Skip to content

No. 35 Discover what's in a pond

Pond dipping in the River Wandle at Morden Hall Park, London
Pond dipping in the River Wandle at Morden Hall Park | © National Trust Images/Rob Stothard

It may look green and grim, but murky pond water is full of life. Scoop some out into a tub and check out what lives beneath the surface. No. 35 of the ‘50 things to do before you’re 11¾’ is to discover what’s in a pond.

What you'll need

  • A white tray or plastic container ready with extra water from the pond in it already
  • A fine net
  • Somewhere safe to stand or sit for a while
  • An adult to go with you.

What did you find?

Green gunk? Bits of twigs? Don’t be disappointed. Look closely – you may have some tiny creatures in there. Tadpoles, pond skaters and newts all like to live in ponds. What different things can you find when you scoop near the top of the water surface and then again down deeper?

Watch the ripples of the water and the droplets as you put your net in and out. Feel pond weed between your fingers and watch how the creatures you find move in different ways in the water. And if you follow our top tips below, you’ll see how the water swirls and takes the pondlife along for the ride.

A family ponding dipping on Upper Lough Erne at Crom, County Fermanagh
A family ponding dipping on Upper Lough Erne at Crom | © National Trust Images/Chris Lacey

Pond dipping can be a great way to explore the sights, sounds and smells of nature above the water level too. What animals can you see around the edge of the pond? What different shapes and colours can you see? You could even play pond bingo – going from three points for a pond snail, up to 50 points for an otter.

Top tips for success

  • Keep out of the hot sun (you and whatever you've found in the pond).
  • Use water the same temperature as pond water in your container or tray.
  • Scoop your net 3 times in a figure of 8 to pick up the smallest creatures and empty them into your tub or tray.
  • If you don't spot anything at first then take a closer look - pond life tends to be really tiny.
  • Remember to return anything you do find back to the pond once you've discovered what it is.
  • Oh, and most important of all... don't fall in!
Two girls exploring the woodland trails at Quarry Bank Mill, Cheshire

‘50 things to do before you're 11¾’

Have fun exploring nature and the great outdoors with our list of ‘50 things to do before you're 11¾’.

You might also be interested in

Visitors exploring the parkland in winter at Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden, Yorkshire

Safety information for ‘50 things to do before you’re 11¾’ activities 

To ensure you can complete your ‘50 things to do before you’re 11¾’ activities safely, here are some top tips to help you complete your challenges with safety in mind.


‘50 things’ activity list 

Download the full ‘50 things to do before you’re 11¾’ activity list.

Children pond-dipping at Clumber Park, Nottinghamshire

No. 8 Spot a fish 

Spotting fish is a great way to spend time on the beach, or when exploring water inland. Here are some ideas to help you with no. 8 of our ‘50 things to do before you’re 11¾’.

Children at Bodnant Garden, North Wales

No. 30 Go on a scavenger hunt 

A scavenger hunt tests your seeking skills in the wild and is lots of fun too. It’s no. 30 our ‘50 things to do before you’re 11¾’.