Did you know that life on Earth would not have been possible without water? What is even more interesting is that water has been cycled countless times since it first formed on Earth. What you may see in your glass might have been part of a polar ice shelf at one point. Maybe dinosaurs drank the same water you’re showering in today!
Regardless, it is a fascinating process to learn how the Earth keeps recycling all its water with maximum efficiency. Your children may want to know more about it from you. Keep reading this post to know more about the water cycle, related facts, and a couple of water cycle activities.
Water Cycle For Kids
Do you want to teach the steps of the water cycle for kids? They are explained here in a simple way.
Evaporation occurs throughout the day, and it is something you would have witnessed. In this stage, water anywhere on the Earth’s surface, be it in oceans or rivers or even your swimming pool, “evaporates” or turns into vapor form. It naturally occurs faster when there is increased heat, direct sunlight, and lack of humidity. The water vapor formed is lighter than water in its liquid form and tends to rise upwards as the convectional air currents carry it upwards.
It is a phenomenon that’s a mix of evaporation and transpiration. Transpiration occurs when plants and trees absorb groundwater with their roots and then cause it to evaporate through their leaves, in a sense, ‘filters’ the water via plants. It mirrors how humans lose water in vapor form when we sweat, and it evaporates.
Itis another phenomenon you can observe around you. If you take a cold bottle of water or a soda can from the fridge and put it outside, you’ll notice water droplets forming on the outside of the can or bottle. It occurs as the water vapor around the cold container cools down into condensed water. On a larger scale, this happens to evaporated water once it reaches a high altitude and begins to clump together to form clouds. Condensation is also considered the reverse of evaporation.
It occurs when the evaporated water becomes dense and too heavy to stay in vapor form. It is most commonly ‘released’ from clouds as rainfall. Depending on geographic location, weather conditions, and time of year, this precipitation can also take the form of snow, hailstones, or even sleet. While a portion of this evaporates back into water vapor form (and thus back into clouds) before it reaches the Earth’s surface, the majority comes back down to Earth in one form or another, thus completing the cycle of water back into a liquid or semi-liquid form.
Any waterbody you see, probably except oceans, is the result of the collection of water. The collection is when the product of evaporated, condensed, and then precipitated water in the form of rain or snow comes back to the Earth and gets accumulated. A large portion of it will seep through the Earth’s surface and become part of the Earth’s groundwater, a crucial element to the water cycle as it is the source for many springs, wells, and rivers.
The water that doesn’t go into the ground is called surface runoff water, and it typically goes into lakes, rivers, oceans, and streams, refilling those sources of water. These form a major water source for different purposes, such as agriculture, industrial uses, and other vital tasks. The water will follow the laws of gravity to find the lowest point possible, flowing back into the oceans via rivers.
Facts About The Water Cycle
Here are a few interesting facts about the water cycle that your children would like to know.
- The existing water on the planet has been there for millions of years. It gets recycled through the water cycle, predating humanity and likely any life on Earth.
- About 70% of the Earth’s surface is water, 97% of it being saline (saltwater).
- The amount of freshwater is a mere 3% of the total water available for human consumption, out of which roughly 0.4% of water is drinkable.
- Out of the 3% of fresh water available to us, almost 70% exists in polar ice caps, leaving us with only 1% accessible in groundwater, streams, lakes, ponds, and rivers.
- There are groundwater reserves, deep under the ground, that have not entered the water cycle for thousands of years or more, instead of existing as natural reservoirs or aquifers.
- The freshwater levels on Earth are steadily declining as polar icecaps are melting due to global warming, reducing the amount of fresh water available to us.
- Precipitation occurs in the form of snow, hail, sleet, or rain.
- The sun is the driving force of the water cycle.
- The flow of water can be used to generate kinetic energy, thus leading to the generation of hydroelectric energy from dams. It currently makes up 18% of all energy produced by humans.
- When exposed to a sustained lack of water, the environment can turn barren and eventually become a desert.
- Animals and plants adapt to environments with lesser water. Cacti has spines instead of leaves to lose less water via transpiration, and some reptiles and scorpions have different textured flesh and skin.
- Flood is a direct result of the ground becoming “oversaturated,” meaning it can no longer absorb water. Thus, leading to the water pooling on the surface and causing floods.
- You cannot create or destroy water as it essentially changes forms and re-enters the water cycle in a different state.
- Rising sea levels due to global warming is a threat to humanity. It depletes our freshwater reserves in polar ice caps and causes floods across coastlines across the world.
- The presence of water, in any form, is an essential factor to make Earth a habitable planet.
Water Cycle Activities For Kids
If you want to explain the water cycle to kids practically, help them perform these simple activities.
1. DIY Water Cycle
You can recreate the water cycle on a small scale with simple objects from your kitchen. You will need a bowl, a small glass, and some plastic wrap.
- Start by filling half a bowl with water and place a glass in the middle of it.
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and seal it tightly.
- Show it to the children at this stage and then leave it in the sun for about an hour or two.
- You will find that the water in the bowl has begun to evaporate. It is evident by the reduced level of water in the bowl.
- You can then notice that the evaporated water has begun to condense, as you can see water droplets on the inside of the plastic wrap.
- Finally, you can see that the condensed water has started to become liquid and flows into the glass, filling it to some extent.
To make the evaporated water flow into the glass more efficiently, you can leave a small pebble or coin right above the glass and stuck to the plastic wrap. It will make the condensed water slowly drip into the glass instead of falling back into the bowl.
And there you go! You’ve just recreated the water cycle inside a bowl.
2. Filtering Through Evaporation
It is another simple experiment that shows how water is filtered when it evaporates. You will need a ziplock bag, a dropper, some water, and food color.
- Use a dropper to pour a small amount of water into the bottom of the ziplock.
- Add a few drops of food color before you seal it.
- Use a marker to mark the level of water on the outside of the bag.
- Now, hang the ziplock in the sunlight, and leave it for an hour or so.
- Children can observe three things from it. Firstly, the water level at the bottom of the ziplock would reduce below the mark, indicating it’s evaporated.
- Secondly, they will notice water droplets towards the top and middle of the ziplock bag showing where the evaporated water went and began to condense.
- Thirdly, and perhaps interestingly, they will notice that the condensed water droplets are clear and transparent, unlike the colored water that evaporated from the bottom of the ziplock, indicating that it is naturally filtered to a certain degree during the evaporation process.
3. Simulating Rainfall
It is another easy activity that shows condensation turning into precipitation using a visual aid. For this, you will need water, a dropper, two glasses, food color, and shaving foam.
- Fill one-third of the glass with water and a layer of shaving foam on the top. This foam represents your “cloud.”
- Next, mix some food color and a bit of water in another glass. Using a dropper, add the colored water on top of the foam in the other glass.
- Initially, the colored droplets will settle on the foam. Once you add enough, they start moving through the foam and sink into the water. Be careful to add these drops slowly; else, they’ll make a hole in the foam or “cloud” layer.
- Once the colored water becomes too heavy for the foam to hold, it will start to sink into the water, simulating raindrops falling from clouds when they become too heavy to stay in vapor form.
The water cycle is something we witness every day, whether it’s after a shower or a puddle drying on the ground, or just rain or snow. The real fun lies in explaining it to your children and showing the importance of this phenomenon. You can do it through simple diagrams, examples, and experiments, and explain the constant water movement through different states of matter, such as liquid, snow, ice, and vapor. We are sure your children would be fascinated and would share the information with their friends.
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