By Meredith Burton
When the weather is rainy and uncomfortable for us as adults, it doesn’t mean that our children feel that way. Rain puddles have an almost magnetic pull for children. They love to jump in them, roll through them on their trikes and feel the splashes on their legs, float things in them and much more. There are lots of ways to use the rain to your advantage and create authentic water play experiences for your children.
1. Puddle jumping – As long as it is warm enough, I regularly encourage my five-year-old to put on his raincoat and boots and run outside to jump in puddles while it is raining! He likes puddles after the rain too, but his favorite is watching the rain fall into the puddles as he jumps off the front steps into them! What a fun way to develop the gross motor skills of jumping and stomping! Children also experience cause and effect and properties of water through this simple activity.
2. Floating and Sinking
– Use a puddle as a natural water table. Let your child explore properties of floating and sinking by experimenting with different items found outside. Does a leaf float in the puddle? What about a stick? Or a rock? This can lead to other experimentation and questioning. Why do ripples form when you drop a rock into a puddle? Children learn to make predictions and explore strategies for answering their questions through this type of play.
3. Puddle Music – Rain has many sounds. Listening to rain on the roof and rain falling into a puddle are different experiences. A soft rain also sounds different from a hard rain. Try to replicate the sounds of rain using a pot or a wood block, a drum or a shaker. We also love to sing while we play in puddles. Songs can also lead to imaginative role playing in the puddles. Here are some songs we like to sing on puddle days.
Row, Row, Row Your Boat
It’s Raining, It’s Pouring
There’s a Hole in the Bucket
Singing in the Rain
Developing a sense of rhythm and rhyme are essential phonemic awareness skills – understanding and playing with the sounds of language. Music also plays with patterning, an early mathematical skill.
4. Puddle Soup – Children use their environment to create play experiences with very little help from adults. We just need to give them the opportunities to explore and the freedom to live out their ideas. Provide some buckets and scoops or spoons to use in puddle play. My son likes to make puddle soup. As he stirs, scoops, measures and serves his soup, he also uses rich language to describe his process and to converse with friends, real and imaginary. Children practice and build vocabulary and build confidence and self-regulation through imaginative play. Puddle soup also can incorporate measuring and fine motor development using measuring scoops and cups.
Puddles can provide endless fun and exploration. Put on your raincoat and head outside with your child on the next rainy day, and when the sun comes out, keep track of how long it takes for a puddle to evaporate! There is always something new to learn when we play in nature.
Meredith Burton, MA, is the director of Furman University Child Development Center and teaches a 4-6 year old multiage class in the same program. She is also the president of the South Carolina AEYC. Her favorite job is being Mom to a rising first grader!