Our playful theme was "Love YOUR Water", or how even little kids can enjoy, protect, and conserve water, and learn nearly everything they'll ever need to know, all at the same time. That was why I strung up the low clothesline, set out the tubs of sudsy and clean water, and the baskets of clothespins and bandannas.
Water play is a huge topic in early childhood and nature education. We all agree that kids need to play with water. Recirculating water play features for outdoor classrooms are expensive, use electricity, and are prone to breaking at the first dump of sand into the works. But an outdoor water education experience can keep it simple.
Little kids need to have sensory water experiences, so get your checklist of goals and objectives:
- Gross motor scooping/pouring time
- Early math measuring time
- Opposite wet and dry moments
- Fine motor strengthening activities with hand-wringing and finger-pinching
- Language development describing all the things water can do or be
- Kids need to understand cause and effect. What happens if you flush a toy down the toilet?
- They need to gain an understanding of time. If you wear your shoes into the puddles they will be soggy for a long time. If you water paint with brushes on the sidewalk in the summer, your "art" will dry and disappear in a minute. How long does ice take to thaw?
- If your grandma takes you to the car wash, but forgets to roll up the windows, you will remember this vividly your whole life even though you forget that's the day your baby brother was born.
- Almost as long as you remember the time Daddy ran the mower over the sprinkler and garden hose and said those bad words. Mad, sad, glad!
- You need to feel the shoulder motions of dropping, thunking, hurling, and skipping stones of different weights into the pond.
- And the sensations of wading barefoot or puddle-hopping in big boots.
- Prediction and comparison--What will sink? What will float?
- Before and after sequence of clean and dirty. Shampoo, rinse, repeat!
- Kids need chances to be a helper washing dishes, cleaning windows.
- Kids want to experience personal power turning faucets ON and OFF.
- Controlling impulses to turn the faucet OFF while brushing teeth.
- Water dilutes paints and kids can experiment with saturation, light and dark
- Sequence--A storm is a story with beginning, middle, end.
- Rhythm--rain drops can make a rhythm.
- Working through fears during a storm with wind and clouds, lightning and thunder, rain and hail.
- Cycle--of precipitation, evaporation, condensation.
- Coordination required to drink from a fountain or a hose.
- Motions of stirring, spiraling, swirling down the drain.
- Planning ahead with raincoats, boots, and umbrellas.
- Joy and wonder! The beauty of iridescent soap bubbles and rainbows.
- The OM of concentric ripples on the pond.
- The experience of thirst.
- The smell of rain.
And so the kids plunged the bright bandannas into the purple tub of sudsy water, then rinsed them in the blue tub of clean water. Using the alligator pinch clothespins to hang bandannas on the line was a new skill to learn. The dollar bandannas seemed to glow as they fluttered in the breeze. The kids were anxious for the bandannas to dry so they could unpin them and start the process again. The grownups savored the rare cool August breeze.
Meanwhile across the patio kids were experimenting with stones, shells, leaves, bark, and plastic Easter eggs in a galvanized tub. They were developing their focus and intention to find just how hard you should heave the rock so the splash will soak your socks.
We were all starting to feel groovy, reminiscing about clotheslines, hand-washing pantyhose with Woolite, and car caravans across Iowa with CB radios. What a magical hour of curiosity and wonder and learning.
© 2013-2015 Nancy L. Ruder