It’s no secret that water play—pouring, scooping, splashing—is a great way to engage young children, and the perfect way to stay cool on a hot day. But exploring moving water can add a whole new dimension to this play. If you are lucky enough to have access to a creek or stream (or even the side of the road on a very rainy day), you’re all set! Try making boats from leaves, bark, and other materials you can find and watch them navigate the current. Or if you’ve hit the jackpot and there’s a bridge, play a game of poohsticks!
But even if there’s no stream at hand, don’t worry! Give your child a watering can or bucket and let them pour water down a slope, over rocks, or over a hill they’ve constructed from sand or mud. Try adding some sidewalk chalk to the mix: we played a game where one person stood at the top of a hilly part of the road and tried to pour water that would wash away a chalk drawing further downhill.
For a slightly more involved but very fun setup, you can make an aluminum foil river. We’ve challenged summer campers in past years to build a beaver dam that can stop the flow of the foil river. Of course, once you’ve succeeded in damming the river, that’s no reason to stop playing! In fact, it’s often just the beginning, as children then want to tweak their dam, build another one, or experiment with how or where the water is poured. This type of experimentation is often where some of the most valuable STEM learning happens.