Thursday, May 31, 2018

Sprout Scouts Playcamp: Water, Water, Everywhere

Water, Water, Everywhere!

Every great Sprout Scout knows a good rain is great for the garden, but even so, a rainy day can be a real downer! This theme is a great way to explore and celebrate water, water life and rain. You can use these activities as a stand-alone theme or stash them away for the perfect rainy day! The very best thing about water play is that it can be done with a wide range of ages and developmental levels in mind--from infancy through adulthood. This theme has something for everyone--just add water!

Materials List:

  • water!
  • shaving cream
  • food coloring
  • sidewalk chalk
  • paint brushes in a variety of sizes, especially sponge tip and paint rollers\
  • plastic and/or rubber toy frogs 
  • tempura paint
  • washable markers
  • watercolor paints, watercolor pencils
  • white paper (watercolor, card stock or construction weight paper is suggested)
  • nature's loose parts--pine cones, sticks, stones, leaves, twigs, drift wood, etc.
  • fresh, aromatic herbs such as mint, lavender, rosemary--whatever you like and/or have on hand
  • containers, colanders, sponges, buckets, etc. for exploring, pouring and playing with water and freezing water
  • plastic pipettes (available on Amazon)
  • sandwich size ziplock bag, sandwich size fold-top bag
  • rubber bands
  • permanent markers
  • tape (masking tape, duct tape or even scotch tape are fine)
  • balloons in a variety of sizes
  • scissors
  • glitter
  • toy hammer and other toy tools
  • party favor necklaces, jewels, wands 
  • Kosher salt
  • recycled brown paper shopping bags
  • clear glass jar


  • Rain Art: This is one of my favorite rainy day activities! You'll need some heavier weight paper and washable markers. Young artists will begin by doodling and drawing on their paper. You'll want to preface the activity by explaining that this will be Rain Art and perhaps even asking your young, artistic scientist what he/she thinks might happen to washable marker drawings left in the rain. Once you're ready, you'll set your artwork out for a bit of time in the rain--but not too long, or you'll come back in with white paper again! Observe the results, allow it to dry and you'll have a lovely work of art to display or use for collage or gift-wrap. You can also use this as an opportunity to experiment with the affects of rain on different art mediums. What happens with permanent marker? How about watercolor pencils? Crayons? 
As an indoor alternative in the event of drought, you can also conduct your rain art experiment using a spray bottle or pipettes to wet your artwork!
  • Watercolor Painting and Drawing with Watercolor Pencils are wonderful art mediums for children of all ages to explore. With younger children, using a sponge to wet their paper first can help the color to more easily spread. I recommend a heavier weight paper such as watercolor paper, card stock or construction paper. You might experiment with the affects of kosher salt on watercolor. Perhaps you will experiment with other types of paper such as paper towels, white coffee filters or tissue paper. You might even bring along paper and watercolors to the sprinkler park or poolside for a shady spot activity when kids (or parents) need a break from the sunshine! 

  • Ice Painting with Watercolors: One of our very favorite and most often repeated art activities at home is painting ice with watercolors! In advance, freeze water inside a plastic container or dish. When you're ready to paint, release your ice onto a tray or baking pan and simply provide watercolor paints and brushes. You may also add in additional water for washing brushes or kosher salt to create a unique texture as the ice melts Another fun way to explore watercolors and cool off at the same time is to provide ice cubes in lieu of water and brushes. You can even freeze some "ice brushes" by sticking a small wooden craft stick or Q-tip inside your ice cube tray. 
  • Sidewalk chalk + Water = PAINT! Oh, this is a fun one! One you can do outdoors on a warm, rainy day or on a sunny day with added water--you might want to coordinate it, either way, with a good soak in the tub afterward! Grab your sidewalk chalk and maybe some brushes if you like (although hands and feet work just as well) and see what happens when you mix water and chalk...

