Five Surprising Benefits of Water Play!
Summer is officially in full swing and that means lots more time in the garden!
Water play is hugely popular with children and it’s a fantastic way to keep them occupied during the summer months. It can take many forms whether it be bath play, pool play, water table play or simply splashing around in a bucket on the pavement! However contrary to popular belief, there is much more to water play than just splashing! Water play can have many important benefits for a child’s development, in a number of different areas. The benefits of water play will also be very helpful to a child who is starting preschool or primary school this September.
Here are just some reasons why every child needs to play with water:
1) Problem solving skills
Water play is an open-ended activity which allows children to explore a substance and make exciting discoveries about it. Simple activities like floating and sinking help to develop problem solving skills, as children begin to learn why and how things happen. It is an exciting hands on way for them to learn about the world around them! Water also encourages children to use their imagination and this type of creative thinking plays a big part in problem solving.
2) Physical development
Playing with water helps to develop a child’s hand eye coordination through actions like pouring, squeezing, scrubbing, stirring and squirting. These actions help to develop the pincer grip which is an important skill for primary school. The pincer grip will enable a child to hold their pencil correctly so therefore water play can potentially benefit a child’s reading and writing progress. Water play is also a great sensory experience for children as it introduces them to difference textures (slippy, gritty, and slimy) and also to temperature. Mixing water with different materials teaches children about its physical properties, for example that it makes sand more mouldable and dilutes certain materials.
3) Basic mathematical skills
You may not realise it but water play is a great opportunity to teach your child some basic maths! Experimenting with water involves mathematical concepts such as volume, measurement and estimation and will introduce children to full and empty, more and less and greater and less than. These concepts are all part of the junior curriculum in primary school so this concrete experience will help your child to better understand their meaning. Water play can also be a chance to practice counting such as counting the stones that the child drops into the water or counting how many things float and sink.
4) Language development
Through playing with water, children will learn lots of new words such as sieve, funnel, whisk, squirt, bubbly, and sink. As we mentioned above, it will also introduce children to mathematical terms such as ‘full’, ‘empty’ and ‘less’. Water play also provides a valuable opportunity for discussion with your child as you can ask them questions about what they are doing. Conversations between a parent and a child will help them to learn new vocabulary as well as to use the language they have recently developed.
5) Social and emotional development
Water play can be a very therapeutic activity and will help children to feel relaxed. The repetitive nature of water play makes it a calming exercise through which children can collect their thoughts. Through swooshing and splashing, they become absorbed in the moment and develop their ability to concentrate on one activity. This is especially important in today’s world where there are so many distractions and so much stimulation from different sources! Water also encourages role play (such as washing the dishes or bathing a baby doll) which allows children to practice real life skills.
Water play with others will teach children how to cooperate, negotiate and take turns using the space and materials. These communication skills will be very valuable to a child’s interactions in preschool or primary school.
Tips for Successful Water Play
Water play is often avoided due to its reputation for being messy and stressful. A little preparation can help a lot in this regard though and cause a lot less hassle for parents! The following tips will help make water play more fun for both you and your child:
- Pick a suitable area and prepare this area beforehand – spread out towels or plastic sheets.
- If the weather permits, have children wear their swimsuits and allow hosing off for easy clean up. Otherwise buy some plastic painting smocks or waterproof suits that will protect them. Apply waterproof sunscreen to children before they start.
- Try to place the water in a shaded area where possible.
- Never leave children unattended during water play. If they are playing outside, make sure that they are in an area where you have a direct view at all times. Be sure to dry children’s feet well before allowing them to walk on any slippery surfaces such as kitchen tiles.
- Give children a variety of materials to use. These don’t have to be shop bought items – there are lots of things around the house that will work just as well! Some good examples are plastic jugs, buckets, plastic scoops, empty water bottles, whisks, slotted spoons, mini/large sieves, soup ladles, plastic building blocks, spoons, empty yogurt pots, wine corks, turkey basters and clean shells/stones.
- To make the activity even MORE interesting you can add other substances to water such as food colouring, bubbles or sand.