A few benefits of water play and how children learn from it
If there was one thing that I could change in an instant about my home, it would be to have a yard. We live in a small condo which means we have a small patio, and let me assure you IT IS small. We have seriously outgrown our patio. The perks: Clean-up is quick and easy, messy activities such as this one are confined to one area, landscape maintenance is minuscule……and that’s about it. I wish there were more perks but the truth is when you have young children with lots of energy, you need a bigger yard. That doesn’t stop us from having fun though! One of the most enjoyed activities in our patio is……
Ah the joys that water play bring to a child. There are so many learning experiences that children get out of playing with water. Let me tell you just a few. First: Water Play Is Therapeutic. There have been numerous times in my profession when one or another child was having a difficult day managing their emotions (as any normal child and sometimes adult would), and everything I did to help them through it, did nothing. Some attempts made it worse because I would be feeding them more of my attention at the wrong time. Here’s a small lesson within a lesson by the way – giving attention to bad behavior isn’t always a good thing. Especially the wrong kind of attention. A lot of times that just fuels a bad situation. We’ll talk more about that in another post. Right now, lets get back to the benefits of water play. What makes it theraputic? Well, the coolness of it calms our bodies when we start to get overheated for starters. Just think of a time when you were so heated and couldn’t get a hold of yourself. I bet if you took a refreshing shower, you might feel a little better. Something to think about right?
It’s gentle and soothing to the touch. It adapts to please any age with the right materials (sometimes no materials are even needed). It allows for creativity (which children will show you). All you need is a small pool or bins filled with shallow water and they will find the materials for you. It sparks and ignites the senses which lead to an increase in synaptic connections! Yes, water can help our brains grow by stimulating our senses! The picture above for example was part of an on-the-spot activity idea that my daughter came up with. A day before this I had opened up a package of mushrooms and left the package on the counter. She came into the kitcen, picked it up and asked if she could play with it. Naturally I said “of course,” and so she took it.Then next day we decided to use water in our new small pool because it was hot outside. The children all picked out their own toys to use and proceeded to scoop, fill, pour, and throw water onto other toys, plants, and themelves. My daughter then noticed the mushroom styrofoam package she was using the night before and took it inside the pool to use as well. A few minutes later she brought it to me almost full and asked if we could freeze it. “Sure” I said. We walked it into the kitchen and I placed it on the counter, opened the freezer and began making room for her container of water to freeze. When I turned back to grab the container, she was swirling a lemon wedge from a lemon that I used earlier and left on the counter. Instantly I suggested we freeze it with the water and she excitedly agreed.
Every few minutes she would check on the status of her creation in the freezer until she finally got tired of no result after 10 minutes and forgot about it. The next day we refilled the pool and I brought out the water and lemon iceberg experiment. She took it and imediately began to peel off the foam packaging and threw it in the pool. The children all played with it and watched as it quickly melted. They picked at, smelled, and yes, tasted the lemon inside until the ice was completely melted and there were no more lemon pieces to go around. There was a lot of learning going on with this one little child-initiated activity that involved language, science, and sensory exploration.
Water Play has many Scientific and Mathematical concepts as well. Common uses in this type of play among children involve pouring, measuring, adding, dividing, sifting, filling, emptying, etc. Adding drops of food coloring or water color paints such as these bring up lessons on color recognition, and support social interactions through conversations brought up with the changes that occur with the addition of color (as well as with the examples mentioned above).
Believe it or not, children ARE learning through these types of explorations and benefit in so many ways. Try not to limit them by taking them to school or daycare in their best clothes and expect them to stay clean. That is the purpose of childcare, to send them somewhere where they can be (and feel) safe, happy, get messy, play, and learn in the way that a child should learn – through PLAY. These activities are easy and simple enough to do at daycare, or at home, so bring on the water play please! And don’t forget the towels.