Protecting Floors and Children

To date there appears to be no really adequate material for pro-tecting floors. Heavy plastic sheeting gets very slippery when wet, ground sheets are difficult to dry off and heavy and bulky to store, newspaper and towels or an old candlewick bedspread absorb splashes but ruckle up and again have to be dried. The heavy, ribbed-surface plastic runners sold to protect carpets are probably the best buy but at present can only be bought in narrow widths and are expensive. The best answer is a suitable floor and a good sponge mop and bucket that the children can be taught to use themselves. In fact if the water trough is the right height, is not filled too full, if the playthings are a suitable size and children are reminded tactfully (rather than nagged) not to spill there should not be too much clearing up to do.

There are many types of water apron to buy and the price naturally reflects the design and the material used. Some are cover-alls which completely protect front, back and arms. The long sleeves have elasticated wrists. They are usually made of waterproofed fabric and are expensive. They last well but children often reject them as too heavy and uncomfortable. However careful one is water still seeps up the arms to saturate jumper sleeves. The aprons which do not have sleeves are made of lighter material usually and may be simple tabards or have slight shaping. Fastenings may be large press-studs or Velcro. Bearing in mind the reasons for needing a water apron, or protection for other ‘messy’ play, perhaps guidelines are more helpful than a list to choose from. A good apron will protect front and sides, be comfortable to wear, have simple strong fastenings or be shaped so that it does not need fastenings, it will be long enough to protect clothing adequately and should be shaped to stick out slightly at the front so that water running down it does not drip on to feet or into shoes. Some people advocate using absorbent material or a strip of fabric round the bottom to catch drips but one is then left with a sodden apron. The fabric used should be strong but light, easy to wipe clean on both sides and quick to dry.

It is possible to make perfectly adequate aprons which require no fastenings and indeed very little sewing. Suitable fabrics would be plasticized cotton which is at once waterproof and strong. The only problem is that this tends to slip under the presser foot of a sewing machine but if the area to be sewn is rubbed with talcum powder first this gives just enough friction to enable a large stitch (six to the inch) to be used. The tension may have to be adjusted carefully. The fabric does not fray so a double-stitched flat seam is enough to join pieces together and where edges have to be turned over to avoid scratching flesh a single turn stitched down is enough . Heavy guage plastic can be used in the same way or can be ‘heat-joined’ using a warm iron. This would need careful trials first. Such aprons would probably cost more than the cheapest aprons one can buy but the design and fabric may be better. The outgrown macintosh with collar cut away and worn back to front is still as useful now as it was ten years ago before the days of plasticized fabric.

While it is sensible to have an adequate stock of aprons it is wise to restrict the number put out for water play to the number of children who can comfortably play at any onetime. For a child to be asked to wait for an apron is much more acceptable than waiting for someone to finish playing.

Water play should be a great source of pleasure and activity. If it is being misused perhaps it is in the wrong place, badly presented or perhaps there is not enough play material. If the play does not seem to be progressing it may be because the children there are consolidating what they know or again it might be lack of new material to extend old ideas or stimulate new ones. If the mothers are complaining, and rightly so, about children getting soaked day after day it is usually because of poor presentation or inadequate protection. If the caretaker is complaining, perhaps he too is justified. Anyone who takes a pride in his work is not going to see it apparently wantonly destroyed without protest. Appropriate action in the form of more care and clearing up or creating a better relationship with the caretaker is indicated – or both.