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How Water Play Teaches Children the Importance of Conservation

Whilst recognising that water is a precious resource, when using it to explore and explain its importance to life, children can learn valuable information about how and why it sustains life.

Written by: Joanne Harris Educational Advisor  

Being outdoors is an ideal setting for witnessing change that occurs naturally. Whilst learning is not limited to any one area, there are some key activities in which deep exploration can occur almost automatically.

Children will find different spaces and places that they are drawn to that they feel connected to and do not require much of a prompt to initiate learning. Areas with dirt, sand, or other textures can inspire learning that does not always require much equipment or additional resources to generate ideas.

Outdoor play spaces can offer learners a different point of view as being amongst the elements of nature lends themselves to the hive of activity that is constantly occurring, often in plain sight.

Watching the sun rise or set, storm clouds rolling in and darkening the sky, or gently blown away to reveal the blue sky underneath. 

The Importance of Water

Water is an extremely important part of our lives. As the most common substance, it is essential for all forms of life to have fresh water available for all living organisms to survive on Earth. The water cycle moves water throughout the planet, existing as a gas, liquid, or solid. 

Exploring the element of water in its various forms, including vapor and steam, liquid or solid, children gain a greater understanding of its transformative properties. All these processes sustain life and create the ecosystems around us. While recognising that water is a precious resource, using it to explain its importance, children can learn valuable information about how and why it sustains life. The simple act of observing how and why water is ever present in our lives, even when it is not seen in liquid form opens up the potential for further learning of the water cycle which can be explored through water play.

Water Play 

Water play provides an endless number of possibilities to explore change. Notably this activity is ideal for studying concepts of sinking and floating with a variety of resources to test children’s thinking. Whilst they are enjoying the relaxing properties of water, they might also discover other aspects including how it can move and change form as they play.

Items like the Aussie Water Play Board allow children to watch as water travels down channels that are secured to the frame of the unit and pump water through at the same time. There are also opportunities to recycle the water by placing a clear or opaque bucket at the bottom of the board.

The Sand and Water Play Eco Kit was designed to be multifunctional and robust for use so that children can empty, fill, pour, mix, and stack sand and water whilst developing hand and eye coordination skills, dexterity, and more.   

Mud Kitchen

A mud kitchen has many wonderful features and offers a vast array of experiences for children to explore elements of change. Beginning with mathematical concepts like volume and capacity, they can experiment with filling and emptying different sizes and shaped materials to test how they are similar and different.

Emphasis can be placed on natural materials including leaves, sticks, flowers, and dirt to test their unique features and properties. Children may explore which ones float or sink in water, which ones absorb or repel liquid, and what happens when different kinds of materials are mixed, observing their natural reactions.

Play can be extended by providing Activity Cards to inspire children to make their own or follow recipes combining natural materials from the garden. Children can examine what happens to these materials using a pestle and mortar to observe the chemical components that make up their delicate structures. Crushing scented flowers like Lavender can emit a fragrance that might not be noticed when it is still attached to the plant it is growing on.

Formulating questions about the mud and noticing when bubbles form after stirring and mixing different combinations.

Weather Station

Setting up a weather station can be a quick and effective way to chart and record the conditions and support children and educators in making decisions about the day ahead. Studying a temperature gauge provides a visual cue that could prompt conversations about how warm or cool the environment is. Observing the scale rising or lowering in number, there is an opportunity to guide what clothes and accessories to dress in to keep children and educators safe and comfortable.

Many children respond positively to using a thermometer to help them understand the abstract nature of measuring how hot or cold it is and that conditions can change over a day, week, or season. This could be discussed during informal or planned group times as decisions are made before and after indoor and outdoor play transitions.

Completing a weather cycle puzzle and talking through the images can capture children’s understanding of how nature works, regardless of where they are located.

Evaporation occurs when a liquid turns into a gas. Children and educators could witness this, noticing the rain puddles seem to disappear or change size as they dry out from the sun.

Precipitation happens when any liquid or frozen water forms in the atmosphere and falls back to the earth as rain, sleet, or snow which may be felt or seen during play outdoors in one of these conditions.

Condensation is the process when water vapor becomes liquid water. This could be explored by children noticing water that forms on the outside of a cold cup or when the sky is filled with dew or clouds. There is also the experience of seeing the ‘fog’ breathe out from your mouth or nose on a cold day.

Science Table

An outdoor science table could be permanent or temporary and does not need to be limited to a fixed piece of furniture. Children may collect a range of items and place them into a discovery box to store and observe over time. They could be encouraged to notice if the structure of a leaf changes once it has fallen off the tree, or if it has changed colour or texture.

Studying the intricate patterns on the surface of flowers, plants or trees could be studied up close introducing the wooden frames to consider different perspectives.

 For more ideas and inspiration to explore scientific change through play, please visit our Educator Resources page.


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