6 toys to encourage water play
Early water experience has a range of physiological, psycho-social and intellectual benefits. Find out when to introduce your child to water and the best toys to use.
From a very young age, children love to splash around in water. Whether it’s a bit of rainwater in a bucket, a bathtub full of soapy suds or swirling waves at the beach, they just can’t seem to get enough of the wet stuff. If you’re feeling a bit exasperated after changing your little one’s soaked clothes for the fourth time today, here’s some good news: water play helps young children develop a wide range of important skills.
Benefits of water play
For starters, water is a winner when it comes to motor skills. “Water play provides children with opportunities to explore and practice a variety of different movement patterns that are quite different from the movements they make on land,” says Dr. David Anderson, Director of the Marian Wright Edelman Institute for the Study of Children, Youth, and Families at San Francisco State University & Offical Staff Advisor on Infant Mobility and Motor Development for Otteroo. “Research has shown that four-year-olds who have early water experience have better standing balance, reaching and grasping.”
Early water play also offers psycho-social and intellectual benefits. “In four- to six-year-olds, water experience has been associated with improvements in motivation, self-confidence and social-emotional development,” says Dr. Anderson. “Children who participate in early swimming programs have been shown to be advanced in certain cognitive skills, counting, mathematical problem solving, oral expression, reading and following instructions. Some researchers have claimed that participation in early swimming programs helps prepare children for formal schooling.”
When to introduce your child to water
If your objective is simply to allow your child to become familiar with water, Dr. Anderson suggests starting as early as possible. “Newborns are far more familiar with a fluid-filled environment than the one into which they’re born, so warm water can be very comforting,” he says.
But if you’re hoping to develop their swimming skills, it’s important to manage your expectations. “Infants as young as seven months can develop some proficiency in moving through the water, but they won’t necessarily learn more sophisticated water competency and swimming skills because they started early,” says Dr. Anderson. “Some of my research has shown that even though children who start earlier acquire skills at an earlier age, it usually takes them considerably longer to develop them. For example, children who start formal swimming lessons at age three require four times as many lessons as children who start at age eight to reach a basic level of water proficiency, and twice as many lessons as children who start at age six.”
Water safety tips
While water can be great fun, it can also be very dangerous for young children. According to non-profit organization Safe Kids Worldwide, drowning is the leading cause of death among preventable injuries in children aged one to four.
Follow these safety tips whenever your children are near water:
- Never leave children unattended around water. Watch them at all times and keep young children within arm’s reach of an adult.
- Empty all buckets, containers and children’s pools immediately after use. Put them away so they can’t collect water.
- Keep doors to bathrooms and laundry rooms closed. Close toilet lids and consider using toilet seat locks. Young children can drown in a very small amount of water.
- If you have a pool at home, install a fence that surrounds all sides of the pool and is at least four feet tall with self-closing and self-latching gates.
- Make sure your kids learn how to swim and basic water survival skills.
- Learn CPR and basic water rescue skills which could help you save a child’s life.
Six toys to encourage water play
These fantastic water toys get the Tot tick of approval!
- Otteroo Baby Floatie: From 8 weeks old, Otteroo can give your baby the freedom of movement in water so they can discover how their arms, legs and body can move to impact their immediate surroundings and direction. The buoyancy and physical freedom that Otteroo provides promote movement coordination, muscle strength and mobility. Read more about this best-selling product here.
- Sailing boat: We love that the Plan Toys Sailing Boat is made from sustainable organic rubber wood and dyed with non-toxic water-based dyes. It will enhance your child’s fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, creativity and imagination.
- Green toys tug boat: Embark on a cruise across the bathtub. This colorful craft floats great, and has a wide spout to scoop and pour water. Made in the USA from 100% recycled plastic milk containers that save energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, our trusty Tugboat is both good for the earth, and – most importantly – safe for the busy little folks who play there. Suitable 6 months +.
- Caaocho La the Butterflyfish Bath Toy: Made from rubber from the Hevea rubber tree, it’s certified BPA, PVC, Phthalate and Nitrosamine free, painted with food-grade paints and completely safe for your baby to slobber on. La’s bright colors provide visual stimulation, while her texture encourages tactile exploration through the hands and mouth. All Caaocho’s bath toys have a hermetically sealed design, which makes them a great water play companion without any possibility of bacteria and mold growth.
- Origami boat: In addition to being beautifully crafted from sustainable and non-toxic rubber from Hevea trees, the Oli & Carol Origami Boat is made in one piece so water can’t get inside and cause mold to grow.
- Whale: Caaocho’s Kala the Whale Bath Toy is sustainable, non-toxic and biodegradable. It features bright colors for visual stimulation and interesting textures for tactile exploration.
By Sabrina Rogers-Anderson