5 Essential skills a child learns from playing with water

In many schools, water play is a staple of the preschool and early elementary years. But your student doesn’t need to be in school in order to participate. You can also accomplish water play at home with any number of common items — buckets and cups, paintbrushes, sprinklers, wading pools, etc. And there are powerful reasons to try water play with your child. Here are just five:

1. It strengthens motor skills

Water play can hone both fine and gross motor skills. The summer, for instance, is an ideal time to run or skip (or hop!) through an outdoor sprinkler. Similarly, your student may not realize that evading her hose-toting parent or sibling is an exercise in developing gross motor skills. Indoor water play — whether in a bathtub or a sensory table — can prompt your student to tip water between buckets, to squeeze wet sponges and so on. This is an entertaining and effective way to build fine motor skills.

2. It encourages creativity

When a child peers into a sensory table that holds several gallons of water, she might see a pirate ship unfurling its sails, or she might picture herself swimming in a lake. Perhaps the water is an ocean on an alien planet. The beauty of water play lies in its ability to mold itself to your student’s mind. And without boundaries (such as a pre-determined scenario in a coloring sheet), you may find that your child’s imagination grows stronger each day.

3. It introduces cause and effect

Why does water drain from a bucket with a hole in it? Why do certain materials — like dry sponges or rubber ducks — float, while others sink? As your student engages in water play, you may find that your child naturally poses such cause and effect questions. If she doesn’t, consider asking them yourself. Avoid the impulse to answer any questions, and instead allow your student to play and develop conclusions in her own time.

4. It teaches basic math

“Can you pour half the water out for me?” and “How many rubber ducks are there?” are questions you can easily incorporate into water play. For very young children, they are also a phenomenal introduction to central math concepts. The ability to count, as well as the ability to understand and measure amounts, can serve your student well in the early elementary years — particularly the first months of kindergarten. If your child dislikes math, this is also an excellent way to infuse the subject with fun.

5. It involves responsibility

Water play is a perfect opportunity to teach responsibility. This activity can be messy, and it is often near-impossible to ensure that every drop of water stays where it should. But your student can and should assist with water play in other ways — she can carry some of your water play props outside or to the sensory table, or she can dry them when you’re finished for the day. Responsibility can be a difficult trait to learn, but the key lies in early and frequent practice.

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