One great STEM activity that you can do with children to understand our water cycles is to make a rain gauge—you can make one for a group of children, or make one per child. This is one of those activities that is less focused on the actual production of the activity (though children can of course help!) but the really rich learning happens over days, and even weeks of working with a rain gauge.

Set up Time: 10 minutes


  1. Gather a medium or large recycled bottle, permanent marker, rocks, and a box cutter.
  2. This is for the adult: Cut off the top part of the water bottle (where it starts to slant) with the box cutter.
  3. Draw a line at the bottom and mark it 0. Then, with a ruler (in our case, we used a paper with one inch notches, as it was more flexible) to mark one inch increments on your bottle and label them 1,2,3…etc.
  4. Fill the bottom of the bottle with water and stones until your water line reaches 0. You will measure rain from this point. The stones and water anchor the rain gauge down and also make sure you get accurate measurements from the 0 point.
  5. Place the top of the bottle upside down (this is your funnel).
  6. Place the rain gauge in a level place outside with even exposure to rain.


  • Permanent marker
  • Measuring tape
  • Rocks
  • Recycled plastic bottles

Learning Through Play

Cognitive: Connections – Notice how children start to check the rain gauge unprompted—do they start to notice patterns, such as consecutive days with or without rain? Do they make connections to the way the plants or ground looks after rain? How does the rain change through the seasons?

Social-Emotional: Routines – Invite children to check their rain gauge every morning. The educator might have to intentionally invite children to go and check the rain gauge, but then it can start to naturally become part of the daily routine. If in a group setting, this could be added to your daily jobs in your learning environment, someone could have the daily task of meteorologist).

School Readiness: Measurement – Young children might not be familiar with units of measurement, such as inches or centimeters, because there are building blocks that help them reach that point. First, children need to explore materials and tools that are used for measurement, and understand the concepts of more or less, which they can do by pouring water, or using loose parts of different sizes. Children also need to be able to count, and observe that a unit of measurement means multiple of the same size unit. So, when using your rain gauge you can simply expose children to the unit of measurement (inches) and explain out loud that it rained 1 inch, or 2 inches, to let children hear you use measurement in every day language.

See this activity in the Rayz Kidz app along with the other activities in the theme “Water Cycles”. Rayz Kidz is your trusted source for play-based activities featuring over 100 themes and 500+ hands-on activities and clear descriptions of the beautiful learning that is happening through play.