Water pouring is a great play idea because it teaches so many different things like fine motor skills, sensory play, introducing mathematics, and problem-solving all at the same time without them even realize they are learning.
When we first started water pouring around 18 months old, it was simply pouring his water out of a small pitcher jug into a container and scooping with spoons and now we have brought out different
From the age of 18 months old, my little one was very interested in this activity. We started off having him free play with a pitcher and a few different containers. Around 20 months I started exploring new ways to mix it up by creating new sensory play ideas and introducing mathematical concepts for him to introduce to his free play. As he gets older, I will challenge him further with some more advanced mathematical activities (which i will mention further down).
There are so many items you can easily gather from around the house, such as:
- Measuring Cups, containers, and spoons.
- 9 oz Cream pitcher
- Sponges (alphabet sponges)
- Food Dye
- Water dropper (with other fine motor skills resources)
- Water Beads
- Water Wheel
- Toy Strainers
To keep your water contained you don’t need anything fancy. A large container, a saucepan or oven tray can do the job.
STAGE 1: FREE EXPLORATION
Observe what they like to play with and make notes about what could enhance their experience.
Fine motor skills:
For young ones to master the skill of pouring, they need the opportunity to practice it. As their skills develop they can control the flow of what they pour and being more concise to pour into smaller openings or containers.
This task will help them gain independence to prepare their own meals or pour a drink for themselves.
When pouring, they are also working out how fast to pour, how long to pour, how far to turn the spout, when it is time to stop pouring. They will also develop self-regulation on when to stop and the natural consequences when they don’t.
- Having water at different temperatures from Icy-cold, warm and (warm/hot) opens dialog of new words and comparison for little ones.
- You can add different fun things to play with like sponges, water beads, strainers, water droppers, etc.
- Explore: Put things in the water to find and scoop out.
STAGE 2: TEACH THE BASICS OF MATHEMATICS AND PROBLEM SOLVING
The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics mentions “Using play as a tool to teach young children mathematics involves more than presenting various manipulatives to children and leaving them alone to freely explore. Teachers must recognize that math involves thinking and involving them in meaningful activities“.
Join in to listen, observe and interact with them. You could point out the measurements on the side of the jugs and explain their meaning. Filling one cup of water into another, you could remark “Wow, They are the same” and eventually “I wonder if any more hold the same amount?“. The next time they play introduce varying equipment and allow them to select their own materials. Observe to see if they incorporate the ideas you presented during their play. If not, you may need to discuss or investigate the concept further with them. You can provide more directed instructions if you can see your child getting frustrated trying to solve a self-imposed mathematical problem.
Provide different cups or containers. They can be tall and skinny or wide and short or different shapes and still fill the same amount. They will also learn spacial awareness of how much water is needed to fill up a cup and how much is too much.
- How many cups does it take to fill a bigger cup or container? (Make predictions first).
- Counting/Charting: If you decide to put discovery objects in the water, you can further expand the activity by having your child sort the objects by theme, color, size, shape etc into a container
- You can connect the ideas of counting, ordering, and recognizing how many are in a set of objects by placing the items into a bar graph. Afterward, you could ask some mathematical questions, like:
- Counting how many Group-A objects you have and how many Group-B objects you have.
- How many items are there in total?
- Which group has the most or least items?
- Can you order the items from smallest to largest, or the groups from most to least?
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