To echo the message Jess shared earlier about you and your best (whatever that looks like right now!) being enough, I wanted to share a simple open-ended experience that is easy to set up and can provide joy and engagement for children of different ages. Simple is enough and your presence is enough!
As the weather warms I’ve been reminded of the power of a small container of water and various items from the kitchen. My children have enjoyed this in our backyard on many of the warmer, sunny days I so gratefully welcome! If you don’t have an outside space (front steps, blanket on some grass, balcony, deck etc.) lay a towel on a small table or floor area to offer this invitation as well. You could even include a smaller washcloth next to the bin to encourage children to help clean any water spills as they work…what an opportunity to feel independent, proud and helpful!
- Use any small container such as a storage bin, plastic bowl or casserole dish to hold the water and offer a variety of kitchen items or tools to fill, pour with and explore. My children especially love filling empty water and juice bottles!
- Small “interest items” could also be added in the water to encourage collection, sorting or fine motor work. I sometimes add marbles, lids or rocks to our bins outside. My 3 year old especially loves using a kitchen scrubber to clean his collected rocks! Other items to add could include: milk caps, pouch lids, old marker lids, corks, small pebbles or stones, reusable ice cubes, pretend plastic characters or animals, or beads. If you don’t have any items to add (or have an infant or toddler that still puts small objects in their mouth) that’s ok! The water and containers alone provide a rich invitation for exploration. As children play with and explore water they have the opportunity to meet learning goals related to science inquiry, math and problem solving.
- Regardless of the items you have or don’t have at home, your presence and interest in their work is more than enough to make this experience meaningful! Simple phrases and comments about children’s work can extend conversation and play, develop divergent thinking skills, expand language and communication skills, and increase their curiosity and wonder. You can even invite them to count, measure, sort, identify colors, compare sizes and observe items that sink or float. I’ve provided some easy examples below, but whatever comes to you as you watch and spend time with your child is enough. YOU are the ingredient or material that means the most!
Language examples to extend learning and thinking:
- “Tell me about your work.”
- “What do you notice about the water?”
- “I wonder what you made?”
- “You’re pouring from that full bottle! How does it feel?”
- “You filled the whole bottle! I wonder how you did that?”
- “I would love to try some soup! What ingredients did you add?”
- “How did you know it was finished cooking?”
- “What is your plan with that brush?”
- “You’re scooping water into that blue bowl.”
- “You are stirring with that spoon. I wonder what you’re mixing?”
Kitchen and household items for water play?
- measuring cups
- small bowls and cups
- storage containers with lids
- empty water bottles, juice bottles or any other jars/containers that have been cleaned out
- spoons, formula scoops
- basters, old medicine droppers
- scrub brushes, sponges
- ice cube trays
- serving tongs