The Joys of Sand and Water Play

Eliza Clark
May 23, 2011

Playing at the water's edge is just about every small child's idea of heaven. The wet sand and mud and muck and pebbles and rocks and shells and creatures and seaweed and plants and twigs and whatever other water-logged debris they find there are the best playthings on the planet.

And heaven for the kids is heaven for their parents too. Because -- and isn't it something to behold! -- at the beach or the kiddie pool or even at the edge of a very small puddle these children of ours can entertain themselves for hours. Sure we need to watch that no one goes in too deep or throws sand in anybody's eyes. But while they keep themselves busy digging and pouring and building and collecting, we can steal a few moments to stare at the horizon and daydream for a while. It's the stuff of great summers.

And although that is more than enough, it is not all. Experts in early childhood agree that opportunities for water play are a vital part of young children's development. The National Association for the Education of Young Children calls water play a "key to children's living-learning environment" and notes that it can help "children develop eye-hand coordination and math and science concepts. It may also enhance social skills and encourage cooperation." Who knew?

Preschool teachers have certainly known all about it for a long time -- that's why so many preschools have a sensory table tucked into corner somewhere.  On any given day it may be filled with water and sand, or beans, or shaving cream or anything else with an interesting texture along with cups and rakes and shovels -- and you can be sure that it's always surrounded with children.  That's because a sensory table is, in essence, a mini-beach.

And actually, in an instinctive way, we parents knew it too. We knew that the reason the little ones are so endlessly occupied down by the shore is that there they have such absolute freedom to invent and build and destroy and discover, and that sharing with friends is easy when there's enough water and sand for everyone.

We certainly know that after a day at the beach our kids are ready to gobble down their dinners and fall into bed.  Like we said -- heaven.

From the Parents

  • Parent # 1

    I agree, kids should go out and explore different outside events such as water sports. This will somehow make their body and resistance to become strong . Andy

    over a year ago

  • Parent # 2

    I am a believer in water play! My son, who hasn't gotten into playing with action figures the way so many boys his age seem to be doing, and is more into organized activities like sports and board games, can play with water for hours. I really think it engages his imagination in ways that toys like action figures or legos haven't been able to to.

    over a year ago


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