The Benefits Of Water Play For Children

Studies conducted since the early 1980s have shown that exposing children to different forms of water play under supervision can be extremely beneficial for their development and help them understand new concepts about their environment. 

It sounds simple, but water – whether it be in the bath, in the pool, out of sprinklers, or even the ocean – offers a fun and engaging environment that children are naturally drawn to.

Offering endless opportunities for fun, exploration, and learning, water play is one of the most popular activities among children across our childcare and daycare centres. 

So, beyond splashing around – what is water play? We’ve provided a brief explanation of what’s involved, as well as the key benefits that it offers for development in children.

how to get started with water play at home

What is water play?

Water play involves activities where children can interact with water in various ways, from splashing, to pouring, and floating objects. It is a supervised activity that is mainly carried out outdoors in shallow pool settings, or with water buckets and hoses. Though planned as a fun activity, water play also helps to promote the development of physical and cognitive skills in children.

How long has water play been around for?

The introduction of water play into early childhood learning goes as far back as the time of the ancient Greeks and Romans, who saw the benefits of water play in young children even back then! However, the formal use of water play in the childcare setting has gained popularity in the 20th century, particularly after the advent of play-based learning concepts which highlighted the importance of play in learning and development. 

What are the key benefits of water play for children?

Improve problem solving skills

Water play introduces complex logical concepts about science and maths in a simple to understand medium for children. For example, children can naturally gain an understanding of the concept of ‘volume’ for a bucket of water by simply watching it fill up and overflow when it is full. 

Concepts like buoyancy and density are also unique to water environments, allowing children to have hands-on experience by placing objects into the water and observing whether they float or sink. 

Water play sparks opportunities for children to take their learning into their own hands by experimenting with different approaches, exercising, and improving their problem solving skills in the process. 

Motor skill development

Water play is a hands-on activity that allows children to exercise and develop motor skills such as eye-hand coordination, manual dexterity, and balance and coordination. Pouring, squeezing, and splashing water are all actions that require deliberate movements and coordination, and children will naturally practise them as they play. 

The simple act of pouring water from one container to another may seem mundane to adults, but to children, it’s a learning opportunity to master the control of the pouring with their hands to minimise (or make) splashes.

what is water play

Social and emotional growth

Like most activities in learning centres, water play is often carried out in groups where children can engage with one another while exploring new concepts. It’s not uncommon for more learning opportunities to arise as children communicate with each other to exchange ideas or become inspired to try something out after watching their peers. 

Group play in a water environment fosters a greater social development in children as they come up with cooperative activities to achieve together, such as filling up a pool with water, or taking turns to create the biggest splash.

Activity based learning

Offering engaging and exciting environments is a big part of keeping children immersed in the learning experience. More often than not, children learn best when they are actively interacting and interested with the concept, which is what makes water play such a popular activity. 

Water play offers activity-based learning that gives children the freedom to explore concepts in their own time and way, while helping to hold focus and concentration for a long time. 

what are the key benefits of water play for children?

Stimulate imagination and creativity

Water play offers endless possibilities for creative expression — children can pour or paint with water, or create swirling patterns. Simple floating objects become an avenue for them to exercise their imagination to create stories and narratives.

The nature of water as a fluid also allows children to explore a medium that they don’t usually encounter. Most of the time, children are encouraged to not spill liquids, but with water play, they are given the freedom to unleash their creativity and curiosity in a safe space.

Improve language and communication skills

Water play is also a great way for children to learn new words and practise their communication skills. Conversations around water will introduce new words like flow, splash, and drip to describe how water moves. During water play, it’s also common for teachers to guide the learning for children as they learn how to communicate their ideas.

How to expose your child to early water play

Engaging in water play doesn’t just have to be restricted to childcare — as a parent, you can also expose your child to early water play at home! Areas like bathtubs or kiddie pools in the backyard make for an easy environment for children to experience water play (plus it makes for an easy clean up). Provide a water source that your child can access safely, along with some buckets, sponges, and water-safe toys, and let them play with the water in their own way. 

At Eikoh Seminar, our teachers and caretakers frequently incorporate water play as a part of our play-based learning approach to give children a fun and enriching experience that adds to their overall development. If you would like to learn more about our curriculum, simply give us a call, or visit our local childcare centres in Roseville, St Ives, Normanhurst, and West Ryde!