It’s a strange activity topic for Earth Day. I know. But a fascinating one really when you get into it!
For some reason, my son Onetime is really interested right now in water and how it comes into our house, what it does, how it leaves, and where it goes when we’re done with it. And of course, the most interesting water-user in our house is the toilet!
Join us today to look at how we have been investigating how toilets work and you will definitely come away with some great activities and ideas for helping to CONSERVE water at your house too – perfect for Earth Day – or any day!
This post contains Amazon Affiliate links. See our Disclosure for more details.
Teaching Kids About Toilets
The first, and easiest thing you can do with your kids to help them understand how toilets work, is to take the tank lid off the toilet/s in your house and let them look and explore!
Remember – the water in the tank is clean water and won’t contain any germs – so it’s okay if they put their hands in there and poke around a bit!
Although it might waste a bit of water at first, have them flush a few times and ask them some questions like:
“What does the flush handle do?”
“How does the water get into the bowl?”
“How does the water leave the bowl? Where does it go next?”
“How does the tank refill?”
“Why do you think it stops refilling?”
It’s also fun to put 4 to 5 drops of food colouring into the tank to help your child see how the water is moving.
And by the way, you don’t have to have all the answers to the questions above. If you don’t know the answer, and your child doesn’t either – that’s okay to admit!
When Onetime asks me a question that I don’t know the answer to (or even if I do – and I just want him to think more about it) – I often say, “Hmmm…that’s a good question. What do you think?”
At that point, he often comes up with a hypothesis, or maybe I suggest we look at something else we haven’t considered, or we get a book out of the library to find out more information (I have a great list of books below for this topic!)
If you can – check out some different toilets. Many of them work on the same premise, and have different looking parts, but which do the same thing.
We were able to check out 5 different toilets this week including an old style one with a huge tank, a bunch of newer low-flush ones, and even one at my friend’s house with the dual-flush buttons!
Each time we looked at a new one, we talked about the size of the tanks and how much clean water was being used to flush waste away.
After learning about the process of water treatment earlier this week, Onetime seems to be starting to understand why the low-flush toilets are better for the environment.
Using New Understandings to Learn About Water Conservation!
After we had explored and played with the toilets, I decided to have Onetime do a couple of fun activities to help conserve water.
Conservation Idea 1: Leak Testing Activity
After learning about how the handle pulls up a plug to allow the water to flow out of the tank into the bowl, I could explain to Onetime how sometimes the plug doesn’t work very well and water can continually leak into the bowl.
By pressing on the handle a bit, I could mimic this problem and Onetime could see how that would keep the water leaking into the bowl and the tank continually filling up. What a waste of water!
So – to test for leaky toilet plugs – we decided to add food colouring into the tanks of all our toilets to see if the coloured water was leaking into the bowl.
Onetime had a great time with this and it was fun to check and see that all our toilets were in tip-top shape!
Conservation Idea 2: Reducing Water Use with Large Tank Toilets
In our investigations, Onetime noticed that our basement toilet tank was huge compared to the others upstairs (it’s original to our house and needs updating!)
So we talked about what we could do to help the toilet use less water. Although this wasn’t a problem that a 3 1/2 year old could solve, if you have older kids – they might be able to figure this one out.
What we did was find a clean brick that we could place carefully inside our tank. Basically, the idea is that it takes up space that would otherwise be filled with water – so your toilet becomes more environmentally friendly!
Conservation Idea 3: Changing Habits
Although it’s something I may regret later when Onetime is in school or visiting friends, we are generally using the “If it’s yellow, let it mellow!” slogan at our house.
If you haven’t heard this particular phrase before, it means that we try to only flush after we poop! Otherwise, we let the waste sit.
I realize this isn’t for everyone, but for us – it’s an easy way to use less water, and to help the environment!
Kids’ Books About Toilets and Water Conservation
Whenever Onetime is interested in a subject, we look to books to find answers, stimulate more questions, and to build on our knowledge. We’ve found some good ones over the past few weeks that I would strongly recommend for this topic!
To raising the future stewards of our beautiful planet,
Check out other Earth Friendly ideas for young minds on Pinterest!