If your kids are missing their friends from school, or you’re just looking for another excuse to have some neighborhood friends over, combine learning and water for the ultimate in summer science fun. Thanks to this fun activity from PBS Parents, your kids and their friends can play and learn by making penny boats out of aluminum foil before jumping in the water themselves.
Penny boats take only a few household materials to make but can really get kids’ wheels turning as they design their own seaworthy vessel. Just gather a roll of aluminum foil, a tub or kiddie pool of water, and as many pennies as you can dig up from the sofa seat cushions. Crayons, pencils, and paper will also come in handy for the first step for the activity.
Begin by asking kids to draw what they imagine their boats will look like, and then have them guess how many pennies a boat made of foil can hold.
Next, construction begins! Give each child a piece of aluminum foil and challenge them to design a boat that will hold a large number of pennies. There’s no wrong way to float your boat: Boats can be square, round, kayak-shaped, or wherever their imagination takes them.
Once the boat is floating in the water, drop in pennies one by one and keep track of how many coins the boat holds until it sinks. Encourage little scientists to experiment and try new shapes to increase the number! At our summer learning party, the kids shaped and re-shaped the boats to hold almost 100 pennies in them. In fact, I ran out of pennies! If you’re having a party with five or more kids, you might need to pick up a roll or two of pennies to be prepared.
While kids are building and experimenting, you can talk about buoyancy and what makes a boat float. A great resource is the FETCH! With Ruff Ruffman book Show’s Over, which includes a similar activity with more details to explore in depth.
You can also take the experiment further! Check out Penny Boats on PBS Parents’ Adventures in Learning for more ideas.
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PBS Kids provided activity and promotional materials for this summer learning party.