gutters and storm drains. Human elements also come into play in the water cycle. Notice the change in sound of a storm drain before and after a hard rain or the water that surges from the downspouts of your home’s gutters.
  • Transpiration. Water also gets pulled out of plants, through their leaves. This isn’t always easy to see in the garden, but you can manipulate houseplants to see this process in action.

Water Cycle Lessons and Ideas

You can teach kids about the water cycle just by observing how water moves through your garden, but also try some great ideas for projects and lessons. For kids of any age, creating a terrarium will allow you to create and observe a small water cycle.

A terrarium is an enclosed garden, and you don’t need a fancy container to make one. A mason jar or even a plastic bag you can put over a plant will work. Your kids will put water into the environment, close it, and watch the water move from soil to plant, to air. Condensation will form on the container too. And, if you look closely, you may be able to see transpiration happening, as droplets of water form on the leaves of plants.

For older students, like those in high school, the garden is a great place for an extended project or experiment. As an example, have your kids design and create a rain garden. Start with research and design, and then build it. They can also do several experiments as part of the process, such as measuring rainfall and changes in pond or wetlands levels, trying different plants to see which do best in soggy soil, and measuring pollutants in the water.

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Teaching Kids about Water Conservation & the Water Cycle

Activiites & books about that teach our children about water conservation and the water cycle!

It's a day for all of us to remember that water is an important resource in our life and clean water is a limited resource for many around the world.

Everyone can make a difference in preserving this natural resource, even the youngest among us!

In fact, our kids might even teach us adults a thing or two.

Join us as we explore some great books, learn about the water cycle and share tips for easy ways to conserve water.

Water Cycle for Kindergarten

In this article, let’s explore water and some fun tips for teaching your kindergartners all about the water cycle. Keep reading for some helpful tips and fun activities you can use to get started teaching your children about the water cycle today.

How can you explain this scientific process to your children? Will they be able to understand the stages that comprise the water cycle?

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How Do You Explain the Water Cycle to Kindergarten?

Water takes up over two thirds of our planet’s surface. It’s the most common substance on Earth and it’s essential for all life. In fact, it makes up two thirds of the human body too!

Even though we use water every day, there is a limited supply. So why don’t we run out?

The answer lies in understanding the water cycle and how it works. But how can we explain something so complex to kindergartners?

First, get kids started thinking about water and all the ways we use water every day. Kids can have fun drawing pictures of their favorite ways to enjoy water too. Some things children might draw include: swimming, playing in the bathtub, jumping in rain puddles, or even building a snowman! Then, you can explain how the water cycle makes all these things possible.

When we learned about the water cycle, we really enjoyed exploring Barbara Taylor’s non-fiction picture book Rivers and Oceans: Geography Facts and Experiments. The book has colorful illustrations coupled with easy to understand explanations young children can easily digest.

What are the 4 stages of the water cycle?

The water cycle can be separated into 4 different stages. At each stage, water changes and moves. It’s a great time to explain to your kindergartners that water (like all matter) can’t be created or destroyed, instead, it is constantly changing forms in a never ending cycle. We call this the law of conservation.


The first stage in the water cycle is called evaporation. During this stage, the heat from the sun causes water found in rivers, lakes, and oceans to turn from liquid to gas.

We often think about evaporation as the water disappears, but it’s important to teach kindergartners that water never truly disappears. Evaporated water is in the form of a gas and it collects in the sky to form clouds.

For some hands on experimentation with this stage of the water cycle, have children put water in a clear cup and mark the water line on the outside of the cup. Place the cup outside in a sunny spot for the day.

The next day, check to see if the water in your cup is at the same level. As long as it did not rain, you should notice that some of the water has evaporated.

Then, have kindergartners spend time spotting clouds in the sky. Talk about how each of the clouds was formed by evaporation. For fun, ask children how much water they think you would need for just one of the clouds in the sky. Their answers might surprise you!


The second stage in the water cycle is called condensation. Condensation happens when the water vapor (gas) in the clouds becomes cold enough to form water droplets.

One really fun way to teach your kindergartners about condensation is to make ice cream floats! First, give each child a cup and a straw. Then, fill each cup halfway with cold soda or root beer. Next, add a scoop of vanilla ice cream to each cup.

After you’ve added the ice cream, have children watch in awe as the outside of the cup becomes wet with condensation that wasn’t visible before. Don’t wait too long to enjoy your special ice cream floats!

Explain: as the water droplets in this stage of the cycle condense, the cloud becomes heavier. Eventually, the water droplets fall from the clouds and the third stage of the water cycle begins.


The third stage in the water cycle is called precipitation. Unlike evaporation and condensation, most kindergartners are somewhat familiar with precipitation.

