All kids are drawn to and curious about water. But your baby or toddler should have more fun, engaging, and safe water play other than in the bathtub.
Water play is a full sensory experience, which young kids need and enjoy. There are many water play benefits, such as the development of fine and gross motor skills, problem-solving skills, hand-eye coordination, as well as emotional, social, and language development. Kids can also use their imagination and creativity and begin to learn some basic principles of math, science, physics, and cause and effect.
Here are five tips for safe, effective water play for babies and toddlers.
Water play is about your child and what they want to do. It’s about your child exploring with all their senses. Take cues from your child to find out what they’re interested in. Most likely, especially in the beginning, your baby or toddler will enjoy the simple pleasures water can offer, like seeing what happens when leaves get wet or what happens when you put a rock or toy in a container of water. Make water play a simple and very natural process of following your child’s interests.
Develop your baby’s language or extend your toddler’s vocabulary using descriptive words about water. Use words like cold, clear, dirty, bubbly, splash, sink, dunk, dump, float, soak, swirl, sprinkle, etc. It can be as simple as saying what you see, like “You’re splashing with your hands” or “You’re pouring the water into the bucket.” Even when your child isn’t saying much, they are hearing what you say, and in turn, their language skills are developing.
You don’t have to buy an expensive water table for fun water play. All you need is a reusable swim diaper, towel, and some household items for engaging and educational water play. Cups, slotted spoons, plastic ladles, funnels, sponges, buckets, plastic spray bottles, food coloring, and dish soap are great water play accessories. Stay away from things that could be a choking hazard.
Obviously, summer is the best time for water play with the sunshine and warmer weather. But you can do water play activities every season. In the spring, throw on rain boots and go jump in muddy puddles, or play with toy trucks in the mud and then have a car wash inside in the sink. During the fall, have a water sensory bin with leaves, acorns, and mini pumpkins. In winter, make a snowman or watch what happens when you bring snow inside. Don’t forget that bath time is also available to your baby any time of the year and bath toys are perfect for helping them enjoy the water. Offering indoor and outdoor water play year-round gives your child plenty of exploring and growth opportunities with water.
Children of all ages, but especially babies and toddlers, need constant adult supervision when playing with water. Whether in the bathtub or a kiddie pool or playing with a plastic container of water, it’s easy for babies and toddlers to drown in shallow water. Be present while your child plays with water. Always watch your child and make sure they are never more than an arm’s reach away from you.
No matter how you choose to incorporate water play into your week, your child will love and learn from it. It may end in a giant mess, but the skills your child will learn and developmental growth they will experience are worth every spill and squirt to mom’s face.