Water isn't just for getting clean. In fact, water play encourages discovery and stimulates a child's interest in the physical world. When it comes to play, most babies don't mind getting wet. That's why water play is both enjoyable and educational—and perfect for either indoor or outdoor play. It's a very inexpensive toy; you only need the use of a dishpan and one of our very own natural resources—water.
Learning through Play
"At no other time, aside from prenatal development, does your baby grow, change, and learn more rapidly than during these early years. By providing a stimulating environment, you—as a parent or caregiver—can help your baby reach his developmental potential during this critical time," says Penny Warner in her book, Baby, Play & Learn. Warner feels that your baby learns primarily through play and that the best plaything for your baby is your ability to find exciting activities and the time you have playing together.
Letting your baby or toddler play with water encourages development of the senses and opportunities for exploration, discovering new concepts, and learning new vocabulary. If you talk to your child while you play, he will begin to learn new words, too.
Ideas for Getting Started
So, get out a plastic dishpan and let the play begin! Here are a few ideas to make water play a favorite activity with your little one. First, a few pointers:
- Never leave your baby alone during water play. Young children have been known to drown in small amounts of water.
- Indoors, you may wish to cover your floor surface, whether carpeting, tile or wood, with a plastic tablecloth to protect the area from splashing water.
- Prepare yourself for a wet child after play. Have towels and dry clothes available.
- Always mop up wet areas to prevent slips and falls.
Water play helps your youngster explore and discover while having fun. You may want to start with one pan of water—this is fun in itself. Add cups, spoons, and funnels for your child to play with. Another time, you can use two pans of water, one cool and the other one warm. Encourage your little one to play freely in both pans. Talk to him about the different temperatures. Talk about how the water feels in the two pans.
Attune to your child's senses by adding a scent to the water. Baking extracts are a safe way to make the water smell like peppermint, orange, and lemon. He can visualize the water by adding color using food coloring. Just a drop or two will change the color of the water and to your child, this opens a new horizon of play. Use colored water to enhance holidays; for example, invite your child to play with orange water during Halloween, red and green water during the December holidays, or red, uncolored, and blue water to celebrate the Fourth of July.
Bubble, bubble, pop! Fill the dishpan with warm water and add dishwashing soap. Beat the soapy water with a whisk or hand beater. Talk with your toddler about what happens to the water. Add plastic cups, spoons, funnels, and sponges and let your youngster play freely with this soapy water. Make sure your child does not put the soapy items near his eyes and mouth. Another alternative would be to use baby bath products.