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The Benefits of Water Play for Your Child

As the weather here in New Orleans starts to get more hot and humid with our approach to summer, you and your child may start looking towards ways to cool down and avoid the heat. 

We at Abeona House are very familiar with water play, and especially during the months of June and July, each age group trades in their indoor classroom for that of our side yard filled with water-based invitations. Students of every age group are able to stay cool and hydrated, enjoy the beauty of the outdoors, and explore new ways of learning with a medium that they don’t always get to bring and play with inside. 

Especially during this crazy time and as the city slowly starts to regain its footing through our opening into Phase 1, finding opportunities for public water play may be more difficult to come by. This post is purposed towards creating inspiration, and also providing a little background as to why water play is so beneficial, especially in the early ages of a child’s development. 

Water Play as a Sensory Activity

As soon as they’re born, children use their senses to make sense of the world around them. Sensory activities facilitate exploration and allow children to use scientific principles while they play, create, investigate, and explore. 

Studies show that sensory play helps children create positive and safe associations with certain materials in the brain, eventually shaping the choices children make and their behavior. For example, a child with a distaste for a certain food might benefit from playing with a sensory item similar in texture under little expectation, and develop trust that could later translate in their attempt to finally try that food at meal times. 

Sensory play helps children learn sensory attributes such as hot, cold, sticky and supports cognitive development. Water play in particular is a wonderful aid for anxiety and stress-coping mechanisms, and aids in the retention of memory as well. 

The Release of Energy

As most of us know, children need an outlet for their energy-from the adult perspective it sometimes seems never-ending! Water play is a great, productive outlet for energy in young children and if used outside, can serve as a provocation for other physical activity such as running, kicking, splashing, jumping. All are great ways for your child to exercise and stay healthy, while having fun while they do it. 

For Gross and Fine Motor Development

Water play allows for motor development in many different ways. While pouring out water in front of an infant or toddler, they will instinctively reach out and try to “catch” the trickle of water that flows through their hands. 

As children scoop and pour water themselves into different containers and materials such as strainers, plates, cups, etc, they will refine their hand-eye coordination as well as notice the differences in the water’s principals as it travels through each. Gross motor skills are developed as children use their muscles to carry buckets of water from one place to another, and core, coordination, and stamina as they kick and splash in a wading pool. 

Inspiration and Creativity Outlet

At Abeona, with our Reggio-Emilia teaching philosophy, we teachers love finding new and creative ways to teach our students about the world that they’re growing up in. Water play is an inspiring medium that opens many doors for possibility. For example, water play is a great stepping stone for dramatic play, and storytelling, that you could later build upon later in the day by writing your own book with your child, about the characters and story that he or she initially gravitated towards when participating in water play. You can also put different materials, found objects, and even household items such as soap, shaving cream, or food coloring into the water to spark your child’s imagination even further. 

Language Development

The versatility of water play allows you to continue to add new materials and toys, and with each new addition there becomes an opportunity for new vocabulary and language development. 

Even when playing alone children will often narrate their actions and play out loud, practicing stringing words together to make a more complex sentence, and making connections from their memory of certain events or materials that they’ve seen before. When playing alongside another, children can practice their listening skills as well and communication through sharing and turn-taking. 

As a Provocation for STEM Learning

STEM, (a.k.a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) is an approach to learning that is very integrated in schools throughout the US. As your child grows older, and once he or she reaches grade school, there most likely will be some range of STEM learning incorporated into the curriculum. Through creative and open-ended water play at the Early Childhood level, your child can create the foundation for these different categories of learning. 

For example, as they experiment with combining different liquids and solids, they’re participating in science, through the measuring-out of materials, mathematics and estimation. You and your child can even work on creating your own water obstacle course with ramps, spinning toys, etc, and simultaneously create a foundation for engineering, that could later prove to be a formative memory for their area of academic interest later in life. 

I hope y’all are staying safe and healthy, and I look forward to seeing you soon! If you enjoyed or benefited from this post, please feel free to share in our weekly surveys! I’d love to see how you and your child are enjoying and benefiting from water play activities at home. 

-Ms. Emily 🙂

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