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The importance of water play in the early years

March 19, 2023
3 minute read

Water play is a staple activity in most early years settings and can offer a huge array of benefits when it comes to early childhood development,

Water play is a great activity for children, particularly on a hot summer’s day to keep cool. However, there are more benefits to water play than some may realise. It is a great sensory activity and can offer numerous ways to support  a child’s holistic development.

Allowing children to explore water safely [KH1] helps to develop and strengthen their gross and fine motor skills, as well as improving their hand-eye coordination. Through lifting watering cans or cups full of water, pouring water and splashing they are working on their gross motor skills, whereas squeezing water out of a sponge or using a water spray will help to develop the small muscles in a child's hands, strengthening their fine motor skills, and supporting pre-writing skills

Water play is a great way to stimulate a child’s imagination and creativity. Testing which objects sink or float, changing the colour of the water or the texture and consistency of the water by adding substances like flour or sand is a great way to test their creative skills, whilst allowing new mathematical and scientific concepts to be introduced in a fun and engaging way. Mathematical language such as full, half full, more, less, heavy etc can all be initiated and explored. Freezing water, and observing the changes as the ice melts can provide opportunities to make predictions, hypothesize and explore change.

Children may want to pretend the tub you have given them is a boat or a bath for their toy animals. Providing them with a sponge and some plastic cups can also be a great activity for role play encouraging them to   act out  and share their experiences, broadening and developing their cultural capital

Playing with water can be quite therapeutic to some children. In the same way that some adults enjoy a nice soak in the bath or going for a swim, children can get lost in the whole process of pouring water and running their hands through the water and find it extremely relaxing. The feel of the water and the sound of it splashing or trickling can be particularly calming for children with sensory needs. It can be a great calming activity in a moment where they may be feeling a little overstimulated.

Social and communication skills are other benefits of water play. If there is only one bucket at hand, the children will have to work on communicating and practise taking it in turns. When there are more children engrossed in one activity together, they will all pick up on new vocabulary from each other. This will help with their communication, encourage teamwork and help them build new friendships.

There are so many sensory, educational and developmental benefits of water play, indoors or outdoors, but let's not forget that it is also fun for the little ones…and fun is what children love best!

Why not download our FREE Top Tips for Safe water play poster


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