A typical Reggio Emliia school regularly uses the weather to help everyone learn. We believe the environment acts as a “third teacher,” meaning children can learn things about the world, other children, and themselves from the environment (whether that’s through playing with fruits and vegetables, laying in the grass, building a sand castle, or playing in the rain).
The other day there was a light, summer shower during the afternoon. Every child at Little Wonders has rain boots so that when an occasion like this presents itself, we can go outside and take advantage of this learning opportunity. The children were naturally in awe of the rainstorm, so we gave them large plastic containers. Our goal was to see what they would do with the containers, whether that was collect water, scoop water, put it on their heads or sit on it, we just wanted to observe!
In the photos below, you’ll see the children holding the plastic containers out to collect rain, filling the containers with rain water, pouring the containers out, feeling the rain fall on their hands, and splashing the water onto the ground.
“Neurologists know that when children engage in sensory play they are stimulating neurons that fire, causing synapses to connect. I like to think of children’s fingers as if there are little brains on the tip of each finger. When these little brains get stimulated through play, neurons begin to fire. This firing of neurons excites the brain, causing it to grow bigger, stronger and more facile, setting the brain up for higher levels of cognition. One of the simplest ways to provide sensory play is through water activities.”
–Susan Brown, Assistant Director and Parent Educator, Commonwealth Parenting.
Engaging in water play through a natural event (like when it’s raining outside) enhances a child’s physical, cognitive, and social skills while connecting them to the biotic world. When children watch and play in water during or after a rainfall, it opens up the opportunity for a wide range of discussion topics.
- What’s the difference between a summer shower, rainstorm, and thunderstorm?
- How is snow and rain related?
- Why does it rain more during certain months than other months?
- Where does the rain come from?
- What is rain?
- How can we use rain?
- What color is rain?
- Is rain hot or cold?
- Why does the earth need rain?
Even if the children can’t answer some of these questions yet, it causes them to think about concepts they haven’t yet explored, develop their own theories, and express their ideas in new ways.
If you’re not familiar with water play, it’s incredibly useful for children, especially at this age. Water play is essential because it engages all of their senses, introduces scientific concepts (like density, gravity, volume, evaporation), is a soothing experience (emotional benefit), connects children with natural materials, improves hand-eye coordination, and expands the manipulative skills of lifting, pouring, and controlling.
Our goal at Little Wonders is to always encourage the children to explore what interests them. While splashing in the rain and jumping in puddles may make a mess, it’s a learning experience for them!