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Water play

We’re still enjoying some summer sun, and what better way to cool off than with some water play. Here are some ideas for activities you can try out at home with a washing up bowl of water, or in your garden with a paddling pool! There’s a mix of fun movement activities and language activities for you to try out, to help support your child’s development while they have fun. 

Remember you will need to stay with your child all the time when they are in or near water. Never leave babies and young children alone, even for a moment, and give your full attention without being distracted by anything including your mobile phone. You may get no warning that something is wrong, as babies and young children can drown silently in as little as 5 cm of water. Always remember to empty out and put away any containers of water or your paddling pool after you have used them. 

Children develop their gross motor skills, coordination, and general fitness through lifting, pouring, carrying, running, and splashing. Actions such as squeezing can even help develop the small muscles in a child’s hand! Fill up a paddling pool, or a tray, with some water and get your children to try out these activities:

  • Splash the water with your hands
  • Play with floating objects like bath toys or lightweight balls
  • Pour water using small jugs, watering cans or cups
  • Fill up some squeezy bottles or spray bottles for them to use

Playing with water also provides an opportunity for your children to explore their senses. You can add in other materials such as sand, ice, slime, foam, or soap to increase the range of textures your child experiences in the water tray. Here are a few more movement activities to try:

  • Play on hands and knees try and crawl in the water if there’s space
  • Sit with legs straight, kick legs to splash the water
  • Try and walk like a crab, sit with arms behind and lift bottom
  • In kneeling position, try throwing and catching a ball

Playing with water doesn’t have to be all physical. There are lots of other benefits for children, such as teaching different concepts like wetness, volume, and weight. Categorising is a great activity that helps children learnt concepts and strengthens the brain connections involved with learning new vocabulary. Here are some ideas:

  • Use the items you’ve used for water play to sort into different categories eg size, shape, place, colour, length
  • Sort different items into ‘wet’ and ‘dry’
  • Explore items that sink and float. As children manipulate different items in water, they build their inquisitiveness and problem-solving skills

Water play can also help increase your child’s attention span. Have you noticed that your child often gets lost in the activity when playing with water? Any activity that holds your child’s attention for a long time will help to increase their attention span and ability to concentrate. This is useful for children starting school as it’s important to be able to concentrate in a classroom.   

Another great game to play in the outdoors to increase vocabulary is I Spy. I’m sure no one is new to this game, but not everyone knows how it helps with language development. It increases vocabulary, especially describing words (adjectives)

As I said in the beginning, never leave your child unattended near water. And please read our blog on water safety.

We hope you enjoy trying out some of these activities, and enjoy being outside and playing with water while the sun blesses us for a while longer! 

About the author

Suki Balasubramanian, Speech & Language Therapist and Caroline Hayes, Physiotherapist