Fall | Water: Infants & Toddlers

Lakes & Rivers: Still vs. Moving

Summary: Water is a great way for tiny gardeners to explore the world. It provides a lot of sensory experiences and in the cool months, keeping our garden well watered is important preparation for winter.   

Before Visiting the Garden: 

Gather: Roll of tin foil, hose or watering can, bucket, things that float such as twigs you find in the garden, and a large map or globe

Explore: “The Tetons and Snake River” by Ansel Adams. Can you trace the water through this picture?

Read: Water Can Be… by Laurie Purdie Salas, Illustrations by Violeta Habija 

In the Garden: 

Some water moves while some water stays put. Take out your map/globe and work with your tiny gardener to find the rivers and lakes in your area or around the world. 

Questions to Explore:

Can you trace the rivers and lakes on the map? 

When you find a river, have your gardener wiggle and move like a rushing river. When you find a lake, pretend to float on the grass like a quiet lake. 

Do you see any moving water in the garden? If not, can you see where the water has been in the garden?


  1. Fold the tinfoil into a half tube creating a river along the roots of your plants. 
  2. Prop the mouth of the river up slightly on the high side of a raised bed or with some light dirt pack. 
  3. Place a bucket at the end of your river so you can capture and reuse any water from your river. 
  4. Use your hose or watering can to fill the river and float some twigs and leaves down your river. Allow your gardener to run their hands in the water and float different items down the river. 
  5. Which items sink? Which float? Does one move faster? At the end of your river play, pour the water onto the roots of your thirsty plants. 

Beyond the Garden | Water Play:

As the seasons change and it gets cooler, leaves begin to turn color. Watching them float in lakes and down rivers can be a great activity for little people. Pack a picnic lunch, find a local park, and spend some time watching the leaves move and dance on the water. Can you race twigs and branches down a real river? 

Continue Exploring | Supporting Materials:

Find a park and perhaps it will lead you to more water: http://www.americasstateparks.org/

Note for Parents:
Each lesson suggests you explore a piece of artwork and read a specific book with your child. The artwork and books are easily available for view with an online search. However, these suggestions are not necessary to complete the lessons.

Guiding Principles


Learning, though not always visible, is always happening. The lessons are designed using inquiry as a base. Rather than “right answers” be more concerned with asking good questions.


Things may not go as planned. The lessons are designed to be used in whatever way works best for you. You can use all of the lesson or just pull a piece out of it.


Planting and cultivating a garden is believing in possibility. The lessons are designed to generate excitement about the future.


Each lesson includes a way to take the learning out into the community for more learning and more connection.


When a young child’s innate curiosity is unleashed in a garden the possibilities are endless. Any topic is open for exploration.


You will get dirty. There will be bugs.