One of my favourite childhood memories is playing in the creek at a nearby park – we had a creek at the bottom of our backyard but this creek was different. It wasn’t a muddy strip of water and reeds, it was deeper in the ground. Sandwiched between a tumbling spillage of coffee rock typical of the Perth Hills, with crevices, nooks and dense undergrowth.
Sheltered by the large, smooth twisted bough of a gigantic gum. The best part about it all was that all the older kids were playing with us, the younger kids. Collectively using our imagination in that wild playscape. I’m not sure if that creek still exists, the park has since been upgraded and I have since moved away.
The closest thing I’ve found in recent years was on a play date at Woodbridge Riverside Park, which has a wooden water play area with a system of pipes, dams and pumps. We took our babies over (needed a cool down on a hot spring day) and some older kids were “making the water go” for our little ones with their hands in the trough. That’s the magic of water play for kids – it’s collaborative, sociable and age isn’t a factor. Pretty Montessori, if you ask me.
As a family, we love the water. Probably more so myself – I’m a fish out of water and did squad swim into my late teens – but as a couple Jack and I are also collectively pretty outdoorsy and athletic. So it’s nice for us to get Ollie playing in the backyard or at the park and beach.
Summer is almost here and for many Aussie sprogs it means getting out in the backyard with the trusty sprinkler, hose, paddling pool (or perhaps even a cheeky dip in a regular pool) to cool off. Those 40 degree days can have their bonuses – it’s a great way to get them outdoors making mess (sans guilt) and even better memories.
Here’s some of the things we will be trying this summer, some considerations and water play toys and tools to help your family make a splash these school holidays. Including a handy little list of water play spaces in parks around Perth, too!
Remember – kids need to be supervised by an adult at all times when near water, and that is any amount of water.
FIVE WATER PLAY TOYS WORTH NABBING
For the bath, you can try these Boon tubes or Kmart has an affordable range of bath toys including water wheels, buckets and sieves. These can get kids enjoying the bath if they’re dirty grubs who would prefer not to, and introducing STEM concepts as well as cause and effect.
For the beach, this Explore Nook wooden water and sand wheel is portable and beautifully crafted for many summers to come. It’s just gorgeous and was recommended by an Insta-friend of mine. It’s currently tucked away as it’s a Christmas present for Oliver.
As a self-confessed Liewood fanatic – the Dante Beach sets come in a variety of colours and styles for endless sandcastle building fun including a soft silicone bucket, spade and sand moulds. We have the Sea Creature set and it lives in our car.
This pour and transfer set from Monti & Me is great for Montessori kiddos as you can use it for Montessori work at home or outdoors. It’s multi use and versatile which is exactly what you need when playing with nature.
HERE’S SOME IDEAS
Use a water tray or a water and sand table for cruisers and reluctant movers. Introduce things at different heights to pose a challenge, once your little nipper is bored of one thing, switch it up!
PVC pipes taped into a large storage tub presents an opportunity for pouring water, dropping items in the water to make a splash.
Water and foam sea creatures in a zip-loc bag or sensory water bottles are great calm down tools for hyped-up kids.
Montessori has plenty of Practical Life options for play that utilise water too – they could:
- Water a small herb garden
- Wash dolls
- Whip up some foam with washing up liquid and a whisk
- Use squeeze-trigger bottles
- Paint brushes and water on your fence, pavement or rocks
- Eye droppers or syringes to transfer water from one container to another
WATER PLAY SPACES IN PARKS AROUND PERTH
Woodbridge Riverside Park might be my favourite family friendly park in Perth – it’s fully enclosed by a safety fence, has a coffee stand, wide open spaces and the most adorable water play area (made from naturally occurring materials to boot) I’ve ever set eyes on.
Hyde Park has an awesome splash pad, but fair warning this is one of the more popular parks in Perth and the buggy brigade are generally out in full force most days. Whiteman Park also has a splash pad. If you’re in the CBD, Elizabeth Quay has a small splash pad that is a dotted series of fountain spouts (warning: concrete abound).
In Ellenbrook there’s a HUGE water play park in the Charlie Gregorini Memorial Park and the park as a whole is really family friendly with plenty of amenities.
Pack a change of clothes if you’re off to Bibra Lake Regional Playground as there’s a water play area here too. We went there for a first birthday party and this is another great park SOR with a large fenced off area and a huge, expansive play space.
Piney Lakes in Winthrop is a beautiful sensory playground with plenty to see and do (with a man-made creek!). Any park with a coffee cart is a winner to me.
WHAT THEY’RE DEVELOPING
- Hand eye coordination
- Finer hand movements
- Muscle and skeletal development and strengthening
- Exerting maximum effort, regulating their nervous system and building strength, by lifting heavy objects
- Cause and effect
- STEM concepts (weight, floating, matter states, ripples)
- Social skills, collaboration
- Communication and language skills
- Problem solving