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Water play is a fun and natural way to get children involved in hands on learning while keeping cool in the hot summer months. With just a few props, water, soap, and toys you have around the house or child care program you can turn water plan into small business planning for a car wash. In a multi age home child care setting all of the children in your care can get involved. Infants can explore the feel of warm or cool water and how it moves, while toddlers run cars through a carwash that has been set up by the pre-school or elementary school children. There are signs to make, cars to count, things to build, customers to talk to, and so many ways that kids can think about real life applications for science, technology, engineering, math, and language.

Our July activities highlight two providers Champion Learning Center from Tower Grove South in St. Louis, and Zion Child Development Center from the North County city of Ferguson, MO. Check out these low-cost, water activities St. Louis area providers are using to make learning fun in the summer fun. Don’t forget to tune in next month when we highlight another of our STL Educare providers as they get ready to welcome children back to school in August.

Funding for STL Educare is provided by the Missouri Department of Social Services, Children’s Division, Early Childhood and Prevention Services Section

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Water Play Activities:

1. Walking Water: This is project is exciting to watch, it goes against the laws of gravity. There are several learning opportunities for students to explore: gravity, science exploration, and color mixing. Discuss with students what they believe will happen. This experiment provides a great opportunity for journal writing/drawing. Providers can introduce Newton’s Laws of Gravity. The experiment gives children the opportunity to follow the stages of Science exploration: observation, question, hypothesis, experiment, analyze and conclusion. Providers can also discuss how colors react when they are mixed together.

Steps: Fill 2 of the 3 jars with water, add food coloring to the water, cut a full-sized paper towel in half and fold in half (length), create an arch placing half in the colored water jar and the other half in the empty jar, repeat with other color. You should have paper towels from each of the colored water jar going into the empty jar. Watch as the water walks up the paper towel and into the empty jar!
Equipment Needed: 6 empty jars, food coloring, water, paper towels

2. Sink or Float: This experiment creates a ton of fun as children find items to test. It is designed to help children make predictions on which items will sink or float. It is a great opportunity to introduce density (size compared to what the item is made of) as well as continuing with journaling experiments.

Steps: In a large clear container add enough water that allows the items that sink to be noticeable to the children. Continue adding items to the water. Discuss with children their prediction.
Equipment Needed: Large clear container, water, variety of objects: cork, crayon, cotton ball, toy car, paper, plastic straws, balloon (blown up and deflated) aluminum foil (flat and crumpled).

3. Shark Attack; Save the Alphabet: This can be done as a team or individual. As a team; children are divided into two groups. The group that saves the most letters within the time allowed is the winner. As an individual; children will take turns searching for the letters. For infant play use a smaller container with shallow water. This is a great opportunity for children to demonstrate letter recognition and/or review.

Add a challenge by adding a blindfold, tongs, large rubber gloves etc. For advanced learners you could ask them to pick out the letters that spell their name.

Steps: Fill a large container with water, add bubbles and food coloring. Place letters and sea creatures of different sizes in the water. Mix up all contents. Set the timer (usually 2-3 mins). Teams will line up and take turns searching for all letters. Each team member should get one turn per cycle. Continue taking turns until all the letters have been rescued or the time expires. Individuals will follow the same procedures without a timer. Children will create a pile of the letters they rescue. The activity will continue until all letters have been rescued. At the end of the rescue children will count up the total amount of letters they rescued. The child with the most letters wins. This is a great opportunity to introduce graphs and charts to the children.

Equipment Needed: Large container, water, bubbles, food coloring, sea animals, several complete sets of foam letters, and several buckets for letter dumping

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4. Tissue Paper Art: This show the creative mind of the children. Art is a form of expressive language. Through art children can express their emotions, gain fine motor muscle control, and become aware of how shapes and lines can come together to form different designs. This project can be done several different. The following are two of the favorites among children: Bleeding Art: using spray bottle children spray the tissue paper with water and the colors of the tissue paper will stain the paper. Collage Art: using torn pieces of tissue paper and water glue mixture children will create a canvas.

