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If you are doing a unit on density or having your children experiment with things that sink or float, I’ve gathered a great list of books about sinking and floating that are perfect for kids. Below I describe and review six books you will want to check out and read with your children.
Note: Find more science experiments on my Science Activities for Kids page!
Things That Float and Things That Don’t by David A. Adler
In science education, ABC is an acronym that stands for Activity Before Content. Activity Before Content means that children should experience a phenomenon for themselves before learning the scientific content underlying what they observed. ABC is a best practice for presenting a science lesson, and this book is a perfect example of ABC. This book walks kids through completing several of their own simple sink and float experiments before it then explains the science behind what kids have observed. This book covers concepts such as density, cubic feet, and displacement. The amount of text in this book is probably too much for preschoolers, but this is a great book for kindergarten and elementary students who have an adult to guide them through doing the experiments and then understanding the concepts.
What Floats? What Sinks?: A Look at Density by Jennifer Boothroyd
This book addresses more advanced concepts related to sinking and floating, and is thus best for elementary students who already have a firm grasp on the basic concept of solids sinking and floating in liquids. One way in which this book is more advanced is that it addresses how things can float and sink in both liquids and gasses. Rocks, for example, will sink in both air and water. Apples, however, will float in water but sink in air. And a hot air balloon will float in air. Another example of how this book addresses more advanced concepts is that is discusses how not just solids can sink and float, but also how liquids and gasses can sink and float. Oil, for example, will float on top of syrup. And helium balloons will float in air. Overall, this book does a good job of explaining the concept of density. The back of the book includes an activity to observe liquid densities.
Captain Kidd’s Crew Experiments with Sinking and Floating by Mark Weakland
This book follows a crew of pirates as they explain why some things sink and other things float. The book gives a cursory definition of density and then goes on to provide multiple examples of things that sink – because they are more dense than water – or float – because they are less dense than water. The book also discusses concepts like gravity, buoyancy, and displacement. This book also addresses the common misconception that light objects float while heavy objects sink. A boat, after all, floats despite being a very heavy object. The book is full of pirate imagery and pirate talk, so it will delight pirate lovers while also giving them a basic science lesson on sinking and floating.
What Floats in a Moat? by Lynne Berry
This is a very cute fictional story with themes of experimentation and density. Archie the goat is attempting to get into the castle. However, the castle is surrounded by a moat. How will he get across the moat? He decides to built a floating vessel to get across. His first two attempts are unsuccessful, but he learns from each attempt until he finally designs the perfect floating vessel to cross the moat and get into the castle to meet his friend. A wise adult can help children understand why Archie’s initial attempts failed and why his last attempt was successful, teaching them a valuable lesson about density in the process. The last page of the book includes a scientific explanation for adults.
Who Sank the Boat? by Pamela Allen
This book was not written as a science book with the goal of teaching kids about sinking and floating. Nonetheless, the topic of this adorable children’s story is pertinent to learning about sinking and floating, so I have decided to include it in my review. This is a story about a cow, donkey, sheep, pig, and little mouse that decided to go for a ride in a row boat one day. However, as they got in, the boat sank. Do you who sank the boat? This classic children’s story is beautifully illustrated. Indeed, the illustrations are very helpful for showing how all of the animals together were responsible for sinking the boat.
The Magic School Bus: Ups and Downs by Joanna Cole
The students in Ms. Frizzle’s class hear rumors of a monster in the lake. They come up with several ideas for finding out if the monster is real. But some of their ideas, like enticing the monster with a banana, don’t work out because the students can’t get the banana to sink. Eventually, the students hop on the magic school bus, but again they have to load it with a lot of weight to get it to sink. All throughout their adventures to find the monster the students learn some valuable lessons about floating and sinking.
Grab a copy of my Density STEM Pack for instructions on doing 9 different activities to teach kids about density!
More science activities for kids
More science posts from Gift of Curiosity:
- Sink or float hands-on density activity
- Dancing raisins
- Candy experiments
- Jumping colors science activity
- Make your own glycerin soap
- Crystallized snowflakes
- Dissecting an apple
- Make your own telescope
- The great baking soda and vinegar experiment
- Magic inflating balloons
Find more great science activities on my Science Activities for Kids page and my Science Activities Pinterest board.
Sheryl Ann McCoy
Thanks for the reminder of some wonderful books. I was looking for ideas of books to use for trade books about density, and I’ll include your list (and cite my source). I’m a graduate student in an Oceanography class, and I’m making a lesson on density for K-5.