Play idea: Water play – Korikori wai

Water play is a fun, soothing activity, where children can play and learn alone or with others. All children can take part in water play.

Level of complianceMain audienceOther


  • All Early Learning Services 
  • Educators, Teachers and Kaiako
  • Service Managers
  • Parents, Caregivers and Whānau

Children learn through play. Below is some information about a play idea for your children.

Water play can help children to

  • develop hand-eye coordination
  • learn to lift, pour and control water
  • understand measuring, estimating and volume
  • understand heavy/light, float/sink, full/empty and shallow/deep
  • learn to concentrate and solve problems
  • learn to share and cooperate with others.

Adults can support children by

  • making sure they are safe
  • protecting them from the sun with hats and sunscreen
  • adding warm water on cold days
  • talking with them about what is happening
  • encouraging them to ask questions and explore with water.

Providing for water

Water play works well outside, on a sheltered deck or in a porch. Placing it near the sandpit can make things more interesting for children.

A raised trough is ideal as it allows several children to play together at the same time and stops children from climbing in. If the group doesn’t have a trough, try using baby baths, storage cubes or plastic containers. Plastic aprons with sleeves can help children to keep dry. On wet days, water play can happen inside with a plastic sheet or fake grass under the trough.

Fine, dry sand, untreated sawdust or birdseed could be used instead of water. If using birdseed be aware of the seed content for allergies e.g.peanuts, wheat.

Ideas for equipment

  • water trough, baby bath or container to hold water
  • plastic, wood or metal items that won’t break or rust
  • cups, spoons, bottles, colanders, sieves and funnels
  • sponges, waterwheels and watering cans
  • squeezy bottles, e.g. shampoo bottles (rinsed well)
  • natural materials e.g. shells, stones, seaweed and driftwood
  • soap or detergent to make bubbles

Te Whāriki

Playing with water supports learning across all strands of Te Whāriki. In particular, it supports the Exploration strand, where children gain confidence in and control of their bodies, and where they learn strategies for active exploration, thinking and reasoning.

Water play gives children the opportunity to develop useful social skills while playing alongside other children as part of the Contribution strand and, where conflicts arise, there are opportunities to practise problem-solving. As part of the Belonging strand, they develop ideas about the limits and boundaries of acceptable behaviour.

This play idea has been developed for playgroups. Feel free to use it at other types of ECE service, but make sure you're still following the regulations and licensing criteria that apply to your service type. Parents may also find this information useful.

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