The summer is heating up and we are all looking for ways to cool down! Did you know that besides cooling us down, water play is also one of the best ways that young children can learn? It develops coordination (gross and fine motor skills), encourages problem-solving, releases energy, and calms kids down (social-emotional regulation/growth), and brings out the little engineer inside of all of us (science and mathematical learning).

You don’t need access to ponds or creeks to enjoy nature and play with natural elements. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Set up a garden hose and a well-drained, thick turf lawn. Let kids experiment with where the water goes and adjust its flow. Gather sticks, leaves, flowers, etc. and create natural barricades.
  • Don’t have a yard? Head outside to a sidewalk or driveway and turn a tray, bucket, or bin into a water table where kids can create troughs, channels, build dams, and float objects.
  • Head outside during the next rain shower! In a matter of minutes, your sidewalk, street, or front yard will be transformed into a wonderland of streams, rivers, lakes, dams, oceans, and waterfalls to be explored.
  • Play sponge tag! For those really steamy days, fill up some buckets with water and grab a few extra sponges or rags you have lying around. Head outside and play tag by tossing the soaked sponges.

With all of these activities, it is important to wear appropriate clothing, drink lots of water, apply sunscreen, and if it is raining, head inside if you hear thunder.

Ready to go one step farther? Grab some soil and create your very own mud lab! Build structures, make paintings, and dig into this sensory experience. For more information on just how AWESOME mud play is, click here.

The Minnesota Zoo would love to see examples of how you used this activity at home! Please share pictures or comments via email at [email protected], and take less than 5 minutes of time to provide us feedback by completing this short survey.