The kids have been out of school since the third week of May.
There’s only a few things to do outside during the day that won’t have you dying of heat exhaustion- going to the beach, spending the day at the pool, or going to the local splash pad or wading area for kiddos.
Last week we found ourselves looking for some fun and we ended up at our local zoo.
I have to tell you that our local zoo is THE BOMB!! For a small town zoo it’s amazingly well designed with tons of walking paths and shade. There are several ‘loops’ themed around specific continents- Africa, South America, North America, and Australia. They’ve recently added a Caribbean zone too. The kids love to walk the paths and check out the giraffes, rhinos, zebras, meerkats, gators, deer, snakes, otters… the list goes on and on.
But hands-down during the summer their favorite place is the wading area. The area is designed with two sections- one for toddlers and babies and one for the older kids. Though the kids tend to flow from one side to the other. There is an aquarium at one end of the wading area filled with all kinds of fish and sting rays that the kids can view from the pool.
While my kids were playing around the other day I started thinking about the awesome learning opportunities they have just during their water play.
Gross Motor Skills:
My 2 year old is learning how to navigate and find her balance over the bumps and dips in the wading pool. She’s developing her coordination skills as she jumps, skips, and waddles around like a duck.
My oldest has mastered walking over this type of terrain, but she’s continuing developing her balance as she floats and skims through the water. She wears her goggles and plans how to get from one spot to another while moving around other children and obstacles. She has to find the deeper water to make skimming easier so she has to carefully plot out her path.Talk about problem solving skills!
It goes without saying but during the summer there are TONS of kids in the water area. While this can be frustrating, it’s also a great opportunity for my kids to practice socializing with lots of different kids. We’ve met folks from Spain, England, South America, Puerto Rico, and even South Africa. I’ve talked to parents who are involved in homeschooling and others who work full time and are trying to balance time with their kids and their jobs. There are kids who go to the zoo weekly and some that have never been. It’s an eclectic group.
The cool thing is that as the kids play they negotiate what games
to play, where to go in the wading area, or how to share the buckets and toys. They’ve learned how to introduce themselves and ask others their names. As they play and problems arise, they figure out how to give and take so both kids get a little of what they want.
If parents allow them the opportunity to work out these social situations with minimal interference, the kids become very good at problem solving and really start to look out for each other. It’s encouraging and I’m hoping translates to other places when I’m not with them.
Happily Learning and Having Fun
If you have an opportunity to take your kids to a splash pad or wading area, I strongly encourage you to give it a try. Not only will your kids have a blast, and probably take a really good nap (Score!), they’ll be developing skills they’ll need throughout their lives.
That may sound overly dramatic, but it’s true.
A child’s job is playing. Through their play they learn how to communicate, cooperate, share, problem solve, have empathy, develop kindness, set boundaries…the list goes on and on.
And the best part? It doesn’t take a tutor, workbooks, or an education degree for all of that to happen. Personally, I think that’s kinda cool.
Have you taken your kids to a local splash pad or wading pool? Tell us about it!