Make a DIY Rain Gauge: An Easy Science Activity

finished rain gauge outside

Rain Gauge

This week we have been incorporating a rain theme into our science, literature, art, music, and math study.  (Check out the rain splatter painting, rain stick, and the umbrella paper plate craft that we did!)  One easy science activity to investigate rain is by making a rain gauge.  A rain gauge is an instrument used to measure how much rain (measured in units of height) falls in a given time. You can make one to use with your child easily and without much expense.

I actually bought the soda expressly for the purpose of doing this activity. While shopping, I noticed that certain brands have a bottle shape that curves in at the middle. You will need to select a bottle that has straight sides in order to get an accurate reading.

You will need:

  • an empty soda bottle
  • duct tape
  • scissors
  • ruler
  • permanent marker
  • small stones
  • water

Making the DIY Rain Gauge:

The night before, I prepared the rain gauge by cutting the top off the bottle where it begins to curve in. Then I used the duct tape to cover up the edges, so that no one would get snagged. Mark the lowest part of the bottle where the sides are straight with a little tick mark. This is your gauge's zero. Line up the ruler with your tick mark. Mark off ticks at even intervals (I used the half inch). Write the inch numbers next to the tick marks. We only used inches because I am just starting to introduce the concept of measurement, however you could mark one side in inches and another side in centimeters so that the child can compare measurement systems.

showing my kid the measurements on the rain gauge

Explain to your child that you will be making a rain gauge and what that is. Show your child the bottle and explain the significance of the tick marks. I asked her to identify the numbers. Then, I put the ruler side by side with the tick marks. I explained that we would use the gauge to measure how much rain fell each day.

child filling the rain gauge with rocks

Ask your child to fill the bottom of the bottle with the rocks, but don't fill it past the zero line. Then, have them pour some water right up to the line. You can place the top of the bottle, inverted, into the base. This will help prevent evaporation from skewing your results. Push the top in until it is snug, but do not tape it. You will need to be able to remove the top to drain the instrument back to the zero line.

child filling the rain gauge up to the zero line

When we checked on the rain gauge halfway through the first day (it hadn't rained yet) we could see little drops of condensation forming on the top of the device. You could use this as an opportunity to explain the concept behind clouds and precipitation.

We checked every day for a week. The only rain we received was less than half an inch, but still Little M. was very excited to see that the level was above zero.

rain gauge: easy science activity

If you enjoyed this science activity or found it useful, please share or leave a comment. I always love to hear from you! 

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