Water way to play

Water offers a perfect medium for full engagement of the self in play, says Beth Cooper, creative play consultant at Timberplay.

THERE is something undeniably alluring about water. You only need to see the attraction of a river bank, paddling pool or lake during the summer months for proof of this, overrun with people, paddlers and picnics, alive with the enjoyment of the unique atmosphere water provides. The attraction of water is evident throughout

the ages, but in relatively recent times there has been a prevalent mistrust of water. Concerns about the potential dangers has led to children being prevented from gaining access to water. Thankfully there has been a tide change and children are now being encouraged to interact with water, so long as they are aware and respectful of the risks. Elemental play is one of the many types and

manifestations of play in action and water offers a perfect medium for full engagement of the self in play. The sound of water, whether a trickle, a rush or the crashing of waves, can soothe or excite the soul. The visual impact of water is varied from the making of rainbows to the sheen of a still lake and the way water flows from a hose pipe. Water is challenging. Mastering water through pouring and channelling its power can lead to a sense of satisfaction or an understanding of its power. Creativity can be released by drawing patterns on the floor or playing races with raindrops. Waterplay can enhance the exploration of the natural scientists which children are. The


very feel of water is so unique it offers a great deal to the experience of play. It is transformative, powerful, beautiful and fun. We have worked with a number of

playgrounds to incorporate waterplay areas or elements. In its simplest form this could be the inclusion of a playground pump, significantly increasing the play value within any play area without being expensive. At the other end of the spectrum, truly spectacular water play installations can be created with a network of channels, waterways, scoops, wheels, locks and dams. Last year, we worked with Odds Farm Park in

High Wycombe on a showcase waterplay area incorporating 500sq m of waterplay, 80m of channels, streams and pools and 28 distinct

play features, including locks, dams, Archimedes Screw and Waterscoop wheel. This bold design represents an alternative approach to waterplay, low level, covering a large space and able to accommodate many children at any one time. Rather than the typical ‘splash pool’, H2Odds delivers a calmer, more immersive play experience, and is ideal for the Odds Farm Park demographic of toddlers to eight years. It’s great that the benefits of water play are

becoming more widely recognised. Only by better engagement with water can we provide children with the experiences they need to understand water, the fun it can provide as well as its potential risk and danger.

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