Sheila Milnes from Pennsylvania State University is a huge proponent of water play for children. She explains that water play can improve children’s physical, cognitive, and social-emotional development. For example, water is a fantastic way for children to learn about scientific principles such as sinking, floating, melting, solids, and liquids. Add manipulatives, and the young scientists can observe and explore the physical properties of water, snow, ice and other sensory items.
A water table will offer multiple opportunities for learning and play.
According to Milnes, there are three stages of water play: functional, constructive, and dramatic. In functional play, a child plays with water and explores it with his senses, realizing what can be done with it. In constructive play, “children move from exploring water to using it for play--for example, pouring water over a toy person and pretending he is taking a shower.” When children begin using water to act out a story, they have moved into dramatic play. As the children move from one stage to the next, their physical, cognitive, and social-emotional development will improve. A water table will lend itself to all three stages of play, with fun and learning at every stage!
Check out The Adventurous Child for more information on water tables and neat ways to use them.