Water Cycle for Kids

Valorie Delp
water droplets

Understanding the water cycle, for kids, is the first step towards understanding earth science. The hydrologic cycle, or water cycle, essentially explains the processes water goes through to get from evaporation to rain to our drinking water. Teaching the water cycle for kids will help them better understand the importance of our drinking water supply as well as important processes that the earth goes through.

Steps of the Water Cycle for Kids to Memorize

These steps are not difficult, and if you teach kids to think about them, they make logical sense.

Evaporation

The first step to learning about the water cycle is understanding how evaporation works. Water, like all elements, can exist in three phases: water, liquid, and gas. Evaporation is the process of water changing from a liquid to a gas.

Condensation

As the water is evaporating, it cools. When it cools, it turns back into tiny water droplets which in turn become clouds. When the clouds get too full, we enter our next step of the water cycle.

Precipitation

Eventually, clouds become too full of water droplets. As they become too full, the water droplets fall and we have rain or snow or some other type of precipitation.

Runoff and Percolation

Some of the water stays on the earth's surface in reservoirs, lakes and oceans. Other water seeps down into the ground. It takes about nine days to complete the water cycle. For kids, it can be a really fascinating point to study.

Simulate the Water Cycle at Home

To help kids understand concepts related to the water cycle, you can actually simulate the water cycle at home and watch it in action with this simple model.

You will need:

  • a sunny window
  • a large plastic baggie
  • a regular sized (about 8 oz.) plastic cup
  • water
  • permanent marker
  • small ruler with cm markings
  • science journal

Step 1--Fill the plastic cup with tepid water. Mark the water level on the side of the cup with a permanent marker and write the date next to the mark.

Step 2--Put the cup in a sunny window and place the plastic baggy over the cup.

Step 3--Each day, at about the same time, mark the water level. If at all possible, try to do this without removing the plastic bag completely.

What you should see: Over the course of several days, water will evaporate. This is evident by marking the water level. Each day the water level will be lower and lower. Conversely, each day you will see more and more water droplets on the inside of the plastic bag.

If you are particularly adventurous, try making a model village inside a small aquarium. You can create a real lake and river and also include some greenery if you'd like. Cover the aquarium with tight fitting plastic wrap and observe.

Resources for Teaching the Water Cycle for Kids

There are numerous resources for teaching the water cycle. Many of the best ones are completely free off the Internet and come from water conservation groups as well as the United States government.

Websites to Teach About the Water Cycle

Here is a list of informative websites:

  • USGS has a full color water cycle diagram as well as materials that you can print out. You can also download a free place mat for kids to color and use.
  • iKnowThat.com also offers a section on weather and the water cycle under their science link. It's addictively interactive, and kids may even find some activities that they can do at home.
  • The EPA has an excellent page of links to numerous sites that offer freebies, explanations and interactive online exhibits for studying the water cycle.

Books That Teach About the Water Cycle

These are some excellent books that teach about the water cycle.

Water Cycle for Kids