Why We Love Water Play at LCM
June 1, 2023
By Terri Baquet, Early Learning Director
and Shannon Blady, PhD, Chief Learning Officer
In case you didn’t know, it’s summertime in New Orleans, and it’s already pretty sweltering. It’s time to cool off with some fun water exploration. We love water play at LCM not only because it’s a time to escape the heat, but because it offers children endless opportunities for experimentation and discovery, especially when grown-ups allow the play to be open-ended, meaning they allow children to determine the direction and path of their play. While cooling off during these summer months, children can begin to build developmental concepts through making waves, blocking the water, pouring it back and forth, even spilling it or watching it overflow out of a container. Of course, parents and/or caregivers are right there, supervising the entire time.
We encourage you to support water play by observing your child, listening, and responding to your child’s verbal and nonverbal communication signals to become actively involved in the play experience. If those signals are telling you that they are in their own little water world, just watch and listen and enjoy. Listening to children’s theories enhances the possibility of discovering how children think and how they both question and develop a relationship with the world around them. Save your open-ended questions for the right time. When you are contributing, be sure to use all of the fun language that comes with water play: the many verbs and adjectives we can use to describe how water moves, feels, looks, sounds. (By the way, the next time you’re in our Move With the River Gallery, read all of the adjectives we use to describe the flow of the Mississippi River.)
We also love water play because it can provide endless opportunities to explore science and math concepts. Children are naturally curious, eager to discover how things work or what will happen next. In fact, through water play, a child can practice steps of the scientific process – observing, describing, questioning, predicting, and theorizing. They can also develop an understanding of math concepts such as more/less, equal to/ different, full/empty.
LCM offers several areas for children to explore with water, including our Move With the River Gallery, at our cistern and runnel, and at our water table in the Toddler Landscape. At each of these areas, children are provided objects to interact with the water. At the runnel and water table, they use common household items, such as measuring cups, funnels, ladles, basters, colanders, sponges, and slotted spoons or they explore and choose their own natural materials if they are outside – leaves, tree bark, rocks, and pine needles. These items promote their investigations and provide opportunities to build fine motor skills and eye-hand coordination and to develop whole arm movements while they scoop and pour water into the container. They also stimulate attention, persistence, motivation, and problem solving.
In addition, water play can be calming for young children. When they focus on one repetitive activity, such as running their hands through the water or dipping them into a bucket of water, they enjoy the sensory stimulation, and it can help them to relax. Of course, some more exciting water play can be a great way for them to release pent up energy and show us their best water wiggles.
Join us for some wet fun and learning on Water Wednesdays this summer each Wednesday at 11:00. If your child is ages 0-3, join us for Splish Splash programming at 10:00 on Wednesdays.
**We would like to reiterate that all water play is to be supervised at all times. Young children can drown in just as little as two inches of water.**