Best way to cool off on a sweltering afternoon? Water play, of course! Tons of fun for all ages, easy clean-up and who doesn’t love getting wet?
Kids are naturally drawn to water play, and it’s a great way to get them outdoors. But there are even more reasons to head out to the backyard and turn on the garden hose. What your child thinks is good ‘wet’ fun is actually learning incognito. Water play engages children in physical play, helps them develop their sensory acuity, cultivates their social and emotional skills, and stimulates their imagination. You thought it was just a garden hose, didn’t you? WATER PLAY FOR INFANTS Your baby learns much about the world through her senses, and water is stimulating to her budding understanding of the environment around her. Here are some ideas for water play with your baby: • Make it rain on a sunshine-y day! Punch a few holes in the bottom of a clean plastic bottle. While your child is in outdoors in the grass or wading pool, or inside in the bathtub, put warm water in the bottle and let it “rain” over his skin. • Explore wonders of ice. In the wading pool or bathtub, floating ice will intrigue your little one while it provides relief in the heat. Make ice in several sizes and shapes by using various clean containers (milk cartons, Chinese food boxes, plastic food storage containers, etc.). Make sure the pieces are too large to be swallowed in case your child puts them in her mouth. Help your baby reach for the ice, touch it, push pieces underwater and generally explore these magical melting “toys”. WATER PLAY FOR TODDLERS A toddler’s world is full of firsts — they can be doggedly independent about how they choose to experience them! (Understatement, right?) When it comes to soothing water play in the summer heat, the best advice is to keep it simple. Here are a few activities to try: • Mud Mixing. Oh, what a toddler can do with a little bit of water and the great outdoors! If there’s a patch of dirt anywhere in sight, your budding chemist (or maybe chef?) will enjoy mixing up a batch of mud. Give them a few empty plastic containers, the garden hose (or some buckets of water) and watch them go! • Sprinkling a little joy. Admit it—every once in a while, do you still sometimes walk through sprinklers on a hot day, just because? Imagine how wonderfully refreshing and exciting a sprinkler feels to a toddler who is exploring many forms of movement—crawling, walking, running—and who loves the sensory stimulation of the cool water. Water your lawn and your toddler at the same time—both will soak it right up. WATER PLAY FOR PRESCHOOLERS Preschoolers love to pretend and use their imagination. Give them a little encouragement, and they are likely to come up with all kinds of elaborate play scenarios. Try these fun water activities: • Scrub-a-dub those riding toys. Make it a “car wash” day. A bucket of soapy water and some clean cloths or sponges can turn your backyard into a car wash. Your kids can round up all of their toys with wheels and work out their own system for who washes, who rinses with the garden hose, who dries off the toy, and so on. Don’t be surprised if other kids in the neighborhood to join in on the fun—and the scrubbing! • Old Fashioned Laundry Day. A dishpan with sudsy water and another with clear rinse water can encourage your kids to do their dolls’ washable laundry the old fashioned way. Add to the fun by letting your preschooler whip up the suds with an egg beater! Find a place to put up a makeshift clothesline, and voila! your children’s imaginations will take over from here. WATER PLAY FOR ELEMENTARY AGE KIDS Primary school kids are increasingly competent and responsible, but still love to play! They will enjoy being in the water just for the sake of getting wet, but they can also wile away the lazy days of summer engaged in sophisticated water play. Here are some science-based water play ideas: • Science fun with water. Can you get muddy water clean? What happens when you pour clean water through sand? Kids in elementary school may be intrigued by questions like these. Give them some jars, funnels, coffee filters, sand, pebbles, cotton balls, and other household items and let them test out their own theories. • Big billowing bubbles. Bubble technology has gone far beyond its wand-in-a-bottle roots, and older kids can enjoy some cool new ways to play with bubbles. Make homemade bubble makers from pipe cleaners formed into loops to wave like wands, clean empty juice concentrate cans (dip one end into the bubble solution and blow on the other end for a huge bubble), and straws that can help you make a small bubble inside a larger one.