If your children love splashing in the bath, jumping into the pool or running through the sprinkler on a warm day, guess what? They’re exploring sensory water play and reaping the benefits already.
You’ve probably noticed that your child care centre offers water play for toddlers in many different formats. Whether that’s an outdoor water splash pad, a water pump and creek, or a huge tub full of water and toys, it’s clear that kids and water are a great combination.
Hannah is an educator with more than 20 years of experience working with children. Here she shares some quick and easy ideas for parents to create sensory water play experiences for children at home. They don’t need special equipment or too much time, but the children will have so much fun.
What are the benefits of water play for children?
‘Children love to be active, and all of these activities get them moving,’ explains Hannah. ‘Water play is great for their cognitive development, it makes them think outside the box and ask questions about how the world works.’
‘Depending on the activities you are doing, children can learn about maths and weight, science and testing theories, language development, and turn taking. Or they can just relax and enjoy the sensory experience. It can really go wherever you want to take it,’ Hannah explains.
Here are some activities that Hannah suggests parents can try out at home.
1. Bathtime plus
This is not your typical bath, this is so much more. With just a few tweaks you can take bathtime to a new level of fun.
‘First of all, who says you can’t have a bath on a chilly Saturday lunchtime?’ asks Hannah.
‘Baths don’t have to be just for washing ourselves, they can be a purely sensory experience. Add some scented bubbles, a few drops of food colouring, and a stack of plastic cups and bowls.
Pop some relaxing tunes on (or their favourite movie soundtracks) and let them have fun scooping, pouring and splashing.’
If you manage to get some soap onto them without them knowing, that’s just an added bonus.
2. Paint the fence
Little ones love ‘helping’ you, so why not encourage them to get involved with some pretend decorating?
‘Fill a bucket with warm water and hand your child a large paintbrush or roller,’ explains Hannah.
‘Let them ‘paint’ the fence with water, which they will love as they can see the changing colour of the wood. The best part is, the fence will dry along with their wet clothes.’
3. Set the frozen toys free
This one requires some set up the day before, but it’s so much fun.
‘Grab some ice cube trays or plastic cups and place small waterproof toys in them. Top up with water and freeze overnight.
Pop the blocks of ice out of the tubs and give them to the children, along with some warm water, spoons, rolling pins and other ‘tools’ that they can use to set the toys free from their frozen homes.’
4. Making colours
You can teach children about how secondary colours are made with this activity.
‘Make several glasses (or clear plastic jugs) of water, and add a few drops of food colouring in red, yellow and blue,’ says Hannah.
‘Give your child some empty cups, and work together to make orange, purple and green water. Little ones will love this experiment.’
5. Wash the toys
Children love being the parent for a change, so encourage them to collect their favourite waterproof toys for this activity.
‘Fill a large plastic tub or an old baby bath with warm water and bubbles,’ says Hannah.
‘Give them sponges, scrubbing brushes, old toothbrushes, nail brushes, cloths and face washers and have them bath all of their toys.
For any dolls or toys with hair it’s fun to let them shampoo their hair and wash it, like you do for them. Lay out some towels for the toys to dry off in the sun.’
6. Water balloon race
‘Grab a packet of water balloons from the supermarket, they’ll provide hours of fun!’ says Hannah.
‘Make a bucket of water balloons for each person and set up a starting line with the balloons, and a finish line with a chair for each person at the opposite end.
Each person needs to pick up a balloon, run it to the other end and then sit on it to pop it. Then they have to run back and grab another balloon and race back to pop that one. The first person to pop all of their balloons wins.’
Water play for toddlers can be easy and fun. Which activity are you going to try out with your little ones?
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