In this stage, water falls from the sky in various forms of precipitation:

  • Rain
  • Sleet
  • Snow
  • Hail


The final stage of the water cycle is often called the collection stage. At this stage, the precipitation that falls from the sky is gathered into oceans, lakes, rivers, and even the rain puddles our little ones love so much.

After water is collected into Earth’s rivers and lakes, the process begins again. The water cycle keeps repeating and it never ends!

To explore this stage of the water cycle with your kindergartner, just wait for a rainy day. Then, you can dress in your rain boots and have a great time splashing around in every puddle you can find.

I don’t know about you, but I spend a lot of time telling my kids not to step in puddles. As a result, a day spent traipsing through rain puddles is the perfect way to help kids remember the water cycle for a long time to come.

If you’d like to learn more about how to teach the water cycle, check out my tips for teaching the water cycle below.

Water Cycle Projects for Kids

Tips for Teaching the Water Cycle:

I like to create lesson plans that incorporate many different styles of learning. Teaching in a way that touches on different modes of learning helps children with different strengths can excel at learning too.

Another benefit to teaching the water cycle in this way is that it reinforces the concepts in a variety of ways. By teaching the stages more than once in different ways, you can ensure that your children will process and internalize the information.

An easy way to touch on different learning styles is to incorporate music, movement, and creativity into your lesson about the water cycle.

Here are some more fun activities that are sure to engage all your little learners.

Movement Activities

Learn the Water Cycle Song Together

You can help your auditory learners remember the stages in the water cycle and how it works with Water Cycle Song from Have Fun Teaching.

For even more fun, get children out of their seats and make up your own cool dance moves to do as you sing together.

Dancing while you’re learning is a great way to promote physical activity in your students while increasing blood and oxygen flow to help children process thoughts and improve memorization skills.

Draw the Water Cycle

Work with your kindergartner to draw and label the 4 stages of the water cycle. Visual learners and Kinesthetic learners can benefit from putting colored pencils to paper with this fun activity.

Kids can also draw the water cycle on the board, notebook paper, or even a paper plate.

For extra learning fun, you can use a variety of materials to create a 3d water cycle model inside a recycled box. It’s a great way to use recycled materials like an Amazon box to good use!

Build a Miniature Terrarium

Kinesthetic learners tend to learn best with hands-on activities. For these kids, it’s important to use their hands to learn about the water cycle.

You can teach kinesthetic learners about the real meaning of the water cycle by creating your very own miniature terrarium. A terrarium is a closed environment that demonstrates the water cycle every day.

Your miniature terrarium can sustain itself after having been watered very little. It’s a fascinating real-life way to teach kids about the water cycle. If you click over to this RAINFOREST TERRARIUM you’ll find the full directions with step by step pictures and information.

To create your own follow these steps:

  1. Fill the bottom of a glass jar with rocks or pebbles ½ to 2 inches deep. You can use a recycled pasta sauce jar, a mason jar, or a larger glass vase with a tight-fitting lid. Remember, the depth of your rock layer depends on the size of your jar, so use more rocks for a larger jar.
  2. Cover the rocks with a layer of activated charcoal. Why charcoal? It helps reduce bacteria and fungus that might threaten the life of the plants you’ll grow in your terrarium.
  3. Next, add soil. Remember, the type of plant you choose may need a certain type of soil to grow well. How much soil should you add? Enough for the plant to have room to grow, but not so much that it won’t fit in your jar.
  4. Then, dig out a space for your plant and add your plant to the jar. Try to keep your plant away from the edges of the jar as much as possible.
  5. Finally, give your plant a little water. Remember, your terrarium is not a house plant and it does not need to be soaked with water. Just a little water is enough to kick off the water cycle process. Seal the jar and watch the water cycle begin to cultivate your little world.
  6. Don’t forget to clean off any debris from the outside of your terrarium jar, so that you and your children can see and enjoy the amazing processes happening inside.

Your kids can help you to build the terrarium as much as they are able. They will enjoy seeing the water cycle in action for months and even years to come!

Field Trip to the Local Water Treatment Plant

Another great way to teach children about the water cycle is by helping them to understand why it’s important and how it affects our daily lives. One way to show your kindergartners the effects of the water cycle is by taking a field trip to your local water treatment facility.

Many water treatment facilities are happy to set up tours for students. Some also provide learning materials and presentations to help teach your children about the water cycle and the processes we use to provide clean water for drinking in our cities.

A field trip to a water treatment plant is also an excellent way to introduce children to the concept of water conservation and explain why it’s important to care for and conserve our water supply.

I can’t wait to hear all about how you’re teaching your kids about the water cycle. Don’t forget to share your own helpful water cycle teaching tips in the comments below.

Do you have a favorite activity or book for learning more about the water cycle with young children? I’d love to read about it in the comment section.

Have fun learning about science through nature as you explore the water cycle with your kids!

Studies have shown that if you like this, you will also love the following articles. I have pulled them together for you right here!

