Bloomsbury Early Years

Activity Type:



3-5 years

Characteristics of Effective Learning:

Being willing to ‘have a go’, Having their own ideas

Type of Content:


Related Activities

Sail away

Celebrate sailing boats

by Judith Harries

Celebrate the 150th anniversary of the launch of ‘The Cutty Sark’ (November 22nd, 1869) by making and sailing small boats made out of junk and recycled materials.

What you need

  • Images of The Cutty Sark and other sailing ships

  • Balsa wood

  • Corks

  • Plastic tubs, lids and trays

  • Lolly sticks, wooden kebab sticks

  • Fabric

  • Paper

  • Scissors

  • Masking tape

  • Hammer and nails

  • String

  • Straws

What you do

  1. Show children images of The Cutty Sark online. It was the fastest sailing ship of its time, launched in 1869, and is now moored at Greenwich, London. Go to https://www.rmg.co.uk/cutty-sark and find out much more.

  2. Compare with images and models of other boats and ships: rowing boats, canoe, paddle boat, inflatable dinghy, yachts, sailing ships, passenger liners, ferries, and so on.

  3. Let children play with lots of different toy boats in the water tray.

  4. Explain that they are going to be able to construct their own sailing boats using a variety of junk materials (see above).

  5. Allow children to experiment with materials and offer help joining parts if required.

  6. Show children how to create wind by blowing through a straw. Which boat stays afloat the longest?

  7. Organise a race to see which boat is the fastest.

What you say

  • Do you think this is an old boat/ship or a new one?

  • How many people could travel on this boat?

  • What materials are used to make boats/ships?

  • Is your boat floating? Will it sink? What is making it sink? How could we improve our boats?

Ready for more?

  • Find out about other sailing boats around the UK, for instance, HMS Trincomalee (oldest warship afloat in Europe); The Mary Rose (Henry VIII's warship); HMS Victory (Nelson's flagship).

  • Read Toy Boat by Randall de Seve about a little boy who builds a boat out of a can, a cork, a pencil and some white cloth.

Where to go next? Making A Basic Sailing Boat
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