Carnival of Play: Water Play Activities Part I

Hi, all!  PhD in Parenting is using the month of April to feature a Carnival of Play on her blog.  She will link to posts all over the internet that explore fun activities, how play can be an important factor in children’s development, and how to incorporate more play into your life.  This is part one of my contribution; I hope you enjoy it!  Part two will arrive later this week.

Years ago, I worked in a public preschool for special needs children as a teacher’s aide.  I absolutely loved the activities they did, which were geared towards exposing the kids to sensory input and also calming them; although I already had a child, I had never heard of some of these activities.  I tucked them away in a corner of my brain for when I had more of my own to try them out.

Now here I am with two little guys (my first daughter is already 16!), and I use many of the ideas I gathered from that awesome school to keep my own wee ones occupied.  And I admit – I have some fun myself!

I have blogged before about Ethan and his high needs, and a few “special needs” as well, including mild autism.  His personality also tends towards the aggressive.  So there are many times I need a way to calm him down and get him centered again.

Water play works wonderfully, and the best place for that can actually be as simple as the bathtub.  While a water table can be well worth the expense (and some ingenuity might get it for you on the cheap)*, just a good old fashioned bath can be a great source of calm.    Something about hitting that water and being distracted by toys and warmth can take a child out of whatever  difficult place he is in.

I’m not talking about a quick dunk in the tub, either.  Here’s what we do:

I start by getting the tub only about two inches deep with water.  Then in goes the kiddo (or kiddos if they both want in) and the toys.  I gather together whatever I’m working on at the moment and bring it into the bathroom with me first.  It could be a book I’m reading, my laptop, some knitting – something to keep me happy, too, because we might be in there for a while!

The One Place They Get Along

The One Place They Get Along

Once the boys are in, I turn the water way down so they are still getting some pouring from the faucet.  They love to collect the water in cups, and just to feel it falling into their hands.  I turn it down very low so the tub doesn’t fill up too fast.  They enjoy playing with measuring cups and spoons, toy boats, big plastic cups, even cars.  Other ideas are squirt bottles, nasal aspirators, and bathtub crayons.  I pretty much let them have anything that’s not electronic or made of wood.

The absolute best, though, is the shaving cream!  I will often let Ethan spray some mountains of shaving cream onto my craft table and sit there playing with it.  I add food coloring sometimes, but not others, depending on how much mess I can handle at the moment.  Have you ever really stuck your hands into a pile of shaving cream?  It feels so good!  It’s amazingly soft and can be scupted or just spread around.  Get something that’s inexpensive and doesn’t smell too strong, because the scent can linger for a while.

I'm in my easy-to-hose-off outfit for this one.

I'm in my easy-to-hose-off outfit for this one.

Are you *seriously* taking a picture??

Are you *seriously* taking a picture??

This doesn’t have to be done in the bathtub, as you can see, but if you are not comfortable with big messes, then how do you stay sane with children? the tub is a great place for it.  It’s easy to wash up afterward, and it can be very soothing.

I will let my boys stay in the water as long as they are content.  This can mean anywhere from fifteen minutes to an hour.  I figure their skin will recover from the wrinkles, and it makes them calm and relaxed for a good while after they get out.  This is also why I say you should bring something to do, because it’s not safe to leave children unattended in the water.

Later this week, I will tell you my deep, dark secret:  how I keep my floor clean by using child labor.  Don’t worry – I’m pretty sure they have a lot more fun than I do when I clean it myself.

*Here is one idea:   If you have a train table with the removable top, buy a piece of ply wood that fits it and a container or wash tub that’s not too deep, like a dish pan.  Cut a hole in the plywood that’s large enough for the container, but not so large that the top will fall through (so look for a container that has a lip of some kind, or gets wider at the top).  Fill the container with water and voila!  You have a water table fully interchangeable with the train table.  You can also use any old wooden table from a thrift store.  Just cut out the middle or cut a hole in it, and probably trim the legs down to a child-friendly height.  If the table was cheap enough, you can leave it outside and not worry about it.  You could also fill the container with rice, sand, or beans for a different kind of tactile experience.  Happy playing!

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6 Responses to “Carnival of Play: Water Play Activities Part I”

  1. woowoomama Says:

    great post. i often use the bath as a place for my almost three year old bean to play happily for extended periods of time. he has loved the bath almost since birth and the only time i limit his bath play is during the winter when he gets dry skin. i will have to let him try some shaving creme in there soon!

  2. I LOVE the shaving cream idea! Will definitely try that one out with my toddler. She’ll love it! Thanks so much for coming by my Carnival of Play (Monday’s Muse) post. I’m happy to have ‘met’ you :D

  3. Fun mom! Though mine are older now, the bathtub was always a great place for fun for them.
    I’ve found that it’s usually the crafty, artsy mom that says , ” a mess is a small thing, to create and explore is such a bigger thing”. We’ve had mashed potato fights, tomato fights (albeit in the backyard) and we even had a pie throwing contest for his birthday downstairs.

    It’s nice to meet you!

  4. That’s great!
    Clearly I’ve been missing the point of shaving cream for years! :)

  5. [...] Play: When in doubt, get wet! Check out these bath play ideas and cleaning up ideas from @Barely Knit [...]

  6. [...] Water Play Part 1 (by Jennifer @ BarelyKnitTogether) [...]

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