It’s that time of year when people, myself included, our anxious to hold onto that holiday feeling with a punishing fitness regime aimed at getting us through the winter. We trudge to the municipal pool, shedding our layers of insulating clothes to brave its depressingly cold lanes, dreaming of an infinity pool or panoramic view instead. And so it was that I found myself in my local swimming pool forging a determined path through the chilly water as I reflected and put the world to rights! With only the sight of pale flesh to distract or inspire, swimming in the calm and quiet, my thoughts seemed to flow as easily as the water itself, with one idea haphazardly tumbling into another, much like my lackadaisical stroke. In this cold uninspiring space I found that elusive quality of thinking space and found myself congratulating myself on using work time so efficiently as I thought through new product designs and challenges whilst toning obstinate bingo wings!
However, all this was to suddenly change when I discovered that the water features had been fixed and my once reflective space transformed into a noisy and boisterous environment as children and adults shrieked at the water spewing out of jets seemingly everywhere. Buckets of icy water indiscriminately drenched careful (read boring) swimmers like me, keen to keep faces and hair dry, as well as excited youngsters for whom the thrill was clearly getting soaked. In this transformation from calm oasis to chaos I discovered first-hand how water has the power to change our emotions and provide widely different experiences for its users.
Of course as a play therapist and early years practitioner this should come as no surprise as I have watched children over the years be mesmerised and calmed by the healing qualities of still water when it is poured from one container to another and the satisfying plop of fat water droplets as they create ever decreasing circles. Then there’s the excitement of splashing in a muddy puddle, gliding down a water slide, splatting soap suds or popping bubbles. And let’s not forget the concerted focus and teamwork of diverting a water course or creating a water run with guttering and pipes or the thrill of immersing one’s body in balmy water and satisfaction of scrubbing one’s hands and arms to rid them of mud or paint.
If you’re keen to make the most of any Autumnal sunshine then here are some great low or no cost ideas for fun or calming ways with water. Don’t just leave it to the kids as they could be a hit for ‘big uns’ too!
- Create together miniature sealife scenes, arctic scenes or beaches using sand, shingle, bubble wrap, crystals, ice cubes and natural treasures. Add some miniature figures and accessories for a world of role-play.
- Experiment with making mini magic boats from a sheet of polystyrene, decorating as wished. Paint washing up liquid onto the back edge and place into a bowl of clean water. Watch your creation speed across the water and repeat all over again!
- Make bubbly elephant trunks by cutting the end off a plastic water bottle. Dip a flannel in neat washing-up liquid and secure around the larger open end with an elastic band. Blow through the lid end and watch the amazing lengths of bubbles that you create. See who can blow the longest trunk or add food colouring or powder paint to the bottle to form patterns on paper as the bubbles burst.
- Gather a selection of pipes, containers, funnels, watering cans and guttering for problem solving and experimentation.
- Mix with jellibaff for some sticky slimy fun. Offer in a witches cauldron (if you happen to have one) and add plastic creepy crawlies, large spoons and bottles for mixing up concoctions.
- Fill a range of unusual moulds such as latex gloves, take away packaging containers or chocolate box compartments with water, adding a selection of the following for interest: powder paint, glitter, sequins, mini plastic insects, dinosaurs or magnets. Freeze them over night and arrange enticingly for maximum interest. Provide salt to melt the ice and a range of utensils and bowls.
- Add powder paint to a puddle of water for splatting, making welly prints or driving mini vehicles through. Provide paper and old toothbrushes for some impromptu artwork.
- Tantalise the taste buds by making edible ice cubes or ice lollies with juice or squash. Experiment with different flavour sensations or create confusion with mis-matching colours and tastes, such as red colouring and lemon flavouring.
- Cook tapioca pearls (you know the ones from old school dinners) with boiling water to make a completely safe and edible alternative to aqua beads. Children will love pouring and sorting these gummy balls and mixing up imaginary meals.