552 words | 4 mintue read | Flesch–Kincaid readability score: Grade 5

Educators Wynne Harlen and Jos Elstgeest take us on a wonder-filled trip into the scientific world in their classic book: UNESCO sourcebook for science in the primary school, published by the National Book Trust in association with Unesco publishing.

Water is a common yet exciting material, freely available almost everywhere, which lends itself to an endless variety of genuine science activities. Common as it appears to be, water can be a source of wonder to children and to adults who have kept up the habit of questioning and wondering. Waterplay is one of the earliest forms of children’s exploration.

Children and Water
Children and Water []
Did you ever drop a stick straight down into the water of a canal or a river?

How did it come up again?

Did you ever watch rings going forth from a plunged – in stone, and see them rippling back again?

What happens where outgoing and reflected ripples meet?

Did you ever play with a jet of water?
Did you ever fall into a ditch?
Did you ever stamp hard in a puddle? (and was your mother nearby?)
Did you ever make mud pies?
Did you ever watch water boiling in a glass vessel?
Did you ever walk in a downpour?

Did you ever race sticks down the gutter?

Have you ever thought about
– how dependent we are on water?
– how much water there is all around us?
– how much water we use daily?
or about how much water you are?
Then can you understand why this was written?

What do you need?
What can you use?
Firstly, you need water

Secondly, you need water

Thirdly, you need water.

And, other liquids: spirit, oil, ink.

And things to put into water: salt, soap, sugar , detergent, colouring.

And things to put water into: tins,

jars, lids,

jugs, droppers, pails, basins, hose, piping, spouts, troughts,

And things like corks,

pins, needles, string, thread, filter paper, blotting paper, newspaper, tissue paper, razorblades, plastic foil, aluminium foil, plasticine, spoons, trowels, pieces of wood, wax paper, sponges, mop… and a floorcloth

Did you know that you can make all kinds of useful equipment out of plastic household “bottles”? Just cut and snip away, and you get tall and flat containers, troughs and spouts, boats and buoys, sprinklers and funnels, strips and snippets, squeezers and squirters, measures and measuring jars and much more, perhaps. Be resourceful!

Infants and younger juniors

They have no use for “lessons” about water.
What they need is water.

A little supervision and..


tins with holes,
with one hole,
with no hole,
Plastic bottles,
squeeze bottles,
medicine bottles,

spouts. to pour,

To do:

to fill,
to empty,
to sprinkle,

to spatter,
to let run,
to count,
to drop,
to drip,
to carry,
to shake,
to hold,
to keep tight,

to squirt.
to syphon,
to mess about,

to play,
to try,
to watch.

and many more things … and odd bits and pieces …

Oh, but it doesn’t
have to become a
sludgy pigsty!


Of course water play
is fun, and spatters
do splash around.
but, really, it is not


difficult to let even infants
see the difference between
a bath and a classroom!
They should DO.