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Number Hunt: Colored Water Sensory Bin

Colored water number hunt: A sensory bin learning activity for kids.

Kids need to learn their numbers, we all know that. But coming up with new toddler and preschool activities for number sense can get challenging. How do you keep it new and interesting?

Don’t worry, you don’t have to do anything big or crazy. Water, a cup, and you can do something your kids will love.

Today we are going to make a colored water number hunt. You have the items you need already at home, and this fun learning game will make your child feel like they are seeking out a secret message.

Here is how to make a number hunt out of dyed water.

Number Hunt: Colored water search for kids

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Colored Water Number Hunt

This number hunt is pretty easy to set up. It would be great in the summer on a hot day, but also fun year-round. Here is how to make this easy, but super fun, activity.

Supplies for Your Colored Water Number Hunt

You only need a few things for this fun project.

  • Paper
  • Clear Glass or Pyrex Dish (Plastic can be used if needed)
  • Food Coloring
  • Clear Plastic Cup
  • 2 Pieces of Paper
  • Markers

How To Set Up Your Number Hunt

This set up is pretty quick. Remember you don’t need to be fancy to have an effective and fun learning experience.

Step 1: Take a piece of paper and write numbers all over it. Then take the second piece of paper and do the same. You can write the numbers in the same places on both pages, or write one page in numerical order and the other in a random order.

Step 2: Take your clear glass or Pyrex dish and fill it with water. It doesn’t need to be super full of water, just enough to cover the bottom of the dish.

Step 3: Add in some dark food coloring. I’m talking really dark here. I use black, but a dark blue, green, or purple works well too. The goal is to not be able to see through the water.

Step 4: Place the dish of colored water on top of one of the pages of numbers. (Not the one in numerical order.)

Step 5: Have your child use the clear plastic cup to search out the numbers! Place the cup down into the pan so the bottom of the cup is touching the bottom of the pan. It will push the water aside and create a little spyglass to see the numbers.

Your child can hunt down the numbers and cross them off the other page as they find them!

picture of supplies for colored water number hunt on top, picture of plastic cup finding the number in the colored water on bottom

What Learning Is Going On?

This is more than just a way to keep your kids busy. There is a lot of learning going on!

Number Sense/Counting

The big part of this activity is the number sense that is being worked. Number sense is understanding that numbers have unique values and that these values can interact with each other.

Finding the numbers this way encourages your child to actually know what the numbers are independent of the others, as opposed to reciting 1 through 10 without thinking.

Learn more about number sense here: Why Number Sense Matters and get more activities here: Number Sense Activities for Kids.

Sensory Learning

The sensory aspect of this activity matters too. Sensory play boosts language skills, observation skills, emotional regulation, and more.

This sort of number hunt encourages patience, problem-solving, and perseverance as your child has to carefully look for all the numbers on the page.

You can learn more about why sensory play matters here: The Big Benefits of Sensory Play and get more activities here: Sensory Activities for Kids.

Tips To Make Your Sensory Bin Hunt the Best:

Here are a few tips about this activity.

Do I Need To Use Glass?

You can use a Tupperware container instead of a glass dish. I get not wanting to give glass to your child. The glass dish works better, in my opinion, so I recemmend doing this activity on the floor. You can place a towel down and put the dish on that (yes, with the paper between them), and it works pretty well.

How Can I Prevent a Big Mess?

This activity requires dark, dark water. I totally understand the fear of that spilling everywhere. It could be a mess, even if it doesn’t stain. An option for this is to do the activity in the bathtub.

I’m serious, plop the dish in the tub and let your child play there. It might feel weird to us, but kids don’t mind that sort of thing. And any spills are easy to rinse away.

You can also take this activity outside if the weather allows.

(Get more tips on taking the mess out of sensory play here: How To Make Mess-Free Sensory Activities)

More Number Sense Fun To Try Today!

how to make a paper towel tube match game number sense fun with picture of paper towel tube with numbers written on it and sheet of dot stickers with numbers used to match
Easy and fun Number Squirt Game Easy Math Game for kids
at home preschool sensory treasure hunt number sense for kids with picture of treasure chest with sensory rice and number toys

Safety Info:

This is a pretty safe activity. Make sure your child can handle the dish you are using to avoid breakage. While this uses a small amount of water, keep an eye on small children while the play with it, just in case.

dyed water number hunt with picture of hunt in progress

More Ideas for Colored Water Hunts:

You don’t have to limit this activity to just numbers! Here are some more ways to play with this.

Letter Hunt

Instead of writing numbers to find try writing letters for your child to find! You can challenge them to find the vowels first, or try spelling out words. Have them spell their name too!

Shape Hunt

Practice shapes with this fun game. You got it, draw shapes on the pages instead of numbers.

Color Hunt

Draw patches of colors for your child to hunt. If you have an older child you can write the names of the colors in the colors to start building those sight words.

Sight Words

If you have more than one child then you know it is awesome if they can do the same activity. While younger kids hunt for letters, your older child can practice their sight words. Make it a little more challenging by having them write the words they find instead of just crossing them off a list.

Simple Math

Write math equations on your page for older children. Then have the answers on the page your child gets. They can solve the problems and cross the answers off as they go.

Versatile and Fun Number Learning for Kids

I love this activity because it is so easy to put together and it is really simple to customize to whatever topic you want. Numbers, colors, letters, they all work. This activity can also grow with your child as they move on to sight words and math.

And once you are done with the learning you have a fun water tray to play with! My kids love coming up with imaginative scenes with the colored water.

This project is a win.


Where to next? There are so many more activities to try!

number sense activities
sensory activities for kids
STEM activities for kids

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