Sand and water play


Taking sand art outside

Finally the sun is shining, and it’s a good time to head for a favourite spot: the sandpit. I’m always looking for art and design activities that are simple and child-led, and where the preparation time is minimal. The best are the ones you can do outdoors, where the mess doesn’t matter and the kids can relax. I tried this activity with my reception class a few years ago and they loved it, proudly heading home at the end of the week with a sand art masterpiece to hang on the wall. Spend a July afternoon in the sandpit, and the children can build sand castles and bake cakes while you offer this activity to one or two at a time.

Find instructions for simple sand art here.


Water play: enriching children’s learning

“Water is intriguing. It seems to draw children to explore its structure and properties. Because water is naturally fascinating, the thoughtful teacher can structure the environment and materials in the water centre to make the most of water play.”

In this article, Sandra Crosser explains how playing with water supports all areas of learning and development; she takes us through the steps of setting up a water play centre and lists 25 ideas for promoting discovery learning through water play. Read more.

young child looking closely at a green caterpillar

Wonder: a survival skill

In the last generation we've seen forces such as commercialism, academic pressure, and a “too hurried” lifestyle crowd out the space and time it takes to cultivate a sense of wonder in the natural world. Suddenly this has all completely changed. Perhaps parents and children spending more unscheduled time together at home will have time to watch, wonder, and appreciate the small, everyday spring miracles happening right outside the door.

There are many nature-related activities you can do with young children that require little more than stepping outside. Dr. Ruth Wilson offers some suggestions to get you started. Read here.

Tired rose bush

Conversation inspired by a tired rose

Children’s mixed-up logic is so refreshing. Join me in eavesdropping through the nursery window.

Zack and John (age three) are playing at the water table and notice a rosebush with one yellow bud in the flower bed. They decide it must be thirsty on this hot afternoon.

John, to himself: “I will run with my water. I can get there just in time!”

Both pour pitchers of water over the rose bud.

Chan (age two) joins them with his cup. "Here!" says John, pointing to the bud. "Put water on this one. It's opening. It's our best rose!”

As Chan  pours, one petal flops loose from the force of the water. Simultaneously John shouts: "Look – it's growing!" and Zack: “Hey guys – it’s opening!”

Zack: "Don't look at it! It won’t grow if you look at it! Anyway Chan, this is me and John’s rose. You are not allowed to water it!"

John: “Yes he can. He's our helper.”

Chan: “No, I'm not. I’m your friend!

Marcia, on the side, observes to herself:  “All roses have thorns – except some don't”.

Making mud soup

The endless opportunities of water play

Water holds tremendous attraction for children. When my oldest were small, a mountain stream outside our house provided boundless scope for exploration and play. The kids sailed sticks down its current, built dams and found interesting creatures in its pools. They made “Indian paint” to smear on themselves by rubbing wet stones together. Their friends even figured out how to make a water wheel.

We haven’t lived by a stream for years, but our younger children found other ways to enjoy water. They’d “paint” water with brushes onto the fence or picnic table. They’d discover rainwater in a massive oak stump, and bring bits of bark, gravel, soil and vegetation to mix into it with a stick. These concoctions were everything from granola to mud soup – you have probably heard other names for similar mixtures. Children are naturally inquisitive, and they will get involved!

Outdoors is always best, but indoors too children experiment with water. To capture the fascination of water play, our Sand and water table includes funnels and hosepipes so children can get the water flowing between various levels. Hopefully staff will have as much fun as the children!

Search our CPD online resources

Filter by topic or type