The Real Difference Between Oceans, Rivers, and Lakes

A bombardment of information.
A bit of a sensory overload.
Sorry, did you not get it? That is exactly how your child feels when they get started on their educational journey. That is probably exactly how you felt too when you were in that space aeons ago.

After all, learning is infinite!
Sure a child’s blank state of mind (tabula rasa for those of you who are into Latin, or psychology) is the best for understanding new concepts, but sometimes it can get a bit too much.
And in those ‘sometime’ situations, you need to break down a topic into tiny tidbits so kids can grasp it.

Like unravelling the difference between lakes, rivers and oceans. All three of them are water bodies. So it can get pretty confusing for your kid to know which one is which.
Well, this blog can help.

Let us break it down: what is an ocean?

Only the largest waterbody on this planet!
It is, in fact, so large that it covers 70% of this planet we call home! Which is two-thirds of the earth if you put it in fractions.

That is far from all though. We jotted down a couple of facts about the ocean that will blow your mind:

  • 99% of the livable space on earth is actually made up of oceans.
  • Anywhere between 50-80% of all life on earth resides in the mysterious depths of our oceans.
  • And we know only about 10% of our oceans.
  • Oceans can run really deep, i.e. 3,795m on average deep.
  • We only know about 236,878 species that belong to the marine category.
  • There is a possibility that we may have 25 million marine species.
  • Most of the earth’s volcanic activity, and that is 90%, takes place under the oceans.

So. How was that for an answer to ‘what is ocean’? Fun, right? And easy too.

And what is a river?

It is a stream, to put it simply. Of freshwater predominantly. A flow of freshwater that meanders through different landscapes and courses to finally meet its end in an ocean, or a bay, or a sea etc.
It is natural. Which is to say rivers cannot be manmade. But they can be worshipped! Even to this day, certain rivers such as the Nile and the Ganga are considered sacred and worshipped ardently by their devotees.

And here is more about rivers that could fascinate you:

  • At 6,696km long, the Nile tops the charts when it comes to being the world’s longest river. For context, that is over 65,000 football grounds-long!
  • The Amazon River comes in a close second at 6,840km.
  • And you know what? A man swam its entire length back in 2007! Martin Strel spent 66 days covering this gigantic river. Want to know how long he swam each day? 10 hours straight!
  • Rivers can get deep, you know. And the deepest one is 230m deep. Which means it can fully drown a structure 2 ½ taller than the Big Ben! The name of this awesome river is Congo River.
  • Waterfalls are formed by rivers! Period.
  • Rivers can be as black as tea! Or as bright as yellow! Or even blue, red and green. Their colours can change depending on their geography.

Now you know what a river is, and then some.

Finally, what exactly is a lake?

Lakes are water bodies!

Okay kidding! They are a little more than that. Manmade or naturally occurring, there is one thing that is common between all lakes and that is they are surrounded by water. On all sides. Unlike oceans or rivers which might have each other.
That said, these facts should make learning about lakes more fun:

  • If you get oceans out of the picture, lakes will crush it when it comes to holding the earth’s water. 90% of it is found in lakes (again, barring oceans).
  • There is only one lake that is divided between two continents. Any guesses? It is the Caspian Sea, and it is the largest one on this orb of ours that we call home.
  • Lakes can get salty. And the saltiest of them all is Utah’s the Great Salt Lake in the USA.
  • Apart from rocks, plants, dirt and debris, you will also find fossils embedded deep within lakes.
  • Lake water is extremely useful! From fishing to drinking and generating electricity, there is a lot you can do with lake water!

Now you can tell your kids ‘what is a lake’ and throw in some fun facts to make it interesting!

But we guess this is not enough. What you need is a direct comparison. Something even simpler. Something kids can give one glance and be like “I got it!” So we prepared a simple table. Like we do every time. Just for you.

The real difference between lakes, rivers and oceans




Gigantic waterbody that covers most of the earth

Large streams of flowing water that culminates in the ocean or sea

Smaller, stagnant waterbody that is surrounded by land on all of its sides

Home to several smaller bodies of water

Empties in or connects to a larger body of water

Disconnected from other bodies of water

Forms naturally

Forms naturally

Can be artificial or man-made

Serves as a source of saltwater

Serves as a source of freshwater

Can be both salty or fresh

Home to the largest-sized marine species

Home to medium-sized marine species

Home to the smallest-sized marine species

This is how we make learning super-duper fun for all our preschoolers! In fact, at EuroKids, we make it a point to teach kids about the world at large so they can develop fascination and curiosity for our beautiful planet earth. That said, we do this by making lessons fun and engaging for your children. You can drop by at any of our branches nearest to you if you want to know more.

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