Montessori Activities,  Preschool

Seeing Sound

When my son saw this work on this shelf he begged to use it, even though he didn’t know what it was. I think it was the combination of colored water and glass jars that made this work so alluring. He of course was bummed when I told him we were not touching the water. However his enthusiasm was renewed upon learning that he could tap the glass jars as much as he wanted.


This work is designed to give children a visual representation of what they hear. Each jar rings with a different tone when it is struck which corresponds with the amount of water in the jar. I colored the water to add to the sensorial aspect but you could definitely leave the water clear. Once again this simple, cost efficient work captivates each child as they watch the water vibrate and listen to the tones. Originally I assigned each jar a (musical) note, beginning with C, (C, D, E, F, G, A, B) however when my husband listened to my son play the jars he informed me that each jar was a half step apart. Go figure he has a degree in Jazz performance and well, I don’t, so I didn’t assign note values to the jars. Use the guide below to recreate this work in your home or classroom.


Prep Work

Fill each jar with a different amount of water, the difference should be visible to a preschool age child. Place the jars in order from left to right with the least to the greatest amount of water. If adding food coloring, color the water according to the rainbow: Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo and Violet. Line up the jars in rainbow order DO NOT ALLOW THE JARS TO TOUCH, this will affect the quality of the sound.  For this initial presentation allow the child to see the jars in a straight line.


Today we are going to make music! Do you play an instrument or do you know someone who plays an instrument? When someone is playing an instrument that are creating music using different notes. Will you please chose the jar with the least amount of water. Thank you, now use this dowel rod to carefully tap the side of the jar. Now chose the jar with the greatest amount of water and tap the side. Did the jars make the same sound when tapped? Let’s choose the same jars again and listen to the sounds. The sound coming from the jars is different. Now please chose any jar that you would like and tap the side. Listen to the sound. When you look at these jars what do you notice about them that is the same? What is different? You’re right there are different amounts of water in the jars.  The water in the jar creates different sounds or notes.

This time I will tap a jar and I want you to look at the water in the jar. Tell me what you see. Yes, the water moves when I tap the jar. Now you try. The water shows us that sound is movement. Soundwaves move through the air to your ear, the waves vibrate against your eardrum and small bones in your ear. This message goes to your brain and your brain reads the message as a type of sound. The vibrating water shows us how sound moves.

At Home

Pair this activity with nonfiction books about hearing, sound, music and the ear. Children will use their experience from the water jars to connect to information in the books. I’ve chosen a few books that we’ve used to help us understand how the ear works. Click here for a list of the books. As always please tell us how you use this activity with your children. We enjoy hearing from you

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