  • Frog Prints: Ponds can be found in almost any area and are such a wonder to explore. One of the most fascinating critters to learn about is frogs! Here's a bit of process art fun for those plastic or rubber frogs you can find at the dollar store. Set out some paper, a tray of green paint (or your color of choice), some toy frogs and paintbrushes if you wish. Once those frogs get a hoppin', there's just no stoppin'! This is particularly fun for the younger crowd...

Outdoor Activities:

  • We're Going on a Frog Hunt! This requires a bit of preparation prior to beginning. Gather a selection of toy plastic and/or rubber frogs. I've found these year round at Dollar Tree stores. You can do this at home in your own yard or even at a park. You might want to count how many you have beforehand! Hide your frogs around the area, on the ground, under trees and bushes, on a leaf.... Next, you'll gather the troops. You might even provide a small container to collect their findings. You can talk about how some frogs and toads protect themselves by camouflaging into their natural surroundings, while others have brightly colored skin to ward off predators by letting them know they are poisonous. We love to do this activity outside, but it can also be done indoors on a rainy day...
  • Rain Drums: This is one (of many) great ideas in the book A Little Bit of Dirt: 55+ Science and Art Activities to Reconnect Children with Nature by Asia Citro, MEd. You'll need a selection of different sized plastic containers (no lids necessary) and a variety of corresponding sized balloons. You'll also need a rainy day! And perhaps some rain gear or waterproof clothing... Cut the ends off your balloons and stretch one over the top of each container. Take your drums outdoors and listen, ever so quietly, to the musical interludes of raindrops falling. The harder the rain, the louder your drums will play! You might even experiment with other types of coverings and see how they sound... Or perhaps you'll test out some metal tins turned upside down that you have in your Mud Kitchen? There is something so inherently soothing about the sound of rain falling! It might even brighten up the next rainy day...

  • Ice Castle Excavation: Ice is an oft forgotten form of water that is great for play--especially in the summer. You'll need to prepare in advance for activities like this one (and maybe explain to your spouse why you have to eat all of the leftovers tonight because you need the freezer space to make an ice castle...). Using a castle shaped bucket and/or containers in any variety of shapes and sizes (even muffin tins are great), freeze some water. You can add in glitter, food coloring of your choice, and jewels, necklaces and other trinkets from the party favor section of your dollar store (keep in mind that these may not survive the activity, so don't use your finest family heirlooms!). I find it best to prepare this the night before we want to do the activity. When you're ready, choose a space outdoors either on the ground or in a sensory bin/water table to set up your ice castle excavation. If you have a hard time getting the ice out of any container, just run a bit of warm water over the bottom. Ice excavators can use toy hammers and other tools to try to to retrieve the jewels frozen in the castle. They can also test out what happens when they add water and or kosher salt to the ice. You can use safety goggles if you wish and, as always, provide support and supervision with the use of hammers and tools with young children! 

  • Painting With Water: I have great childhood memories of using a big foam tipped brush to paint fences and sidewalks with water in the summer and it's an activity I introduced early to my own kids. Big paint brushes and sponge brushes are still one of the most popular (and fought over) toys I bring to the sprinkler park each summer. It is so much fun to create designs and pictures with water and watch the sun make them disappear!
Indoor Activities & Active Play:

You can't always get outside for a good puddle jump in the rain, so here are a few activities to try inside, including some that will get you and your kids moving!

Indoor Puddle Jumping with Letters or Sight Words: Using recycled brown paper shopping bags, cut some large mud puddle shapes. On each puddle, you'll write a letter or (with older children) sight word. You can add in some music to get everyone moving and when the music stops, it's time to puddle jump. There are three ways to play (depending on your puddle jumpers' level of ability). You can call out and/or show a letter name (for letter recognition), a word (or picture) for beginning sound, or a sight word for word recognition. You can even make this into a rhyming word challenge and provide a word and/or picture on each puddle and call out rhyming word. Everyone will have a great time being active and jumping in mud puddles without any of the muddy mess afterward!

Frank the Frog: Rain Forest Yoga from Cosmic Kids Yoga:
Got a little yogi at home? We love the videos from Cosmic Kids Yoga for rainy days or afternoons that just beg for a bit more movement. Many are available on YouTube and this one is one of our favorites!


