By Poonam Dwarkaram
What is water play in ECD?
As Penreach Change Agents in ECD, our programme implementation plan consists of coaching and mentoring the Practitioners and Centre Managers of our target centres in Mpumalanga. This includes identifying different developmental activities and how to best implement them with the resources the centre has. One of the activities that we have introduced to our centres is Water Play, a key developmental activity in ECD.
Caretakers and ECD practitioners tend to have a natural concern and resistance to children playing in water. They worry about the children getting wet or getting sick and tend to forget how much joy and happiness the children are getting from the activity, and of course, the development taking place. As Penreach Change Agents, it is our responsibility to educate our ECD Practitioners on the benefits and importance of water play at ECD level.
Water play is known to be a fun, soothing activity, where children can play and learn alone or with others. All children can take part in water play. Water play provides hours of rich and valuable early childhood experiences to develop children’s creativity and imagination. The activity is simple and can be done with limited resources. Children like to explore with all their senses and they enjoy all kinds of sensory activities at ECD level – water play is one of these. It’s a combination of learning and enjoyment!
Some of the key benefits of water play are:
- Developing both fine and gross Motor skills – Through the activity children learn hand-eye coordination through actions like pouring, squirting, scrubbing, stirring and squeezing. Water play is a sensory experience introducing children to textures (slippy, slimy…) and temperatures.
- Problem-solving skills – Children explore a substance and make discoveries about it. Observing how things sink and float will teach them the practicality of how things work, develops creative thinking and use of imagination. This all contributes to the important role of problem-solving.
- Language development – Practitioners are encouraged to engage in conversation with the children about the activity, this will contribute to their vocabulary.
- Social-emotional growth – Water play encourages role-playing and crucial social skills like cooperation and sharing for the children.
- Science and Mathematics learning– Water Play builds the foundation for understanding various scientific concepts. During the activity, practitioners are encouraged to introduce new terms to the children such as; Full, Empty, Half, Less. These concepts and understanding will be key when the children progress into their school years.
The activity is considered to be fun and playful for children, yet ECD Caregivers and Practitioners can implement the simple activity knowing the benefits of the activity in the development of their children.