A Heart for Toddlers - Water

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Playing with water is a biological imperative for children. We all remember  playing in, with and around water when we were children. Water is an essential ingredient of childhood play.

It is important that we provide water in a way that partners children's physical unfolding. 

Watch children in nature. See how they position themselves. How children choose to put their body when they potter and play is a clue to how we need to create the space. 

At The Nest we have a natural rock pool which has been designed with the child's body and posture in mind. Children squat, crouch and sit in the water and when they are comfortable they will indeed stay focused for ages. They collect water, dam water up, fill jug, water gardens, make fairy potions. 

Presence and observing, thinking of all the things children want to do with water should be the GPS to how this space is created to fulfil their urges.

As adults, if we were going to paint with water colour outside and the easel was in a position that meant our back was not comfortable we would not enjoy the process and it would effect the time spent and the level of creativity. When we are comfortable we are able to get lost in the creative flow of bliss. No comfort no sustained joy! It’s the same for our children. 

Here are some thoughts:


Go to the beach , river, lake or watch children play with water in puddles.  How is their body positioned?  When we see how they play with water we will notice that children squat. They sit, squat and are low to the ground as they explore the miracle of water. 

Why then do we have water troughs that require the child to stand in a bent or uncomfortable position?

When children are in a position of comfort they potter and tinker for hours. If our spaces reflected their innate urges and were designed with the child's unfolding autonomy in mind our spaces would look very different. 

Water is life!

Water is totally critical for our survival and our world’s waterways are being threatened on a daily basis. Why would we add to this by putting dye and bubbles into water when water is already "something" 

“Water, it is something!” - Anna Tardos

On one hand we are encouraging children to drink water, in the next breath at the water trough we say "don't drink the water".

We add, fill, extend to something that is already perfect!

All the additives distract the child from the pure pleasure of water. There are other, more meaningful ways to learn about colours and science! 

With the best intentions we are ripping children off of LIFE and all the authentic ways of learning through the curriculum of LIFE. 

A toddler at a water trough with coloured water is in an unnatural position, using unnatural dyes and add polluting detergent. All in the name of learning? Ask yourself, who’s agenda is this? 

The more natural the better.

Use common sense and get grounded. Toddlers are wanting to move. They want to transport, to mix and make potions, to fill, to empty, to collect and to get wet!

Water troughs can feel like ‘table top activities’. A free flow naturalised area allows children to be in a natural body position and invites sustained play if water is part of the space rather than something that gets filled and emptied at the whim of the adult.

What about the parents who ‘don’t want Johnny playing with water today’? Educate them!  Explain to your parents the value of water, the urges the children have to play with water and the importance of providing an environment that enables the children to follow their urges.

Depriving children of water is like depriving a rugby team of a ball.

Nature’s kisses

Nature shows its moods through weather changes so water play directly from the clouds is the best. It’s free, natural and clean! 

Children learn about Mother Nature directly from her and get to experience how the moods change, the light changes, temperature changes, texture changes and if lucky there will be perfect puddles left as a gift for them to play with.

There is no such thing as bad weather. A different day brings different weather. Just bring different clothes and a different attitude!

Want more? Check out our new toolkit "A Heart for Toddlers".