Do you have a child in your program who loves to dump and pour?

Dumping and pouring can be a fun, open-ended activity that provides opportunities for children to explore, experiment and learn through play – all while developing a variety of social, physical, cognitive and language skills!

Let’s explore different play extension ideas that build on this interest and expand the children’s knowledge and experience.

This following list of play extension ideas might also help you find ways to expand on the children’s knowledge and experience! You will also find room setup and other considerations, materials ideas, and resources at the bottom of the page.

  • Explore measuring and pouring liquids into different containers. New concepts, ideas and vocabulary to explore: full and empty, heavy and light, the sound the liquid makes when pouring, big and small, narrow and wide.
  • Use a microscope to observe different materials like textures and fabrics. Discuss what children notice when they use the microscope. 
  • Try mixing different liquids together – like oil and water! Ask open ended questions about what happens when the oil is mixed with the water. What did they notice? Did the oil mix with the water or did it come to the surface of the water? 
  • Mix or sort colors. New concepts and ideas to explore: What materials can you pour together to make new colours? (ie: fine sand or liquids) What materials stay the same colour when you pour them together? (coloured blocks or pom poms).
  • Baking is also a fun activity that incorporates a lot of dumping and pouring!

  • Set up a recycling depot. Talk about why we recycle and what items can be recycled. Have different boxes or containers to sort materials by, size, colours, shapes, textures. Everyone can contribute by bringing items that are age-appropriate, safe and clean for the children to sort at the recycling depot.
  •  A fun winter dumping and pouring dramatic activity is to set up a salt/sand depot, and pretend to be collecting salt or sand to help  remove the snow from the roads.  Children can have fun scooping up salt or sand and dumping it into boxes or containers. Some children might even want to build their own snow plows or salt trucks out of boxes. Or build roads to extend into construction play. You might even be able to add some real snow or ice cubes! What happens when you mix snow or ice with salt? 
  • Set up an area with lots of items that children can dump and pour into bins of different shapes and sizes. New concepts and ideas to explore: classification and sorting by shapes, colors, weight, texture, smell, or size.  
  • Combine your block and dramatic play areas and add trucks, shovels, buckets, and containers of different sizes!

  • Matching/sorting games: Children can sort materials by weight, height, colors or textures. Older children might even want to make a chart to document their findings!
  • Fill boxes with different items and then try to put them in order from heaviest to lightest.You can provide a scale, or you show them how to build a balance using a fulcrum! New concepts and ideas to explore: weight and measurement, heavy and light.
  • Allow children to dump toys out and then encourage them to sort and match the toys to the correct bins using the photo labels. You can also encourage early literacy skills by including words on  the photo labels.
  • Set up a variety of materials and types of containers for the children to explore- consider how water is carried in different places around the world, and refer to the list of materials above for inspiration and ideas! 
  • Engage parents – do they have any containers from their home country that are used for pouring that they could bring in to show the children? 
  • Look for books that might interest the children – What types of containers are used in different countries to carry and pour water and supplies?
  • Ask parents to bring in recycled materials from home for the  children to sort. This might include food packaging, plastic, paper rolls, and cardboard boxes.
  • Ask parents to share words in their home language that you can use during the children’s play. Helpful words and phrases might include: fill it up, dump/pour it out, empty, full, messy, clean, colours, etc. When you incorporate these words during the children’s play, it helps you to create a sense of belonging and connection with the children and families in your program.
  • Share dumping and pouring activity ideas with the families to try at home
  • Visit the recycling or salt/sand depot in your community
  • Collect pictures of the items recycled in their community 
  • Include a visitor to the program to share information
  • Throw balls into parachutes or an umbrella
  • Add an inflatable kids pool for the infants to throw a variety of items into
  • Set up a race to see who can dump the most sand or water into the bucket first. The children can collect the material from one side of the room/space and then race to their “load” in another location. Consider adding a timer to and different vessels for holding and transporting the sand or water. Older preschool children might even like to make a chart to show what they find!
  • Encourage children to try balancing a small, soft box of soft items on the head while trying to walk or move to music.
  • Play a dumping and pouring freeze game! Place a tempting bin (or bins) of toys/materials for dumping across the room. Then play red light/green light, or another similar freeze game while the children travel towards the dumping bins!
  • Wash dolls – you can use a variety of scoops and jugs to pour water and soap
  • Water plants using various containers 
  • Collect, sort and dump leaves – on the ground or in a sensory table.
  • Use a small funnel to pour oil or soap into selected jugs
  • Try using smaller scoops, spoons and vehicles with the sand/sensory table to encourage fine motor skill development
  • Encourage partnerships or small group dumping and pouring activities – for example: One child might be able to hold a bucket for another child to dump into
  • Encourage children to take turns with dumping and pouring materials 
  • Talk about when it is safe and appropriate to dump and pour
  • Encourage children to pour their own water to build self-confidence and self-help skills
  • Plant vegetables or flowers so the children can water them by pouring 
  • Wash dolls in the sensory bin by pouring water 
  • Wash toys in the bin with lots of soap 
  • Scoop cereal, rice or bean  into muffin tins 
  • Children can pour their milk or water depending on age and abilities
  • Pour and mix ingredients together to make individual play dough – you can even add spices and different scents! 
  • Collect a variety of colourful leaves for dumping.  (Nice activity in the fall)
  • Use natural materials like rock, feathers, sand to make a collage 
  • Paint and label boxes or containers for dumping items into/out of
  • Sort selected items into muffins tins 
  • Splash paint using food colouring or liquid paint on a wall or large canvas

Introduce throwing related words in different language such as

  • In-out
  • Empty-full
  • Up-down
  • Light-heavy
  • Wet-dry
  • Smooth-rough
  • Top-bottom
  • Right-left
  • High-Low
  • Soft-hard
  • Hot-cold

Post these different words in areas around the room. 

  • Ask parents to share some of these words in their home language so that you can use them during the children’s play. 

What materials can children  dump and pour? 

  • Rocks
  • Stones
  • Sticks
  • Feathers
  • Leaves
  • Sand
  • Salt
  • Seeds
  • Soil
  • Cereal
  • Birdseed
  • Flowers
  • Beans bags
  • Sponges
  • Socks
  • Pom Pom
  • Blocks
  • Balls
  • Toys
  • Stuffed toys
  • Plastic animals
  • Plastic fruit & vegetables
  • Wool
  • Beads
  • Paper
  • Fabric
  • Liquids (e.g oil, water, paint)

What other materials can make dumping and pouring interesting and fun?

  • Shopping bags
  • Cardboard boxes
  • Fabric bags
  • Tubes
  • Ice trays
  • Muffins tins
  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • Dump trucks
  • Medicine droppers and dispensers

  • Plastic bottles, clay or glass jars, tea kettles
  • Scoops, spoons, shovels
  • Strainer/sieve
  • Wok
  • Bamboo steamer
  • Straw baskets
  • Masala Dabba spice container
  • Porcelain soup spoons
  • Ibrik (a traditional Turkish vessel that you prepare and serve your coffee in)
  • Different types of crockery
  • Ladles
  • Wooden spoons
Ibrik
Masala Dabba
Porcelain Spoons
Bamboo Steamer

  • Consider where might be the best place to set up an area where children can pour and dump materials without interrupting other play? What materials can they dump on a carpeted surface or non carpeted area?
  • Think of the experiences you want to provide for the children and provide the materials accordingly. 
  • Ensure there is sufficient space to move 
  • What other interest areas can be incorporated together to create a nice dumping and pouring activity and space?
  • Post signs and pictures in the interest area, build curiosity and make it interesting