  • How Do Clouds Make Rain? Water Cycle in a Bag Experiment: This science experiment is so simple to set up and a great one for teaching about the water cycle. You'll need a ziplock bag (sandwich size is fine), a permanent marker, some masking tape, duct tape or packing tape, and water. You can also use blue food coloring if you wish. Begin by drawing a body of water on the bottom of your bag and clouds at the top. Fill your bag about a quarter of the way full with water, adding food coloring if you wish. Tightly seal the bag and add some tape for reinforcement. Lastly you'll want to tape it to a window and observe throughout different times of the day how the change in sun exposure/temperature creates "fog" in the clouds that eventually drip into "rain" back to the body of water at the bottom of the bag!

  • Rain Cloud in a Jar Experiment: This is another simple and fun way to demonstrate how clouds make rain! You'll need a clear jar or glass, some additional small recycled containers or cups, shaving cream, food coloring, pipettes and water. Begin by filling your glass about 3/4 of the way full with cool water. Meanwhile, fill your extra cups/containers with water and a color of your choice to set aside as your "rain." Squirt a fluffy shaving cream cloud atop your jar of water and have your junior scientists try their hands at sucking up and gently squirting drops of "rain" onto the rain cloud. As the cloud gets heavier and heavier with colored water, you'll observe colorful drops of rain coming through the cloud down into the water! It will be the most beautiful (or at least the most colorful) rain storm you've ever observed!

  • Do Leaves Sweat? You betcha! In this simple science experiment, also featured in Asia Citro's A Little Bit of Dirt, you'll need a clear plastic bag, a rubber band and leaves on a tree. You can even set up more than one observation on different types of trees to compare and contrast. Bundle a few leaves in your plastic bag and gently fasten it with the rubber band so it won't slip off. Observe what the leaves look like now--maybe even draw or take a photo of it! Come back to the same spot the next day and you should see a fair amount of water in the bottom of your bag. Because the bag prevents water from evaporating back into the atmosphere, moisture that is sweated out by the leaves collects in the bottom--similar to how a rain cloud works!

  • How Do Plants Drink Water? Have you ever wondered how the water we provide our gardens or from rain gets to the plants and helps them grow? In this great experiment from Buggy and Buddy, you'll observe how water travels through the stem to other parts of the leaf over a period of three days. You'll need a cup or jar, a leaf, water and food coloring. Read more about how to set up and observe your experiment at Science for Kids: Exploring Leaves.

  • Sink or Float Science: Experimenting with materials that sink or float is another favorite science activity here. We do it several times a year and in a variety of ways. I especially love using items found in nature to test. Grab a basket and fill it with interesting leaves, seed pods, flowers, pine cones, acorns, twigs, rocks--whatever you can find. You'll need a basin of water and then the test is on! You might talk about what makes items sink to the bottom or float to the top. What materials tend to float? What are boats made out of? You might also try this inside with household items. Perhaps you'll talk about the difference between fresh water (like a pond) and salt water (like the ocean) and add a couple of salt water basins with a different amounts of salt. Does that affect the results of your test items? The best thing about sink or float science is that it can be done inside in a bin, in the bathtub, in your sink, outside, at the pool--wherever water is available! You can record your results if you wish or just enjoy the process. It's a great experiment to do on a family vacation or trip as it requires very little in the way of preparation or special materials.

Sensory Play:
Water is an amazing tool for sensory play. It's available just about everywhere all year round. It's usually free (or at least already included in your monthly expenses). It's allergy safe and fun for all ages and developmental levels. I have yet to meet a child who tires of a simple water table set up--just water and a container or two for filling, pouring, and transferring. You can add in toys, vegetables for washing, or even items found in nature. Water play is also a wonderful way to introduce sensory play to infants and young toddlers. Read more about that in Waterplay Wednesday: The Baby Edition. Here are a few more of my favorite water life and rain related sensory play activities:

  • Frog Pond Sensory Bin: Pond life comes alive with this small world sensory bin! You'll need some toy frogs and from there, you can add in whatever natural and man-made materials you have on hand. We used rocks, a variety of wood pieces, glass gems, a plastic baby dish drainer made to look like grass that we never actually used for its intended purpose, and some artificial flowers. This captivated my older one for days! We changed out the water each evening, but when small world play and sensory play collide, the result is often hours and hours of fun!

