Why water play?
Let’s face it, children love playing with water. But it’s not just about indulging in a bit of messy play or splashing outside on a hot summers’ day. There are so many sensory, educational and developmental benefits of playing with water for children.
Water play, along with playing with any natural elements, offers an opportunity for open-ended play for children. This means that children are free to play without any rules or objectives that may hinder their natural curiosity and imagination. The great thing about this is that there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ method.
Enjoying water play, whether it’s indoors or outdoors, gives your child the chance to explore on their own terms and learn new skills. So, let’s take a look at how water play benefits children…
1. Social and emotional development
Water play can be enjoyed alone or with other children, such as siblings. Where children play together, this gives a valuable opportunity for social skills development. By taking turns to use different pieces of equipment, negotiate space, playing cooperatively and sharing ideas, children can build on essential social skills.
The act of playing with the water itself can also be very soothing. Whether children like to ‘swoosh’ their hands through the water, splash the surface or scoop and pour with different vessels such as beakers and mini watering cans, the sound and sensory exploration of water is always fascinating to explore.
2. Problem-solving skills
Water is a great medium for children to learn through problem-solving activities. They may learn that by pouring water it flows, and how scooping it up in a sieve does not hold it. They can pour it along slopes or channels on a water play table to explore its movements and try and carry other objects along with it as it flows. By connecting pipes and tubes a child can try to divert water, developing both problem-solving and engineering skills.
A great activity to try out is to collect a range of objects to use with your water play session and let your child test these all out to see which will float, and which will sink. Some objects that are good for this activity include:
- Boat for water
- Pebbles or stones
- Waterproof plastic toys
- Old key
3. Maths skills
Although it’s likely that maths doesn’t come to mind straight away when you think of water play, there are several key concepts children can learn with water. The concepts of opposites and of quantities can be taught, such as more and less, empty and full, and of greater or lesser than. Physical properties such as solid, liquid and force can also be explored.
Even by simple counting experiments such as asking you child questions like; ‘can you count the items as you move them from one container to another?’, or ‘how many scoops of water does it take to fill your beaker?’ offer valuable opportunities for gaining maths skills.
For some great ideas of activities that you can do with your children to encourage maths and problem-solving skills, check out the video below from Babble Dabble Do. The video highlights STEAM water activities for children, which encourage skills development in science, technology, engineering, art and maths.
10 Irresistible STEAM Water Play Ideas for Kids
4. Physical development of fine motor skills
With all the different equipment that you can use during water play activities, children will gain many key developmental skills. There is hand-eye coordination required by scooping, pouring and stirring water, and by squeezing sponges and carrying items they strengthen their hand muscles.
Adding different items to the water also gives children an opportunity to explore their senses further. This can be done by creating different textures, such as ‘gritty’ with sand, or ‘squishy’ by adding different sponges.
5. Creativity and imagination
Playing with water is a great way to allow children to have some fun imaginative play. Maybe there are mermaids swimming out at sea, or stormy waters to contend with. Or you could try some role play and get cloths and utensils so children can pretend to wash up and clean.
Allow your child to make up the games, and perhaps bring some favourite toys along. As long as the toys are waterproof the possibilities are endless.
6. Language development
Children will get the chance to develop their vocabulary by discussing their games with peers and by learning new words. Simply introducing new items to play with and naming them will give them new words and sounds to learn.
Children will also broaden their dialogue whilst playing pretend games with other children. This can be achieved by introducing an imaginative use of vocabulary to suit the game. You can even encourage language development by asking simple questions, such as ‘can you explain the game to me?’
From social and language skills to maths and engineering, water play has so much potential to engage every young child’s mind. It’s fantastic that there are so many sensory and educational benefits of water play for children, but the best part is there all super fun too!
We’d love to hear about the water play activities you do with your children at home. If you have a good activity, please share it for everyone by leaving a comment below.
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