Water Play in Preschool Environments.

Children Playing in Water
Children Playing in Water

Summer is here and what better way to connect with the natural elements than to explore some summer water activities for the kids.

For those involved with water play in preschool environments, I would like to challenge some of the traditional ideas around it’s use and misuse of this often under estimated resource.

Keeping it Natural

Some of the most common things that I have observed as an educator is the waste of water within early childhood environments.

I have seen hoses running constantly, troughs of water filled to overflowing with children filling containers and pouring it onto concrete. Sometimes hundreds of litres per day being discarded like it was nothing to be concerned about.

Adding unnatural substances like glitter and detergents to water, although an interesting visual and sensory experience make it contaminated and unable to be reused.

Water is a life sustaining resource that can easily be taken for granted in places where it is plentiful.

Clean drinking water in some places is not a given and when we think of it as a necessity for drinking washing, cooking, used to water crops and animals as food sources, what gives us the right to play with it in ways that we cannot reuse it.

Early childhood settings are, in some western countries required to provide water activities as part of the curriculum, but;

  • Where do we draw the line?
  • How much common sense are we using?
  • What message are we sending to children?
  • When do we speak up and look for alternatives?
Children With Small Container of Water
Children With Small Container of Water

Pro and Cons

Here are a few of the advantages and disadvantages to water play.


  • Therapeutic and calming
  • Cooling
  • Learning early science and mathematical concepts through play (measuring,volume, weight, disbursement)
  • The value and wonder of water


  • waste
  • pollution, contamination
  • cultural context ignored
  • missing the opportunity of importance of teaching respectful and sustainable practices

This can be turned around and viewed from a more positive perspective by changing the way we perceive water play

Children Exploring a Water Way
Children Exploring a Water Way


We can start changing this wasteful mindset through recycling practices such as;

  • Use of water in smaller amounts.
  • Keep it natural so it can be used afterwards to pour on gardens or pot plants
  • Reuse water for cleaning floors or equipment
  • Catch rainwater for water play

Water is precious and a gift that children should be taught to treat with respect and to understand the value of it.

Many cultures regard water as a living entity and treat it with reverence. I feel this is a great way of thinking about it and could change our views on how we use water.

Children Collecting Small Fish
Children Collecting Small Fish

Exploring other water sources


Ponds and Streams

Not only are they a great way to cool off and have some fun, but the potential for learning about these smaller water ways is rather extensive. Think about all the things children may find to explore in these type of environments.

An abundance of life from tadpoles and frogs, pond weed, small fish and insect larvae.

Children can use small nets and jars to collect and observe these tiny treasures and then return them to nature when finished.


Flowing water, water falls, clear fresh and sustaining, Children are able to see the bottom of the riverbed and the changes in colour from light, reflection and the various types of shingle, rocks, pebbles, sand and plant life .

The Beach

Children experience another form of water movement through the tides, and observing waves. They can explore rock pools shells, and sea life and look at how the sand soaks up the water. There are a variety of experiences to have near water sources.

Sand Play
Sand Play

Alternative water play ideas

Pools, sprinklers, containers or buckets of water great way to cool down and an opportunity to educate children on water conservation as well try to recycle, if these are used on grass areas or near gardens to replenish them after use.

Ice used in different shapes or with shells flowers, or leaves inside are a wonderful way for children to observe as it melts and offers a lovely sensory experience, without compromising the quality of the water.

Water is a vital source of life giving sustenance and we need to role model this respect for it to children.

Water is therapeutic and calming and a great way to explore floating sinking, bouancy and movement as science concepts.

Boy with Fishing Net
Boy with Fishing Net



I would like to point out that these are my own personal views from experience and I have presented them here to challenge the way we consider our use of water in the context of early childhood settings. If we are looking to introduce authentic, sustainable practices that are enduring then we need to be able to transfer these messages to children in authentic and meaningful ways. We do not want these to be socially acceptable trends, but true change towards a better outlook for our future generation.

thank you all for stopping by and I hope you found this article helpful. If you would like to add your thoughts in the comments, I would love to hear from you.


12 Replies to “Water Play in Preschool Environments.”

  1. Another great post-Cass and so great to see how people can save water and still enjoy fun with children – loving the pictures
    Reminds me of my childhood living at the beach and playing in the local stream
    Also collecting tadpoles with my net- Fond memories to share with children
    Awesome post

    1. Thank you Vicki, yes I am passionate about the environment but balanced with fun and learning opportunities for our younger generation. I think we can all find something here to remind us of our childhood. Thanks for stopping by. Cheers Cass

  2. Growing up around water made me into a person who really enjoy water sports and during the summertime its no exception. I always enjoyed going to the beach, sitting by the pool or diving in large bodies of water however, a lot of people do not have the luxury of such open access to water and have to get pools for their homes. This can be fun, we just have to find ways to not waste because we all know that around there world there is a water shortage such as never before and it is very important for us to teach our kids that we need to be furgal. Great post thanks for sharing.  

    1. Hi there Jamiro, thanks for stopping by. there are so many benefits of the use of water for fun, sports, play and yes we need to teach the younger generation to cherish it and use it wisely. Thanks for your comments and have a great day. Cass

  3. The environment is very important but let me tell you what I first thought about this article.At first I thought really?  Now we want to take fun and water away from kids!!  Really is it so bad that they are playing in the water?However I kept reading and realized you absolutely were not trying to take anything away.  You are just trying to make everyone responsible for what our future will bring us.I applaud you on a great article.Thank youDale

    1. Hi there Dale, thank you for your absolute honesty and for sharing. Yes, I am all about creating fun experiences for children, but while making the adults responsible for their actions and the messages we send to our little ones about protecting and preserving theIr future. Cheers Cass

  4. I will Agree with water should not be misused it one resource which misunderstood but it has alot relevance in our life their are place water is as sarce as gold Avery Importance resource which is not available at all you can imagine the Life these people  in without water for them to get precious commodity they have walked for a whole day  or did bore whole which they have to sunk 100s of feet to get it.so please let us conserve water  it  is for own good

    1. Thank you for sharing Charles. It is true that people who have lived where there is water i plentiful supply can take it for granted. Conserving all natural resources is  great thing to be teaching our little ones.

  5. I agree and i must admit I did not know this was an issue, I will be looking for a preschool for my son to go to next year and I will definitely look at the water activities and how they use water. I think while using water for play could easily teach at the same time about sensible use and about not wasting waterThank you

    1. Hi there Connor, and thanks for stopping  by. I am speaking  from experience and understand that some early childhood settings have already reviewed their practices or are taking it into consideration. We do want children to have these experiences but not at the expense of so much waste. Conserving water is a message that I hope will be passed on to children through role modelling. All the best finding a preschool for your son. Cheers, Cass

  6. I was brought up on tank water, and when we had lower rainfall seasons we always had to be extra careful over summer.  The summers were very hot but I remember Mum putting the sprinkler on under the clothesline with a tarp over the line to provide shade and stop evaporation.  The lawn was watered and us kids could run under the clothesline.

    I enjoyed your post, it gives a perspective that not everyone thinks about when it comes to using water wisely.  You have some great ideas for entertaining children and still enjoying the benefits of water.

    1. Hi there Rosie, I appreciate you sharing and it is a subject dear to my heart as an educator of very young children to help them view the world as a resource to be treasured. Thank you Cass

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