This is a photograph of the exploration that went on in the water tray recently. We had been to the Sealife Centre and I bought small figures of a seahorse, starfish, ray and crab. These were the creatures that the children had been most interested in whilst we were there. I put an inch of water in the tray, along with some smooth pebbles and shells; in this picture the children were covering all the creatures in the shells and pebbles to camouflage them as they had seen the rays doing at the centre! The water tray is a very simple and low-cost set-up of an under bed storage box placed on two upturned milk crates. It is easy to store, easy to clean, easy to use for something different, and with a lid to put on to keep it clean!
I later added some clear plastic fruit boxes that utterly absorbed one of the little ones as the water flowed in and out. She made piles of stones then covered them with an upturned box, then pressed her face to the base to look as she could still see the stones and usually when something is covered with an upturned box she can't see it! I would like to introduce clear plastic bags to extend her investigation next week (under very close supervision of course!!)
Another very simple idea that has been a bit recently is placing a deep box of water under the end of the guttering system with some cups and jugs. All of the children experimented with pouring the water at different parts of the guttering and trying to catch it at the bottom as it trickled back into the box. When they weren't looking I added green food colouring and the children brought out another piece of guttering so there were two tubes then flowing into the builder's tray. Add some cardboard packing and dinosaurs and another half hours messy play was created!
Some other ideas that I would like to try are:
- Clear tubes wound round some upside down wire baskets, complemented by funnels and jugs, and coloured water so the children can see how the water moves through the tubing depending on how much they put in and where etc.
- A pump such as the ones you empty fish tanks with where you squidge the bulb in the middle and it starts the flow of water to transfer it one from place to another.
- I would also dearly love a concrete water channel in my garden with a hand-pump at one end!!!!
- For babies I have put just half a centimetre of water in a builder's tray and allowed them to crawl through it to experience it with their hands and feet, either in a nappy/nothing in warm weather or an all-in-one waterproof in colder weather!
This article has ideas for linking water play to the EYFS as a core experience and part of your continuous provision planning. To extend children's thinking about water there is Water Splash from the charity Wateraid. The on-line booklet 'Learning Through Play in the Early Years' has a great resource list for waterplay along with what ideas the tools and materials can support children to learn.