Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Part 2: Just Add Water

Welcome to "Just Add Water" part 2 in the Series "How to Create Natural Outdoor Spaces for Children"  

Water is a delightfully sensory and open-ended quality makes water irresistible to children of all ages and abilities.  Water calms, cools and encourages children to explore, experiment, discover, imagine and create.  There are many simple ways to add water to your outdoor learning environment. As Rusty Keeler says:

"You could have the grandest water feature this side of the Mississippi or the simplest water sprinkler hooked up to a garden hose. The important thing is that you are providing children with the opportunity to interact with water."  - Rusty Keeler.
Let's start with the bigger ticket items:

1. Rain Water Tanks

Every day our preschoolers ask for water to enhance their play.  

Like teachers all across our often dry nation, we try to find the balance between providing for children's need for water play with the very real need to conserve water and teach children to use water wisely.

With the installation of our rain water tank and water pump, we have guilt free water to use for children's play plus a gauge to tell us when we need to slow our use of water until it rains again.  No water in the tank - no water to play with.

Our new tank will help our children to respect every drop of rain water we collect.  The water pump will help them become more independent when they need water, and hopefully put an end to the sneaky trips to the bathroom to fill up containers.  

Credit:  Rous Water

With the need to conserve water, a rain water tank could almost be described as an essential resource for an early childhood setting in Australia.

For more on water tanks in preschool:

For more on water conservation in preschool:

2.  Water courses

Remember when we had a look at dry creek beds in the outdoor play space?

With the simple addition of a nearby water source - a hand pump attached to a water tank for example - your dry creek bed becomes an irresistible water playground.

Credit:  Takoma Park Co-operative Preschool

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

Now for the cheaper options:

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:

Series: How to create a natural outdoor play space for children.  Come with me and wander and dream through natural play spaces from around the globe.  We will take our time and look at each of these natural elements in a bit more detail.   We may just well find a few ideas that we can use in our own playgrounds or backyards to make them irresistible spaces for outdoor play.

Tomorrow:  Just Add Sand


  1. I'm loving this series. Lots of fab ideas. Of course, if your preschool happens to have its own creek...

  2. Wonderful ideas here! So much learning going on under the guise of play!

  3. Wonderful ideas here! So much learning going on under the guise of play!

  4. Man you guys were quick! I just posted!

  5. It was the tweet that gave you away!

  6. This makes me want to turn the whole playground into a water park!

    One of the most important parts of water play, I've found, is to get parents on board right from the start. The moment I meet new families I let them know that if their child isn't coming home wet and muddy, they aren't doing it right! =) The school keeps a supply of spare clothing and many families leave a change of clothes at school, but most kids don't seem to mind their wet clothes . . . And the ones that do learn quickly to avoid the water!

    I've grown accustomed to walking around with wet feet myself.

  7. I love the water wall - definitely want to see if I can do something like that in our garden!

  8. THANK YOU! so many great ideas to choose from, i'll have to get busy on at least one for my preschool.

  9. This is a lovely posting - thanks Jennifer.

    Your readers may also want to consider buying bamboo guttering.

    I've also had success using hamster play tubes that bend flexibly and linking them to guttering and plastic bottles...the loose parts that are easy for children to handle.

  10. I love all these ideas and pictures.
    We have a rain barrel next to our sandbox with a handpump. It gets much use in our preschool. I love the photo with the recycled slide!

  11. I love the water wall - probably because I could go out and do that now and I know my kids would love it. You could add guttering to it to.
    My friend has a simple idea for small space water play, she has a nice shallow pot on her verandah with water, rocks and a little bit of weed. It looks beautiful and kids always stop for a little look and a play.
    And another idea we use for water play at home is to fill the wheelbarrow - it is a perfect height.

  12. Oh wow Jenny! ... I'm loving that water wall ... tick, tick, tick ... that's my brain ticking over ... You know what I'm thinking don't you?! ...

    Oh Sheeeerrrrrrry!!!

    Donna :) :)

  13. I appreciate all your comments and ideas - I'm going to save them for a post at the end of the series (I still feel a bit silly when I type "series" - like I'm an investigative reporter or something!)

  14. Hi there, I'm writing from a new childcare centre in Vancouver, Canada.
    We love your blog.
    We were taken by the water wall idea - and found a way to do it ourselves!
    A few photos here:

    The kids LOVED this and participated fully every step of the way. Thanks for spreading inspiration.

  15. Oh, thank you so much for letting me know! That is the whole reason behind writing this blog - so I can share ideas and get lots of inspiration and motivation from other people as well. I'm off to check out the link now to see the photos :) Good luck with your new centre.