Problem Solving: Overflow!

Spatial Reasoning For Practical Purposes

Having a practical understanding of space is important for everyday problem solving – putting toys away, stacking bookshelves, packing bags. What can you fit where? How much is too much? How do the properties of objects change what can fit?

In Overflow we are deliberately exploring what it takes to overfill a space with water overflowing being it’s own reward. It makes a fun party game.

Set Up & Game Play

You and or your children can gather a variety of soft, light and heavy (waterproof or water safe) objects of different shapes and sizes – talk about what you think is going to work best and why.

Draw a line that marks the level to which the buckets must be filled – in our video we did it about 2/3 of the way up – you decide what’s going to work best for you.

Then direct the kids to run back and forth from a tub filled with water to fill their buckets to that line, one cup at a time.

Next they must take turns choosing what object to place in the bucket to raise the water level. They keep going until one of the buckets overflow. The team or player that makes the bucket overflow first is the winner. As play progresses comment and ask questions about how it’s working and to prompt them to think about what they are going to choose next.


  • Try it in reverse, put a variety of objects in a bucket or tub up to a certain point (1/2 to 2/3 mark), then have the child fill it with water, cup by cup – have someone keep track of how many cups it takes. The person/team with the least number of cups to make the bucket overflow is the winner.


Also Works On: Attention; Memory; Maths Skills (Counting; Volume Estimation); Balance & Co-ordination; Strength & Endurance.

Activity Materials


You Will Need...

  1. A variety of soft, light and heavy (waterproof or water safe) objects of different shapes and sizes
  2. A bucket for each player or team
  3. Plastic cups/jugs – at least 1 for each team or player