Water Playthings

These too can be structured or organized so that once children have become familiar with water and have developed a little skill in handling it they can learn more about quantity. Provide similar items in different colours, sizes and materials – materials which can be used by young children but which also demonstrate some or the properties of water, the effect of water pressure, the principle of displacement, and the effect of atmospheric pressure for older children who are ready to notice more. A collection of pairs of items which look similar but one floats and one sinks is useful. Most educational suppliers provide material which may be listed under water play or science.

The nylon net bag suggested for bath toys is useful for storage, as is a vegetable rack which would hold more. One of the problems in the nursery group is that children keep adding so many things to the water trough that it is sometimes impossible to see the water. It is worth the adults checking on this throughout a session but children can be trained to return playthings to the storage container when they have finished with them. It is also a good idea occasionally to put out iust one ‘set’ of materials. If this means depriving the youngest children of the pouring, filling and emptying they enjoy so much perhaps it is time to think of having a separate container for this.

A fairly basic collection of water playthings would include: firm identical plastic beakers, canisters or tall plastic tubs drilled with holes in different places (or burn holes with an old wooden-handled screwdriver heated in a gas flame) different-sized containers in related sizes three jugs in different sizes three pairs of funnels in different sizes several lengths of tubing in different sizes to fit the various funnels a displacement tank made from a one-gallon ice-cream tub two colanders in different sizes several sieves in different sizes containers fitted with tubing at various levels unbreakable tea-set; small metal teapots one or two large containers with a tap or plastic rose a set of materials which float and sink. e.g. ping pong ball/golf ball/wonden brick/plastic brick/piece of sponge the same shape and size.

A set of containers in different shapes which hold the same amount of liquid a water wheel (these can be bought or improvised) a set of very tiny equipment to use on a deep tray.

Many more ideas will come to mind often as a result of saving something interesting from being put in the dustbin or the children may find something suitable for themselves.

The best water play I have ever seen incorporated transparent plastic bottles, funnels, tubing, one of those thick coloured hoselike tubes- which can be swung round to make a singing noise, two very competent, experienced, utterly absorbed four-year-old boys, a deep water trough half filled with warm water and a sympathetic adult who quietly distracted other smaller children to different activities. It went on for an hour and a half and the two boys covered more practical physics in that time than many of us painfully learned for O-level examinations. It also made a mess and the children became sodden as the water aprons somehow became an integral part of the equipment.