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Water Painting Our Way to STEM Discoveries

by Diann Gano

"Sally, look!  My rock turned purple!" Three-year-old Eleanor can't contain her excitement as she changes the color of a rock with a swipe of her paintbrush. Ah, the joy of painting rocks with water. Yes, water!

If there's one kind of painting I love—it's painting outdoors with water. If you struggle with the mess that seems to be an inescapable part of painting, then throw a water-paint party!

Regardless of your child's age or developmental stage, this kind of painting doesn't get old. Simply pull out the paintbrushes, fill some containers with water, and let the learning begin.

You will never go wrong with water play of any kind. On hot, dreary or low-energy days, bring out the water-painting supplies and get ready for a hands-on, brain-building bonanza!

Wondering how to get started? Use what you have! There is no need to make a purchase for this activity. We like to start out small with younger children. Setting the stage with simple materials like paintbrushes and water creates an environment that allows children to become curious scientific researchers

It took me years to figure out how to keep everything in one place for easy access when the mood strikes. Paint rollers or paintbrushes from leftover family paint projects work extremely well. Those bigger brushes and rollers are really great for building the strength and muscles in the hands, wrists and arms, which will make handwriting easier when the time is right. There is no need to rush that. We're too busy painting with water, my friends

"Wait! My rock isn't purple anymore!" Eleanor has been so busy painting other rocks that she has just made her way back to her favorite rock. As her friends gather around for a closer inspection, four-year-old Noah says with a giggle, "It evaporated!"

Wow! It's always a delight when young friends can lead the learning with one giant vocabulary word like EVAPORATE!

"Watch," says Noah. "If I paint here on the sidewalk, it will disappear. The sun dries it up. It evaporates!"

Without a sound, the whole gang begins painting the sidewalk to see if their watery brushstrokes will evaporate as well. This is hands-on, child-led learning at its finest.

So much is happening at this moment. We have children using their leadership and language skills and mentoring their friends. We have scientific inquiry happening at their level of understanding.

Don't be surprised if the sidewalk, chairs, tables, or other loose parts make their way into this STEM adventure. It's fun to watch the children's brains light up with observations, predictions and cause-and-effect scenarios as the water changes each surface it touches.

Preschool children have an innate passion for investigating and making sense of the world around them. By integrating science and math discoveries into their play, we are giving them a strong foundation for later academic success!

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