My three-year-old niece and I were walking to the park a couple of weeks ago. It was damp and muggy outside from an earlier rain, and there were puddles of water scattered along the sidewalk. My niece immediately was drawn to each puddle and had to hop in every one, instructing me to do so as well. She then pointed out our footprints and smiled. Lucky for us the last thing my sister-in-law said as we left was, “Go have fun and get dirty!”
Water is amazing. It is essential to life and magical to the imagination. Infants and toddlers delight in water play, whether in the bath or in a sippy cup turned upside down-dripping. Water is, in my opinion, the most enjoyable and abundant play material available. Dip an old paint brush in to a cup of water and a child can paint the sidewalk, house, plants, toys, themselves, paper. Just wait a little while and it has all dried up. Dip a cup or spoon into a bucket of water and a child will explore balance, measurement, sound, and weight. Add toys, baby dolls, wash cloth and a drop or two of dish soap or baby wash and you will have a busy and attentive child- just don’t go overboard and add too many items at once. During this play a parent or caregiver is free to join in or simply talk about what the child is doing and ask questions. For example, “You are washing the doll’s face, eyes, ears…what other parts of the doll will you wash? You are washing the doll just like I help you when it’s bath time.” Pause during this type of conversation. Allow your child to answer or respond in their own way; it may be a look or smile. Children enjoy water and should be encouraged to explore it safely.
Water is not only for getting clean, it is also for getting dirty. Beginning my childhood in rural Louisiana, I was exposed to the wonderful elements of nature. My favorite: Mud! I remember once, after a particularly strong storm, watching the water run down our dirt drive out to the pasture. It was moving so swiftly and I was mesmerized by the shining brown water that looked a lot like chocolate milk. Once the rain stopped, my brothers and I went outside and explored the running water mixed with sand and clay. I’m sure mom told us not to get too dirty, but… My most vivid memory of that day was starting at the top of the sloping dirt driveway and slipping all the way down past the house. It was bumpy, it was slippery, it was wet, it was mud! Later, mom rinsed us off with the garden hose and we dried off shivering and giggling.
What are your favorite memories of water?