  • Scented Waterplay with Fresh Cut Herbs: If you happen to be growing herbs in your garden or have some leftover from a recipe, this is a heavenly way to add an additional sensory component into waterplay. The bonus is that it's totally taste safe for the still-mouthing and/or younger crowd. Choose some fresh herbs that you particularly like together (like a couple varieties of mint or lavender and rosemary...) and add them to a bowl or basin of water. You can also add in spoons for mixing or bowls/cups for pouring, but this is just as lovely on its own with two (or more) hands to splash in it! You can add as much or as little of your fresh herbs as you like, and if the thought of just tossing out fresh cut herbs when you're done simply tugs at your heartstrings too much, you can still give them another good rinse and use them for cooking or making tea!
  • Shaving Cream Clouds Sensory Play: Shaving cream is such a fun sensory play material! You can squirt it right on your table top (it's a self-cleaning play activity!), on a tray or even in your tub. Little hands will love making designs in the shaving cream clouds. You can also add in a few drops of food coloring or tempura paint (one or more than one color for mixing). We love doing this as a story stretcher activity with Eric Carle's Little Cloud and trying to make different cloud shapes as seen in the book. For those who may be a bit sensory averse or hesitant to dig right in, a plastic fork or comb or wooden craft stick can be a great tool. Providing a wet rag alongside can also help children who are averse to messy play to feel more comfortable.

Family Field Trips & Extension Activities:
We are so fortunate to live near several sprinkler parks. These are so much fun in the summer! They entertain a variety of ages (yes, even the adults) and it can be active fun for the whole family. Some children are game to jump right in (and through and over and under and on top) of the sprinklers while others are a bit more hesitant. My own older one used to be the jump-right-in-type and aged into the give-it-a-wide-berth-type. For the more hesitant ones at the sprinkler park or pool, I like to offer some support tools and alternative activities. A plastic bucket or basin can be filled with water for poolside or park-side water play and combined with the add-ins of your choice. Taking along some of the art materials or activities listed above can also be a great option. Read Waterplay Wednesday: Spicing Up the Sprinkler Park for more ideas on great waterplay take-alongs.

Cloud Watching is another great (FREE) family activity! You'll need one of those perfectly blue sky and fluffy cloud kinds of days, maybe a big grassy hill, a cozy picnic blanket to lay on and maybe some sunglasses. Watch as the clouds go by and see what shapes and pictures you can find in the sky.

Talking about water conservation is something that most of us probably do without even thinking of it. How many times a day do you remind someone in your house to turn off a faucet or to hurry in the shower before the fish run out of water? Take it to the next (less nagging) level this summer by using leftover water in your water bottles to give your garden a drink or practicing using the sprinkler and hose at their most efficient hours (early morning or dusk). Additionally, you can model and talk about protecting water life by cleaning up rubbish in parks and pond areas, and avoiding the tempting activity of feeding ducks human food. If you do live near a pond, river, lake or other body of water, it's a great family field trip to take and observe the flora and fauna. You can check out a variety of interesting books, both fiction and non-fiction from your local library!

I'm throwing in a little backyard (or front yard) hack today as well to encourage and invite water play without always needing a hose and running water. I love using a large plastic spigot jug filled with water for my kids to use as a filling/pouring station. It's great for use in the Mud Kitchen, watering plants and even a quick rinse of the hands! When it's empty, simply refill it and you're good to go. Just make sure to provide separate water for drinking and in general, to avoid areas with stagnant water in your yard that can invite mosquitoes and other unwanted pests.

Well, Sprout Scouts, we will be back with our next playcamp theme soon. Until then...[don't] stay dry and happy playing!

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