by Becky Cerling Powers
Our two granddaughters (ages 4 and 2) are visiting from Colorado with their parents. The weather was warm, so I let them paint with water outdoors. I found a couple old paintbrushes to give them along with a bucket of water. They were happy all morning painting the sidewalk, the old rusty wagon, and the big plastic water cooler. The next day a 3-year-old friend of ours came over, and they had just as much fun water painting with her for a second morning. We added sidewalk chalk to the mix for a little variety, and they really enjoyed washing off the chalk marks they made.
Water painting is wonderful, cheap entertainment for preschoolers, and it doesn’t require much adult supervision. You just set up the materials, and the little ones find things they want to paint. They will spend hours at it, contented, satisfied, and absorbed. When little ones decide they want to paint a fence, the water need not be colored. To them, the wet part looks different from the dry part.
There are a lot of ways for kids to stay occupied and happy with water in the summer. Here are a few kid-tested favorites:
· Give your youngsters a squirt bottle filled with water for squirting designs on the sidewalk or patio.
· Fill a dishpan with plain water for babies and toddlers to splash in. They also can practice pouring liquid from one container to another. (Caution: Stay close at hand. A baby can drown in even a couple inches of water.)
· Add a few drops of dish detergent to the water and show toddlers how to shake their hands in it to make it bubbly. Give them unbreakable pots or plastic bowls for “washing dishes.”
· Let children cool off in the sprinklers when you water the lawn, or buy a kiddie pool. Be sure that young children always are supervised in a kiddie pool.
· Save and rinse out empty dish detergent bottles for older children to use for squirt bottle battles. Or buy squirt bottles in the gardening or cleaning supply sections of a discount department store or drugstore. Squirt bottles make great squirt guns.
(Two good family rules for squirt bottle battles are: “only outside and only volunteers.” That means no squirting in the house or garage, and if your sister says she doesn’t want to play, you can’t squirt her and she can’t squirt you. If someone breaks one of these rules, Mom or Dad takes his/her squirt bottle away.)
· Fill up a few dozen balloons with water, load them into wagons or laundry baskets, and have a family water fight on the grass portion of your yard.
· Let older children wash the car in swimsuits.
· Buy or make bubble stuff and bubble wands for your children. (Bubble blowing, like squirt bottle fighting, is strictly an outdoor sport.) Younger children like to chase and pop the bubbles; older ones enjoy blowing and connecting them.
You can fashion your own bubble wands from pipe cleaners, florist wire or any thin household wire. For bubble stuff, gently stir together a half cup dish detergent (Dawn is a particularly good brand), one and a half cups water, and a quarter cup cooking oil. Vigorous stirring causes bubble stuff to foam up too much to make good bubbles.
Originally published in the El Paso Times June 23, 1990, revised April 2008