Creating Irresistible Outdoor Play Spaces: Water

9th June, 2010 - Posted by - 3 Comments

Welcome to the second post in our series, Creating Irresistible Outdoor Play Spaces. In this series, we are looking at what children want in their natural play spaces.

It probably comes as no surprise that water is at the top of the list.

Certainly no surprise to Teacher Tom, who currently has a preschool full of children intent on flooding the place!

But really, is there anything more wonderful than water to a child of any age?

And the good news is, no matter the size of your play space or budget, adding the natural element of water is something we all can do.

Rain Water Tanks

With the need to conserve water, a rain water tank could almost be described as an essential resource for a preschool or a backyard.  Its at the top of our wish list at preschool – my director even wants to put one slap bang in the middle of the play space, rather like a design feature!

Water tanks give children easy access to a water supply for their play, and when the water runs out is sends a powerful message about the origin of water, water conservation and the water cycle.  You can even get tanks with transparent pipes and a water level gauge so that children can observe the water level.

Water Fountains or Features

Ideal for small spaces, water fountains add the soothing sound of water and aesthetic beauty to a playspace.  Used with a solar pump they are also a terrific way to explore solar energy.

One centre I visited buried beautiful shallow bowls in unexpected places in garden beds to catch rain water to great effect.

If space is no issue, here is some inspiration from the other end of the spectrum:

Water Courses

Dry creek beds are magical — click  here to explore with us!

By putting a water source nearby in the shape of a hand pump or water tank dry creek beds become ideal water playgrounds…

Or how about this beautiful sandstone sandpit, with an inbuilt water course and pump?

Another option is a trickle stream, which is basically a dry creek bed with a pump that recycles the water through the course.

Or this inspiring water course built at Woodland Park Community Preschool from an old slide, bungie cords and plastic guttering.

Water Wall

With some imagination and ingenuity (and a drill) you can introduce water into your playspace in ways that will be irresistible to children.  One of my amazing colleagues knocked up a water wall with the kids and it was a big hit!

Any old puddle or container will do…

And finally, as these pictures from my preschool show, any old container or piece of boggy ground will be irresistible to children as long as it has water in it.

So, who’s ready to go outside and play?!

Stay tuned…

Jenny is an early childhood educator, teaching and learning from children in a progressive preschool setting nestled in the beautiful Australian bush. Her blog, Let The Children Play, is filled with wonderful ideas and inspiration. You can follow her on Twitter @preschoolplay.

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June 10th, 2010 at 10:22 am    

Lots of lovely ideas here. I especially like the ones that imitate natural watercourses. Even better is an excursion to the real thing’ rivers, lakes, streams and the beach!

Susan Stewart

June 17th, 2010 at 5:26 am    

I so want to be 5 again! Wait…maybe I can still enjoy and explore like a child even though 40 more years have passed. I love these ideas…we had a blast with water when I taught preschool. Everything from wading in seasonal “poodles” (puddles that they were so big they were more like pools), to soaking in 10 gallon buckets, to water sliding into our sandbox converted into a mudpit.

Were the kids learning anything or were they just having fun? Oh, we were learning gobs! There were learning opportunities at every turn…social, language, science and math…you name it. For example, it’s one thing to learn about mass and water displacement by putting rocks into a glass of water on a tray inside…it’s something entirely different to step into a 10-gallon bucket full of water and watch the water cascade over the sides, and then note how much water was missing from the bucket after stepping back out of the bucket.

So, hooray for water! May we never find too many health or safety concerns to keep us out of the water…and may we never become so concerned with outcomes that we forget about the importance of joyful learning from experience and play!

[...] 17th August, 2011 – Posted by – 5 Comments Editor’s Note: Welcome to part three in our Creating Irresistible Outdoor Play Spaces series. If you haven’t had a chance yet, don’t forget to check out the Add Water post! [...]

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