Rainwater Harvesting Projects for Kids

Your child might not realize that rain falling in the nearby lake provides her drinking water.
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Your little one thinks that water magically appears in the tap whenever she needs it. She doesn’t understand that getting clean, drinkable water to your house is a complex process. With simple rainwater harvesting projects, you can teach her about the water cycle and how to collect rainwater. The projects could convince her how wasteful it is to run water for no reason when your lectures about finances go unheard.

1 Understanding the Water Cycle

Your little one can help you build a water cycle model that also illustrates rainwater harvesting. Build a landscape in a large, clear plastic container. Use dirt and rocks to create the basic land formations, including a hilly area, plants and fake grass on the dirt and a depressed area where water can collect. A green towel can simulate fake grass and small limbs with leaves can represent trees. After your landscape is built, mist the landscape to represent rain. Tell your child, “See how some rain soaks into the soil and some runs off into the shallow spot, forming a lake. This is the earth’s way of rainwater harvesting.” Place a clear plastic lid or cellophane over the container and seal it. Place it in the sun for a few hours and your little one can see how water condenses on the lid to form rain clouds, continuing the cycle.

2 Catching Rainwater

If your house has rain gutters, your preschooler can place a large tub under the spout to catch rainwater. Place another tub on the lawn, sidewalk or apartment rooftop to catch rain. Your child can see that the gutter collection system fills up faster than the container that collects rain falling overhead. Alternatively, use two medium containers with a bowl in each one to collect rainwater. Cover one container with cellophane and poke a hole over the bowl, placing a weight on the cellophane, so all the water runs into the hole. Leave the other container uncovered. Mist each container with a squirt bottle and notice which bowl collects more water. Tell your child, “In areas where it doesn’t rain very much, it’s important to make the most of every drop. Collecting water over a large area stores more water.”

3 Large Scale Harvesting

Many cities get their drinking water from rainwater falling into local lakes and streams. Build a landscape with a stream. Dam the stream so your little one can see how the dam harvests rainwater. Explain, “The dam keeps the rain in one place until our city needs it so we have water to drink, shower, wash clothes with and flush the toilet.” If you can get a tour of your local filtration center, your child can see how lake water becomes safe to drink. If you can’t tour a filtration system, look for worksheets and kids pages that explain the process, such as ones offered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

4 Using Harvested Rainwater

The water that comes into your home is filtered, but collected rainwater in a tub is not. Your little one might not see much value to rainwater harvesting if he can’t drink it. Explain, “Most of the water we use isn’t for drinking. We need water to flush the toilet, bathe, wash clothes and water plants.” Help your child plant a garden where he can use the collected water. With supervision, he could collect water in a kid-sized pool or tub and use it to cool off in the summer.

Rev. Kathryn Rateliff Barr has taught birth, parenting, vaccinations and alternative medicine classes since 1994. She is a pastoral family counselor and has parented birth, step, adopted and foster children. She holds bachelor's degrees in English and history from Centenary College of Louisiana. Studies include midwifery, naturopathy and other alternative therapies.