Each week during the summer, UICS students explore creative ways to beat the summer heat. Every Wednesday and Friday, weather permitting, our little learners swap out school clothes for swimsuits to take part in “Water Day” out on the playgrounds. Through various interactive activities and play materials, students examine the world around them and enjoy the refreshing fun that water play provides. Beyond providing an outlet to expel energy, water play is an important natural exercise that offers a multitude of wonderful development and learning opportunities.
Children develop fine and gross motor skills across the age ranges through outdoor interactions with water. When introduced to new sensory experiences, such as hearing running water come through a spout, feeling a cold ice cube melt in their hands, or watching water trickle from one bucket to another, the spatial awareness and understanding of the natural materials around a child begin to expand for them. Additionally, the calming effects of water can be emotionally therapeutic for students. As a soothing element, even the sound of running water can help children better understand their own emotions and teach exercises in stress relief, with repetitive motions allowing them to unwind and release tension.
This outdoor play is also about developing social skills for our students. As they play together in small groups, they are simultaneously learning how to share and take turns with items in the water or even work together to complete a task or game led by teachers. It can be a great avenue for children to move from playing alongside their classmates to engaging fully with other students. Regularly changing activities and items involved in water play help to stimulate student’s discovery in new ways and encourage creativity and imagination. “Children are pretty hands on and tactile,” shares Ms. Merrill Hunt, Learning Specialist at UICS-St. Mark Center. “They like to explore with all their senses and enjoy different types of sensory experiences– water play is one of these. It’s a combination of learning and enjoyment.”
It is important that our students have these creative outlets to engage in sensory activities that are crucial to both personal development as well as exploring their relationships with their peers and the world around them.