Little Red Hen

Centre for Early Childhood Care and Education
8 Lower Shantalla Road Galway


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Water Play

Nice weather brings many opportunities for fun and learning through water play. Puddles, spray bottles, garden sprinklers, water tables, and wading pools naturally fascinate young children, and water is one of the basic raw materials for learning mathematics and science, developing language, and fostering social skills.

Following are some ideas for fun and educational water play:

Mathematic concepts can be learned using a variety of inexpensive materials. Assorted containers and funnels can help children develop concepts such as empty/full, before/after, shallow/deep, and heavy/light.

Individual water tubs at a table are great for enhancing fine motor skills. For younger children, eye-hand coordination can be practiced by retrieving objects with tongs, aquarium nets, scoops, and fingers. Small muscles get a workout as plastic tubes are fitted to funnels and sponges are wrung dry. Very young children may also enjoy spending many happy moments repetitively filling and emptying containers.

Children can learn about measurement by using measuring cups or discovering the best way to squirt long and short distances using squeeze bottles or plant misters filled with water.

A child’s vocabulary is enriched as she uses words such as funnel, surface, float, and strain. Adults can promote language acquisition by adding foam or rubber alphabet letters or numbers to a container filled with water to be fished out with nets. Name the letters or numbers they catch, spell out their names, or see who can catch the highest or lowest number.

Make cleaning up part of the learning experience using cloths and short-handled mops. 

Create a dramatic play area for children to wash doll clothes in a tub of sudsy water and hang them up with clothespins to dry in the sun.

Even on cool days, children can "paint" outdoors with water. Set up a paint shop by providing a large paintbrush and partially fill a large can or small pail with water. They can pretend to "paint" the path, walls, slide, and other outdoor equipment.

Provide a water tub for experiments and projects. Boats can be made from found objects or heavy aluminium foil. Older preschoolers can try out predictions by determining which of a variety of seeds and assorted items will float.