Steps: If the project is done inside prepare the area with newspaper to protect the table for staining. Fill each spray bottle with water. Cut or tear the tissue paper into different sizes and shapes. For Bleeding Art, place several colors of tissue paper on the card stock and use the spray bottle to spray the water on the tissue paper. Remove the tissue paper from the card stock and repeat with other colors. For Collage Art, mix equal parts of glue and water until the mixture is its thinnest form. Place the desired colors of tissue paper on the card stock, use a paint brush to brush a thin layer of the water glue mixture atop of the tissue paper. There may be some bleeding from the tissue paper. Set art aside to dry. Add mod podge to create a canvas type picture.

Equipment Needed: Card stock paper, scissor, paint brushes, glue, water, variety of colored tissue paper (the cheap kind works best for the bleeding art) spray bottles, mod podge {optional)

5. Ice Cube Color Mixing: This is an exciting and fun experiment as children watch water change into its different forms. Children will be able to describe what happens to water when it freezes and when it melts. Children will also get the chance to experiment with color mixing using the 3 primary colors.

Step: Six hours before – mix water with each of the three food colors, pour the mixture in the ice trays and place in the freezer until frozen. Remove from freezer and place colored cubes in large bowls, be sure the colors are separated. Give each child a shallow bowl, discuss what they believe will happen to the ice cubes, allow children to choose 2 different colors to begin, using their hands ask them to rub the ice cubs together (the warmth from their hands will cause the ice to begin melt), a warm metal spoon can also be used to warm the ice. Continue using different color combinations.

Equipment Needed: Several ice cube trays, water, metal spoon, red, blue and yellow food color, shallow bowls.

6. Ping Pong Number Find: This is a fun way to get children counting and recognizing numbers. Children will roll the dice and count the number rolled and grab the ping pong with the correct number on it. This can be played individually or on teams; Individually the child will roll, count, and choose, for team play one child will roll and count and the teammate will find the correct number and place in the bucket.

Steps: Using a permanent marker write one number (0-9) on the ping pongs. You will want to do this on several ping pongs to ensure there are enough that are numbered. Fill container with water, you may add food coloring and bubbles, place ping pongs in the water, younger children can use their hands and older child can use tongs or a large spoon. Children are to roll the dice (either one or both) and count the number rolled, they are to search in the water to find the corresponding number and place it in the bucket. The activity continues until all the ping pongs are out. As an added challenge you can also place blank ping pongs in the water, have the child roll the dice, count the number rolled and count out the number of ping pongs that matches the number rolled. Example: If a child rolls a 3 they will count out 1,2,3 for a total of 3 ping pongs in the bucket.

Equipment Needed: Large container, water, food color, bubbles (optional), tongs, large spoon, large dice, several ping pong balls, permanent marker, and several buckets

7. Sensory Play: Sensory play has many benefits from language development as child care providers help to give children the vocabulary to describe their world to helping children calm by giving them a sensory experience to focus on. Sensory play does not have to involve expensive materials and equipment. Water play can use warm or cool water paired with common items found in the kitchen or from the child’s play area. Do you have dishes, plastic dolls, or cars you can wash in warm sudsy water? Getting outside as the weather turns warmer to make mudpies, plant a garden, or dig in the ground can have calming benefits. Having kids squeeze, sift, and feel a variety of different textured items in a sensory bin or box can be done inside or outside. For those children or providers who do not want the mess try using unmatched socks and filling them with different ingredients that children can squeeze and move through the length of the socks during stressful situations.

Equipment Needed: water, soap, dirt, sand, toys

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Related Articles and Resources:

Interesting Benefits of Water Play in Early Childhood Education

The Importance of Experiential Learning in Early Childhood

Tips for Successful Water Play

Let’s Talk, Read, and Sing about STEM! Tips for Infant/Toddler Teachers and Providers

Let’s Talk, Read, and Sing about STEM! Tips for Families with Young Children

Let’s Talk, Read, and Sing about STEM! Tips for Pre-School Teachers and Providers

Missouri Early Learning Standards   

Information on becoming a Licensed Child Care Provider in Missouri if you care for more than four unrelated children in your home

Information for becoming a Registered Provider in Missouri if you care for four or less unrelated children in your home

Information for becoming a Licensed Exempt Provider in Missouri

Sign up for STL Educare trainings

On-line Resources:

Backyard Car Wash activity for kids

DIY Sensory Toys and Sensory Play Activities for children with Autism by Fathering Autism

Sid the Science Kid, Water & Ice Pops

Sid the Science Kid Episodes and Games

Toddler Activities: Sensory Table Pouring Station & Coloring Ice by WhatsUpMoms