The Amazing Benefits of Water Play For Kids
Do you know of one activity that can be done with your children from the moment they are born? It’s water play. Yes, it’s that simple. Water is an amazing conduit for all types of activities for children. Water provides amazing sensory experiences, it can invigorate or calm, it can teach and mesmerize.
In our house, water play is an every day occurrence. My children love bath time and run towards the bath every evening before bed. And when the weather warms up, we pull out our water table, buckets, shovels, boats, and water beads, and head to the backyard. Both my sons can spend hours playing with the water table, and it’s amazing. I can have some free time to do whatever I need, while my children are blissfully splashing about.
What is so special about water?
You may be wondering – Why water? Why is it that most kids can’t get enough of splashing, swimming, or throwing things into water? And why do so many adults find water to be calming and centering?
There are many theories as to why that is the case. But mainly, we need to remember that our ancestors came from water, and that our bodies are made of 60% of water. And think about pregnancy, us humans float around in a watery environment for roughly 10 months before emerging earth side. It’s no wonder that water attracts our kids in many different ways.
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What Are The Benefits of Water Play for Kids?
Water has many benefits for kids that are both psychological and physiological. Water also makes a great medium for early education activities.
1. Rich Sensory Experience
One of the biggest draws to water play is the incredibly rich sensory experience it provides. Do you remember the first bath you gave your child? How did they react? They may have been crying because it was strange, or they may have looked at you with wonder in their eyes. Either way, they were receiving a sensory input for their body.
This sensory input continues to be important as your babies turn into toddlers, school aged, children, adolescents, and adults. A bath can be used to soothe an overactive nervous system of any age. Tense muscles relax in the warm embrace of the water. A running faucet can engage a wandering toddler for a fairly long time.
The feel of running water vs. standing water creates different sensations in the body. The sound of running water is often calming to our systems. That’s why letting your overactive or emotionally overloaded child play under a running faucet can be a godsend for an overwhelmed parent, that doesn’t know how to help their child anymore. Feeling water beads in the water table or bin feels amazing no matter what age you are. I’ve personally sat side by side with my kids sticking my hands into the water beads and feeling them escape my fingers. It felt amazing and calming.
2. Relieves tension and helps with sensory overload
As I mentioned before, water is a wonderful substance to help with tense muscles and sensory overload. A warm bath relaxes the body and allows the physical stress to escape. So, for those little bodies that are storing stress in their muscles, it’s important to let them soak to help ground themselves and release their stress. Same can be said of a child who is in sensory overload.
A child in sensory overload needs to be able to ground themselves and concentrate on a specific sense to help reduce their sensory load. This can prevent a meltdown and give your child a tool to help themselves in need. Aside from a bath, your child can play with the running water, scoop and pour in the water table, or ruffle through water beads. This brings mindful awareness to their body and allows them to calm their system down.
3. Body Awareness
Being in water allows children to increase their body awareness. When they are intentionally engaging in scooping and pouring the water, their attention goes to their hands. And while it may not be registering in their mind consciously that they are performing a mindful task, their brain does take note.
When you child is in the bath splashing around with all their limbs, they are also increasing their body awareness. They are discovering what their bodies can do and what it feels like. And that is a very important skill to master in life.
4. Gross and Fine Motor Skills
As your child’s body awareness increases, their motor skills improve. Swimming (even in a tub) helps with their gross motor movements, while scooping and pouring activities help them hone in their fine motor movements. It takes a lot of skill to navigate small objects in water with your hands or feet. And don’t forget about squeezing, splashing, squirting, and mixing. All of those are amazing for fine and gross motor skills.
Playing with water is an amazing way to help your child build concentration skills. I can personally attest to the fact that my children have spent upwards of 2 hours playing with the water table. I can’t get them to concentrate on any other activity for this long. When your child is busy figuring out how to scoop the water out or how to pour it back in, all of their attention goes to the task. And this ability to concentrate will bring many benefits to them, especially as they enter school.
6. Educational Experience
Water can be a great medium for an educational experiences for kids. There are no shortage of fun science experiments you can do with water. And it can be a fun way of introducing mathematical concepts. Remember, that play is the best way to teach children anything. And water may be the most favored way for children to play.
7. Social Interaction
As I mentioned before, my sons can play with the water table for hours. And now that we live by the lake, they’ve been enjoying water play in a whole new way. But even if you don’t have a natural body of water nearby, a community or local pool, or even just a shallow kiddie pool in your backyard can serve for a wonderful social gathering. There are many interactive ways children can play in the water. They can play with toys and learn to share and take turns. They can play tag or chase. Or they can simply jump and splash around. The possibilities are endless.
And all of those games can teach different social skills like sharing, turn taking, talking, empathizing, learning boundaries, etc. It’s a fun way to facilitate social connections between children. And if there are no children around, you and your child can splash around and play those games as well.
8. Builds Resilience
Now this one may be a surprising one for you. How can water play build resilience? It can by exposing your child to the elements and teaching them how to work with what they’ve got.
Picture this: you’re getting ready for a walk, you look outside and it started to rain. What is your immediate reaction? Do you throw in the towel and say it’s raining, we’re staying home. Or do you put your rain gear on and venture out?
I’ve personally done both, but with time, I have been pushing myself to venture out regardless. Of course, I want you to stay safe. If there are high winds or lightning, please, stay home. But if all you see is some rain, go ahead and get outside. Yes, it’s gross. And yes, you may not be happy but it’s an important skill to teach your children. This experience can push them to be more tolerant of different weather and temperatures and become much more adventurous in the process. Don’t miss this opportunity.
9. It’s A Form of Open Ended Play
If you’ve been reading parenting blogs or listening parenting podcasts, you, no doubt, heard about open ended play and how important it is for our children. (If you’d like to learn more about open ended play, check out Open Ended Play – An Important Part of Child Development). And you’ll be pleased to know that most water play is open ended play. It has no set agenda or rules, it can be entirely child led, and it offers a variety of sensory experiences. So, if you’re looking for some new ways to enhance your open ended play repertoire, look no further than water play!
Recommendations For The Best Water Play Experience
I hope I’ve convinced you to incorporate water into your daily activities with kids. In the summer, do the activities outside. Enjoy the fresh air and the cooling water factor. In the colder months, take the water play inside. Water play is for everyone and for any time of the year.
Before we part ways, I wanted to recommend some great finds to enhance your water play.
Outdoor Water Fun
Water Tools and Accessories
Don’t forget to indulge in some water fun yourself. As I mentioned before, water is calming for our systems and there is no age limit on that. Use water to calm your body whenever you feel overwhelmed. Or use it to have fun with your child. Either way, it will benefit you both.