Any kind of water play brings with it lots of opportunities for discovery, learning, and just plain old fun.
We spend a lot of time enjoying what I like to call one-inch water play. Perhaps we have a little more than one-inch of water in the tub at times but it doesn’t take much water in a tub for a two year old to have fun.
As a quick way to give my grandson time for water play, we often set out small tubs with one inch (or more) of water along with a variety of toys or other objects.
You could actually also call this “loose parts water play” because anything that is loose and that we can stick in the water for play, goes in the water for play.
As my grandson is pouring is transferring from one container to another, he is developing important eye-hand coordination, fine-motor skills, and critical thinking without feeling under pressure to get the skills just right every time. The more he can practice the skill of pouring or transferring, the more skilled and confident he becomes.
Of course, there is always the temptation to throw the loose parts (depending on what they are) out of the tub but as he learns that the loose parts are supposed to stay in the tub or by the tub, he is beginning to develop important self-regulation skills that will be used in all areas of future play.
When planning for one-inch water play, I use whatever tub I have on hand and change up what goes into the water. Adding dishes and a wash cloth to soapy water gives my grandson the chance to wash the dishes. While he is washing the dishes (or tractors), we can build vocabulary by using words such as bubbles, soap, wash rag, scrubbing, dishes, plates, and so on.
For my grandson, water play is really all about getting wet first and foremost but it has gradually turned into being more about building knowledge. The what happens if I do this kind of knowledge.
This type of open ended play is fostering a desire for scientific exploration and discovery which he will continue to need all throughout his preschool years.