Young children can spend countless hours playing with water: pouring it back and forth, watching it spill over the edge of a container, blocking its stream, directing its flow, splashing gently, making waves, and pouring some more.
When a water table is not available, they can often be found “washing their hands” in the bathroom for long periods of time, mesmerized by the water. Sometimes it is difficult for adults to encourage them to leave the sink.
Few children can resist the attraction of water. Water is fascinating, fun, and multifaceted. Children can play with it endlessly.
But play, for play’s sake, is not the only value of water. Indeed, water play is a compelling focus of study for young children.
The concepts that young children learn from water play are essential for early childhood educators to be aware of and promote.
Water and a few inexpensive tools can provide sensory and learning experiences of immense proportions.
What is it children get out of their water study, which looks so much like fun?
Free play with water can build the foundation for understanding of a multitude of scientific concepts, including those in:
physics (flow, motion),
chemistry (solutions, cohesion),
biology (plant and animal life), and
mathematics (measurement, equivalence, volume).
Mastery of these concepts will support children’s understanding of academic subjects in later schooling and life.
Science is indeed serious play. Science is everywhere around us.
Water play in childcare and kindergarten helps children to take the first steps to increase their understanding of science without them even realising it.
Children enquire, observe, compare, imagine, invent, design experiments, theorize and explore natural science materials such as water, sand, and mud. They love to play with water, sand and mud. They find it fascinating.
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