We all know it’s messy and fraught with potential disaster, but why do educators insist on how important it is for little ones to play with water. Just about every playgroup and childcare facility in the land has a water play station of some sort, usually portable and indoor – a shallow tank of water at toddler height with a couple of inches of water in. Having worked in a playgroup where all the equipment had to be packed away at the end of every session, I know how challenging it can be to provide regular water play for toddlers but I also know it’s worth the effort because it’s so important for learning and development.
Water play promotes cognitive development in little ones – it helps them make sense of their world – it’s a substance that they can manipulate in all sorts of ways. They can learn about things floating and sinking and about getting wet. Pouring from one container into another is a pre-maths activity and they start to learn concepts like empty and full, heavy and light, shallow and deep.
Physical skills are also developed while playing with water. Your little one will need to concentrate when pouring and manipulating water – hand-eye co-ordination comes into its own here too.
Water play is possible from a very early age – first of all with parent or caregiver, then either solitary or parallel water play will be of great benefit to your baby. Learning to swim by attending baby swimming classes is a great way of extending this water play and giving your child the confidence needed in the water.
Even if your child gets plenty of water play opportunities in playgroup or nursery, it’s still worth making sure that you have a great set of water toys in the bathroom to make bathtime more fun – these needn’t cost the earth and can include some plastic bottles and household containers. Stash them all away in a net at the end of bathtime and your bathroom won’t look like a play centre when the kids are in bed.