Science Experiment: Hydrologic (Water) Cycle - DIY Terrarium

The water on the earth is in constant motion. Water falls to the earth as rain and then evaporates back up into the air forming clouds. Evaporation is happening all the time, we just can't see it. Evaporation is the process that changes liquid (like water) to gas (water vapor in the air). Water vapor in the air forms tiny droplets. When there are a bunch of these droplets clouds form. When a bunch of the droplets stick together raindrops form and fall back to earth again. After the rain falls, some of it soaks into the earth, and some of it evaporates into the air again. This cycle is call the hydrologic or water cycle.

To see how the hydrologic cycle works you can make your own miniature model of the earth in a terrarium. A terrarium is a little garden inside a clear, sealed plastic or glass container. A canning jar is a common glass container with a lid that might be easy to find at home. You can probably find the other things you need for your terrarium in your own backyard: small stones go in the bottom of the container, dirt, and a small plant or two. Look in shady areas for moss, it grows really well in a terrarium! You can also plant seeds and watch them grow.

Try it at Home! What You Need:

  • a Clear Plastic or Glass Container With a Lid
  • Stones
  • Soil
  • Plants
  • Water
  • Little Toys for Decoration (optional)

After planting, add enough water just to moisten the soil. You don't want to flood your garden. You don't want standing water in the bottom of the container. When you poor water into your terrarium you are starting the water cycle. Eventually, it will "rain" in the little glass world you have made! When you set your terrarium in the sun the water inside the terrarium will heat up and turn into water vapor in the air. This is called evaporation. When the water cools back down, it turns back into a liquid. You will see condensation - water droplets - sticking to the lid of your terrarium. If the drops get large enough, they will roll down the sides of the container or fall from the lid - rain!

The close-up on the left shows the condensation that began to form on the inside of the jar after only 1 hour sitting in the sun. If there is too much water just open the lid and let some of the water evaporate into the air outside the container. If your plants look wilted or dry, try adding a little more water. It might take some trial and error to get the amount of water needed just right.

Science Experiment Idea: Make three identical terrariums. You have to use the same kind of container, the same amount of soil & the same plants. Make your variable (the thing you are going to test) the amount of water you put into the terrariums. Measure a different amount of water into each terrarium. Close the lids and watch the terrariums over several days to see which amount of water made the best environment for your plants. A terrarium with too little water will have dry plants. A terrarium with too much water will have plants with yellow leaves and maybe even mold growing on the soil!

Websites, Printables & Activities:

  • NASA ClimateKids: What is the Water Cycle?
  • NASA ClimateKids: Make a Terrarium Mini Garden
  • USGS: Water Cycle for Kids
  • USGS: Evaporation and the Water Cycle
  • National Geographic Kids: The Water Cycle
  • American Museum of Natural History: Create a Coral Reef

You can also ask a math and science expert for homework help by calling the Ask Rose Homework Hotline. They provide FREE math and science homework help to Indiana students in grades 6-12.


Use your indyPL Library Card to check out books at any of our locations, or check out e-books and e-audiobooks from home right to your device.

Need help? Call or ask a Library staff member at any of our locations or text a librarian at 317 333-6877.

17 Creative Ways to Teach Plant Life Cycle

These projects will definitely make you want to grab some seeds.

Plant life cycle is always a fun science unit. You get to talk about growing, planting, and nature. Plus, students love digging in and getting their hands dirty when they plant a seed themselves. Here are our favorite plant life cycle activities, projects, and videos to really engage your students and make this lesson fun.


In this section of the lesson we explore the water cycle using the interactive Exploring the Water Cycle activity courtesy of NASA. (MS-LS2-3. Develop a model to describe the cycling of matter and flow of energy among living and nonliving parts of an ecosystem./CCC-Energy/Matter- The transfer of energy/matter can be tracked as energy/matter flows through a natural system.)

1. Hand out the Exploring the Water Cycle Student Handout. Students will use this throughout the rest of the lesson.

2. Show the water cycle video (slide 5). Students should be labeling their blank diagrams as they watch. This version of the water cycle is more complex than the one on their capture sheets. Students only need to copy the ones from the word bank. This video has no narration so you will need to talk the kids through it, pausing as necessary. I have included video below:

3. Ask, “Which of the stages in the water cycle required energy from the Sun?” (Evaporation and Transpiration.) Click on the diagram (slide 6) and the correct labels will be circles. Go to next slide.

4. Ask, “Which of the stages requires water to give off heat? (Condensation) (slide 7). Click on the diagram and the correct labels will be circles. Go to next slide.

5. Ask, “Which of the stages are driven by the force of gravity?” (slide 8). (Precipitation, Runoff, Infiltration, Groundwater Flow) Click on the diagram and the correct labels will be circles. Go to next slide.

Watch the video: The Water Cycle Song. Science Songs. Scratch Garden

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